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Verbal/emotional abuse

A girl looking sad while her boyfriend looks angrily at her.

Verbal and emotional abuse can be hard to spot because there aren’t physical signs. Emotional abuse happens when someone constantly yells at you or uses words to hurt you. Eventually, your self-esteem is damaged. Verbal and emotional abusers can be parents or other family members, a boyfriend, a girlfriend, a teacher, or anyone who makes you feel badly about yourself.

Someone who is an emotional abuser will use mean names, put-downs, insults, sexual harassment, or other ways to gain power over the other person.

Emotional abuse is not when someone simply gets angry one time, but happens constantly over a long period of time. Abusers can say things like:

  • "You're stupid, ugly, fat, greedy, or ________."
  • "No one will ever love you but me."
  • "No one would ever believe you if you told them I was abusive."
  • "If you break up with me, you won’t have any friends at school.”
  • "You're the one who needs help. You're crazy."

Where can I find help if I am being verbally or emotionally abused?

If you are dealing with verbal or emotional abuse, try talking to a trusted teacher, counselor, or another adult. You can also call one of these organizations for support and advice:

National Domestic Violence Hotline:
1-800-799-SAFE (1-800-799-7233) or
1-800-787-3224 (TDD)

Boys Town National Hotline:
1-800-448-3000 or 1-800-448-1833 (TDD)

Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline:
1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453)


Content last reviewed September 22, 2009
Page last updated October 31, 2013