20 Subtle Yet Destructive Verbal Abuse Signs and Patterns

In relationships, verbal abuse can be hidden, and many might not even recognize that they’re already being abused by the people they believe love and care for them. The moment they realize it, they’ll think it’s too late because they’re already trapped. Thankfully, by recognizing and addressing these behaviors, individuals can free themselves from this toxicity and build healthier connections. Read on and learn more about the top 20 signs and patterns of verbal abuse.


Image Credit: Shutterstock / fizkes

Manipulation is one of the most common abuse tactics abusers use to control their victims. Verbal abusers typically use manipulative language to coerce their victims into doing something they’re not comfortable with. An example of this would be, “That’s not what I said,” “You shouldn’t feel that way,” “You made me do this,” and more.


Image Credit: Shutterstock / voronaman

Common phrases or words associated with verbal abuse include “idiot,” “worthless,” “dumb,” and more. However, sometimes, even seemingly sweet or playful nicknames can be considered abusive. This happens when you’ve asked someone to stop calling you a certain name, but they deliberately ignore your request.

Demeaning Comments

Image Credit: Shutterstock / wavebreakmedia

You don’t have to be called “ugly” or “worthless” to be considered a verbal abuse victim. If your partner puts you down using demeaning or degrading comments, then it’s already a sign that you’re in an abusive relationship. Commenting negatively about someone’s gender, religion, race, culture, and more is unhealthy and shouldn’t be normalized! Medical News Today says, “Verbal abuse occurs when someone repeatedly uses negative or demeaning words to gain or maintain power and control over someone else.”


Image Credit: Shutterstock / Krakenimages.com

When someone is gaslighting you, they are telling you words that alter your perception of reality. They target your emotions and make you think a certain way so they can control you.

Yelling or Screaming

Image Credit: Shutterstock / Ground Picture

You might think that yelling or screaming is normal, but it’s not. Arguments are normal, but one should never yell at another; people should have civilized, calm discussions. Being yelled at or screamed at is demeaning, and no one deserves these things to happen to them. In whatever relationship, even when things get heated, the people involved should be able to reach a compromise wherein they both feel respected, heard, and safe.

Constant Criticism

Image Credit: Shutterstock / Zamrznuti tonovi

Verbal abusers often think their critiques of others are simply comments or even jokes. However, no matter what it is, if what you say is hurtful toward another, it can be considered verbal abuse. Talkspace explains, “An abuser might say that they’re just being honest or blunt or claim that their hurtful remarks are just a joke, but if you’re repeatedly being judged or critiqued, that’s not constructive or kind—it’s abuse.”


Image Credit: Shutterstock / Prostock-studio

Abusive people seek to gain control by making you think you’re less than what you’re actually worth. So, they resort to degradation to make you feel bad about yourself and your abilities. They use this to humiliate you and make you less confident.


Image Credit: Shutterstock / Roman Samborskyi

Another way abusers belittle their victims is through condescension. Sarcastic, patronizing, and disdainful words often make victims feel bad; conversely, they highlight the abusers as superior. According to Verywell Mind, “While often disguised as humor, sarcastic comments that are intended to belittle and demean the other person can be a form of verbal abuse.”

Frequent Insults

Image Credit: Shutterstock / Studio Romantic

If you’re stuck in an abusive relationship, then you might have noticed that your partner’s constantly insulting you and putting you down. This sign or pattern of verbal abuse can show up in other aspects of life, too, such as work or school. Insults are a way to degrade someone’s status, and when it constantly happens, it may lead to the destruction of one’s self-worth and self-esteem.


Image Credit: Shutterstock / Dmytro Zinkevych

Accusations, especially false ones, are a common sign of verbal abuse. Abusers typically use this tactic to make their victims feel like they are at fault for something. Then, when the victim is constantly accused of things, they end up questioning themselves. They turn to themselves and start thinking that something is wrong with them.


Image Credit: Shutterstock / fizkes

When an abuser blames their victims, they make them feel responsible for something and effectively shame them for their actions—even if they did nothing wrong. Blame-shifting is usually considered to coincide with gaslighting and other forms of verbal abuse. Abusers make your flaws, timing, behavior, and more the root cause of whatever went wrong.


Image Credit: Shutterstock / Proxima Studio

Any form of abuse can make victims cower and keep to themselves. For example, verbal abuse can make someone feel isolated from other people they love because of the negative brainwashing they do. Aside from this, self-isolation is also a common side effect of verbal abuse. Victims usually tend to keep themselves away from other people while still in abusive relationships; others, unfortunately, continue this even after leaving a toxic relationship.


Image Credit: Shutterstock / Srdjan Randjelovic

No matter how you look at it, threatening others is a sign of verbal abuse. If someone threatens another person, there’s almost always ill intent. Abusers threaten their victims as a way to gain control over them, inducing fear to make them submit.

Circular Arguments

Image Credit: Shutterstock / fizkes

In any relationship, having arguments is normal and sometimes even recommended. However, arguments take on a whole different level when they involve abusers. They’d usually bring up the same conflict or disagreement over and over again if only to irritate you or make you feel bad.


Image Credit: Shutterstock / fizkes

Withholding is exactly as the word implies. When abusers use this tactic, they withhold showing or giving love and attention. They don’t even talk to or look at you; at times, they might even avoid being in the same room as you. This works because, at this point, victims are so dependent on their abusers. The Mend Project explains, “To a victim who feels trapped in a circumstance or relationship with someone who withholds, every instance of abuse sends the message, ‘You don’t deserve to be treated well.’”

Purposeful Berating

Image Credit: Shutterstock / Stockbakery

Verbal abuse can manifest itself through an abuser’s purposeful berating. When they do this, they demean their victims and make them feel like they’re not worthy. They’d often target their victim’s insecurities to make their hold over them stronger.


Image Credit: Shutterstock / Goksi

Stonewalling is a lot like giving a person the silent treatment. An abuser would shut down during an argument and put distance between them and their victim. Unfortunately, because victims could already be dependent and brainwashed by their abuser, they feel hurt because they are being stonewalled. Therefore, they’d do anything and everything to get their abuser’s attention again.

Overreacting to Small Issues to Induce Shame

Image Credit: Shutterstock / Antonio Guillem

It’s normal for people to react to certain things. However, abusers make this work in their favor by overreacting to even the smallest issue just to shame their victims. They incite embarrassment to confuse victims and make them question their actions.

Attempts to Embarrass You

Image Credit: Shutterstock / Anatoliy Karlyuk

Verbal abusers use language—subtly or not subtly—to embarrass or humiliate their victims. They want them to feel shame because it’s one of the best ways to make them depend on their abusers.

Fear-Mongering or Attempts to Intimidate or Scare You

Image Credit: Shutterstock / Viktor Gladkov

Inducing fear is one of the most effective ways an abuser can keep you under their control. They make you afraid of retaliation, so you don’t question their actions or their words. When you’re scared, you become willing to do almost anything to feel safe or comfortable again.

Read More: 20 Common Traits Poorly Educated People Usually Have

Image Credit: Shutterstock / fizkes

Poorly educated individuals may exhibit certain noticeable characteristics that set them apart from others. On the flip side, some may also compensate for their lack of education by pretending to be knowledgeable in certain areas. This behavior is often a way for poorly educated individuals to maintain their self-image and self-esteem.

20 Common Traits Poorly Educated People Usually Have

20 Behaviors and Traits That Are Dead Giveaways of Having Low Intelligence

Image Credit: Shutterstock / Prostock-studio

Speaking loudly, being overly confident, or even gossiping can all be signs of someone having low intelligence. However, by recognizing these markers, people can become more proactive in addressing their limitations and weaknesses, eventually improving their overall mental and emotional capacity. Read on and learn more about the top 20 dead giveaways of low intelligence!

20 Behaviors and Traits That Are Dead Giveaways of Having Low Intelligence

20 Things You’re Doing That Make You a Bad Neighbor

Image Credit: Shutterstock / Rainer Fuhrmann

People have different personalities; that’s a fact. When you move somewhere with a tight-knit community, you will get to know many people who will either clash with your personality or make you feel like you’ve found a new friend. However, no matter what it is, remember to establish boundaries. If you don’t, you might soon see a lot of bad blood between you and other people in the community!

20 Things You’re Doing That Make You a Bad Neighbor

20 Signs You Have Little to No Emotional Support in Your Relationship

Image Credit: Shutterstock / Dikushin Dmitry

Navigating a relationship without enough emotional support can feel like being caught in a storm without shelter. Constant feelings of isolation, misunderstanding, and loneliness indicate a loss of balance in the emotional aspect of your relationship. Thankfully, it’s not too late to get help because we’ve gathered the top 20 signs that can help you determine whether or not you’re receiving the emotional support you need for a healthy, thriving relationship.

20 Signs You Have Little to No Emotional Support in Your Relationship

20 Christian Practices That Confuse and Puzzle Others

Image Credit: Shutterstock / Gorodenkoff

All regions differ in some way. Catholics collect saint cards and plan their vacations around religious sights, and Buddhists believe in karma and reincarnation. Like them, Christians also practice some things that are simply unheard of or puzzling for others. They practice tithing, cast out demons, and more!

20 Christian Practices That Confuse and Puzzle Others

Author: Karen Danao


Karen is a writer and also a marketing and advertising professional. Beyond the keyboard and the screen, she is someone who’s out to enjoy every bit that life has to offer!

Poetry, philosophy, history, and movies are all topics she loves writing about! However, her true passion is in traveling, photography, and finding common ground to which everyone from different cultures can relate.