“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

– Maya Angelou

Whether you abuse someone verbally or physically, the distinction doesn’t really matter. What matters is how worthless and powerless your words or actions can make a person feel in just one single moment. And that one horrible feeling, that knot in their stomach, that urge to cry, to scream, to just run away from you, that is what will stick with them for an entire lifetime. We tend to believe that verbal abuse is something that can be overlooked. We believe it’s something that doesn’t really matter just because it doesn’t leave you with any visible scars on your body.

But what about the scarring of our mind? What about the permanent harm it does to our personality? What about the feelings of humiliation that stick with us for a lifetime?

The time has come to accept that verbal abuse exists, to accept that it is just as painful as physical abuse, and to accept that we need to learn to fight it. Here are 5 reasons why verbal abuse deserves to have our full attention:

  1. Emotional and physical pain both result in the same circuitry

It turns out that the term “heartbroken” may not be just a metaphor after all. Science has tried, time and again, to prove that physical and emotional pain can be equated the same way. In a number of experiments performed by Naomi L. Eisenberg and her fellows, it was shown through neuroimaging that whenever the participants felt socially excluded, the circuitry that got activated was the same as the one linked to the affective element of physical pain.

Another experiment conducted by Ethan Kross and his fellows went one step ahead by trying to test whether it was possible to involve those parts of the brain which are involved with the affective as well as the sensory elements of physical pain.

For the experiment, they recruited 40 individuals who had been through an unwanted and painful breakup with their partners. While using MRI scans, the participants were given a picture of their ex and were asked to focus on their feelings of rejection. Along with this, they also administered some pain tests to the participants- one was the “hot trial” which actually hurt them and the other was the “warm trial” which was enough to result in sensation but didn’t cause much discomfort.

Can you guess what the result was? The parts of the brain that lit up when the participants recalled their emotional pain from the rejection were the same as the parts that lit up when the hot trial was administered to them.

We still need more research on this view, but one thing stands clear: Emotional and physical pain can both be unbearably hurtful. *Continue reading on next page*