In the last two articles, we talked about the different types of abuse and how they inter-relate with each other. Though it may seem as if this topic of abuse has been over-flogged, when we consider the gravity and deleterious effects of the various forms of abuse, we’ll realise that the need for adequate information about abuse can not be overemphasised. Today’s post, being the last article in the series, will be talking about
a form of abuse that is mostly overlooked by majority of people. VERBAL ABUSE. And even if this does not cut the general perception of abuse, it is one of the most potent forms of abuse and is equally as damaging as both child abuse and sexual abuse.
As the saying goes “you don’t need to hit to hurt.” Psychological abuse, also referred to as psychological violence, emotional abuse or mental abuse, is a form of abuse characterised by a person subjecting or exposing another to behaviour that may result in psychological trauma, including anxiety, chronic depression or post-traumatic stress disorder. Such abuse is often associated with situations of power imbalance, such as abusive relationships, bullying and abuse in the workplace. This also includes verbal abuse.
Verbal abuse is very common and this does not necessarily refer to the one-time abuses we receive from peers and older ones but to chronic abuse and chronic intimidation in the form of bullying.
WHAT ARE THE EFFECTS OF CHRONC VERBAL ABUSE?
Ultimately, self esteem and self worth are the major areas that are significantly affected in an abused individual. Now you may ask yourself, “what has this got to do with health?” Let me share a personal experience…
As a teenager in high school (I was in SS1 precisely), a lot of people called me “big” and this wasn’t because they were trying to mock me but they were simply saying the truth! I would definitely not be classified among people who are small. However, I had a problem with being referred to that way and each time someone mentioned it, I got really defensive. It didn’t stop there. I began to almost starve myself just so I could reduce in height, weight and everything else that was reducible but it never worked. Then soon after, another cycle of name calling began. This time it was “you can talk” and that too wasn’t a lie. I was and still am a very outspoken person. I had this friend back then who I admired a lot and she was so quiet. Only speaking when spoken to. I desperately wanted to change to be like her and to stop being called “talkative”. I started to keep to myself, even used sign language to communicate just because I felt it was unnecessary to use spoken words. Then I started having terrible migraines! It was so bad that I had to skip classes as a result and was even taken out of school more than once to run all kinds of tests. But they found nothing. One day, like many other natural things, that feeling came to an end. It became too hard trying to be someone I wasn’t. I started to smile and be myself again and guess what? The migraines disappeared!
A lot of people become anorexic, depressed and even go as far as committing suicide just because of what someone said to them. Usually, this happens because those words gets stuck on replay in the minds of the victim long after the abuser has said them. Words hurt. The tongue has no bones but it is strong enough to break a heart. People who were verbally abused as children grow up to be self-critical adults prone to depression and anxiety. The effects of verbal abuse can be long-lasting and devastating. These range from constant broken relationships and frequently undermining your belief in yourself to interfering with your ability to achieve goals, bond with others and it ultimately affects your health.
Young adults and teenagers are vulnerable groups that are most likely to be verbally abused by parents or older siblings especially when they don’t live up to expectations. It is easy for us, especially here in Nigeria, to believe there is nothing wrong with this. After all, we all went through the name calling and yet we survived so we expect them to do same. Unfortunately, times have changed. The world is getting more and more unconducive for younger people. With social media and TV telling them everything they should be and look like, there is already a lot debilitating their self esteem. You don’t need to make it worse at home. They just may not be able to survive it all.
FOR HOW LONG WILL YOU BE A VICTIM?
You must realise that nobody has the power to hurt you unless you give it to them. The earlier you take control of your mind and start thinking about your thoughts, the faster you’ll liberate yourself from the effects of verbal abuse.
If anyone says something about you that you don’t like, do not just tell them to stop it but say the exact opposite to yourself immediately. If this is coming from someone older, remember to still show some respect but you must speak to yourself as soon you can. If abuse from an older person lingers for long, you may want to speak to them about it, report to the appropriate authorities, avoid the individual if you can and if you have exhausted all these options, brace up! You must guard your mind because the effect of verbal abuse, though subtle, is more lethal than you know. “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will not hurt me”. You could tell yourself that too.
Lastly, the most successful way to come out of abuse especially when there is an element of truth in it is that you must start to do something about it. If it is your weight, work on it; your hair, work on it. But you must never do these just because of what people are saying, it MUST stem from what you perceive is best for you. Whatever you do, do it for you!
I am happy that finally we have come to the end of this series of abuse. I hope you’ve learned a lot? Don’t abuse anyone and definitely do not allow yourself be a victim. Watch out for subsequent posts and always remember to share with someone. Till then, stay blessed!