Mental Health: The Connection Between Verbal Abuse And Anxiety

Mental Health: The Connection Between Verbal Abuse And Anxiety

The connection between verbal abuse and anxiety is often overlooked. Harmful words are not the norm and we need to be careful with the things we say

If Nigeria is to be ranked according to how well it understands and handles mental health issues like anxiety and depression, the country will appear at the foot of the ranking. Also, it appears everyone knows a thing or two about physical abuse. However, that has not stopped people from perpetrating the act. If this is the case, then it is even more pressing to highlight the connection between verbal abuse and anxiety no one talks about. Verbal abuse is subtler than its physical counterpart, its consequence less immediate but damaging and far-reaching nonetheless. 

Thus, because of its nature, verbal abuse tends to be swept under the carpet more frequently. People see it as something normal. Even people at the receiving end of it often end of making excuses for those who do it. He or she is just angry or stressed, you might hear someone say of another person after the outburst.  

What is verbal abuse?


What is verbal abuse

Words are powerful and verbal abuse uses words to hurt or control others. There's a very thin line between expression and verbal abuse. 

Sherri Gordon, a published author and a bullying prevention expert, said, "Typically, verbal abuse involves some sort of verbal interaction that causes a person's emotional harm. For instance, when someone is being downright critical, acting out in anger, and using words to try to control another person, this is verbal abuse.

This, in turn, leaves a victim questioning who they are. It is not uncommon for a victim of verbal abuse to feel inadequate, stupid, and worthless. After all, they are being defined by a verbally abusive person.

If verbal abuse occurs in a dating relationship, it can be particularly confusing because the partner is likely not abusive all the time.

As a result, when the abuser is loving and gentle the victim can forget all about the negative behaviour. Ultimately, the victim ends up ignoring the pattern of verbal abuse or makes excuses for the behaviour saying things like he is just stressed out or he is going through a tough time right now."

In what form does verbal abuse manifest?

how does verbal abuse manifest

Verbal abuse manifests in different forms either during discussions or arguments or during every day verbal exchange. The following are forms it manifests.

  • Name-calling

This is when a person abandons their line of speech and descends to calling the other person an idiot, a no-good, a dunce. With name-calling, you notice a pattern. The person will do it, again and again, each time they get angry with a particular person. 

Example: "This is why I always say you're an idiot." 

  • Criticism 

There's harmful criticism and constructive criticism. Harmful criticism only serves to damage your self-esteem. For example, "You got it wrong again—can't ever get anything right?", is not constructive criticism. It damages whatever confidences the receiver has left. 

  • Degradation 

This kind of speech is made to humiliate and shame the receiver. Abusers use these tactics to keep their victims dependent on them. It's a way to raise their stock. For example, you might hear something like, "Look at yourself, who else would want you if not me?"

  • Manipulation 

This speech is indirect. It is used to make the receiver do something they might not ordinarily do. A control tool. For example, You'd do this if you're my friend. 

  • Blame

We all make mistakes sometimes. That's normal. But an abusive person makes it your fault even when it's their fault. For example, "I shouted because you're so unbearable."


Symptoms of verbal abuse

Symptoms of verbal abuse

Below are short and long term symptoms of verbal abuse 

Short term symptoms 

  • Overthinking
  • Indecisiveness
  • Lack of enthusiasm
  • Low self-esteem

Long term symptoms 

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • PTSD
  • Chronic pain
  • Migraines
  • Eating disorders
  • Digestive issue

However, you're not responsible for anyone's behaviour, don't forget that. So don't try to reason with an abuser. The best you can do is limit exposure and, whenever you're ready, cut ties with them.

Read also: 8 Things domestic abuse victims want you to know

Written by

Lydia Ume