Verbal abuse (also known as reviling) is described as a negative defining statement told to the victim or about the victim, or by withholding any response, thereby defining the target as non-existent. If the abuser does not immediately apologize and retract the defining statement, the relationship may be a verbally abusive one.
In schools a young person may indulge in verbal abuse — bullying (which often has a physical component) to gain status as superior to the person targeted and to bond with others against the target. Generally the bully knows no other way to connect emotionally, i.e., be bonded with others.
In couple relationships, the verbal abuser responds to the partner's "separateness," i.e., independent thoughts, views, desires, feelings, expressions (even of happiness) as an irritant or even an attack. While some people believe the abuser has low self-esteem and so attempts to place their victim in a similar position, i.e., to believe negative things about himself or herself, this is not usually the case in couple relationships. A man may, for example, disparage a woman partner simply because she has qualities that were disparaged in him, i.e., emotional intelligence, warmth, receptivity and so forth.
A person of any gender, race, culture, sexual orientation, age, or size may experience verbal abuse. Typically, in couple or family relationships verbal abuse increases in intensity and frequency over time. After exposure to verbal abuse, victims may develop clinical depression and/or post-traumatic stress disorder. The person targeted by verbal abuse over time may succumb to any stress related illness. Verbal abuse creates emotional pain and mental anguish in its target.
Despite being the most common form of abuse, verbal abuse is generally not taken as seriously as other types because there is no visible proof, and the abuser may have a "perfect" persona around others. In reality, however, verbal abuse can be more detrimental to a person's health than physical abuse. If a person is verbally abused from childhood on, he or she may develop psychological disorders that plague them into and throughout adulthood.