Box Breathing Can Help You Deal with Symptoms of Verbal Abuse

December 2, 2021 Cheryl Wozny

Sometimes, even when you are no longer the victim of verbal abuse, the lasting effects can hinder your mental health. Finding ways to deal with the possible symptoms of verbal abuse like anxiety and depression are critical for your path to healing if these symptoms prevent you from living a full and happy life. Box breathing may be able to help.

I have years of therapy experience, and I still struggle with using the coping tools I need when I feel triggered or overwhelmed with a situation. My logical brain tells me that I should be doing this or that, but when I am in a heightened state of anxiety or panic, that part of my brain shuts down and the fight, flight, freeze, or appease mode takes over. 

Fight, Flight, Freeze, or Appease

While many people know about fight or flight, I did not know about the freeze or appease mode that may accompany individuals who have posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) until I started regular therapy1. Many people will fight back or run away from the stressor when facing a tense or stressful situation, which is a typical response. 

The freeze or appease modes are prevalent for other people, especially those with PTSD because of abuse. Freezing makes the individual do nothing at all. They will freeze because they are terrified of the outcomes of their actions from the situation. Appeasing happens when the victim goes along with the abuse hoping to minimize the situation or avoid prolonging the circumstances. 

Use Box Breathing to Break Out 

It can be challenging to break out of the fight, flight, freeze, or appease mode if you do not know you are responding this way. Unfortunately, after many years of therapy, I still sometimes have difficulty recognizing my emotions until deep anxiety or panic sets in. But it is possible to break out of this cycle with some helpful tools. 

Not every coping mechanism will work for everyone, unfortunately. I had years of therapy where I tried so many different things, only not to have them work or help my mental health. Thankfully, I kept seeking out new methods until I found a couple of local therapists who could provide some tips on how to regulate my emotional state

How I Use Box Breathing

On one occasion, I was in full panic mode and tearful without any valid reason or situation. I could not pinpoint any outside circumstance that triggered me, only that I felt like crying and my body was shaking. My logical brain told me that I had to get groceries, and it was a needed task. So, I got in my car in my heightened state of anxiety and headed to the grocery store. 

At this time, I remembered what one of my therapists had me practice to help calm my anxiety. He called it box breathing. I would take four seconds to breathe in slowly, hold my breath for four seconds, exhale slowly for four seconds, then hold my breath for four seconds. This systematic breathing helps regulate my body and focuses my brain on counting rather than feeling panicked. 

Although it is not a quick fix, I found it does help me. After 15 minutes of my box breathing technique, I noticed that I was calmer and more focused than when I left my house. 

Finding What Works Best for You 

The box breathing technique may not work for you or someone else who suffers from adverse symptoms stemming from verbal abuse. Part of the healing process is finding what works best for your situation. You can try this method or leave a comment below on what techniques you use that have been productive in your life. 

I would love to hear other ways you use to help combat those stormy days where there is anxiety. Leave a comment below on some tools that work for you or someone you love. Maybe your story will help someone else in a similar situation. 


  1. D'Anniballe, J. and The National Childhood Trauma Stress Network, "Neurobiology of Trauma." The Care Center, adapted from Building Cultures of Care, November 2016.

APA Reference
Wozny, C. (2021, December 2). Box Breathing Can Help You Deal with Symptoms of Verbal Abuse, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 25 from

Author: Cheryl Wozny

Cheryl Wozny is a freelance writer and published author of several books, including mental health resources for children titled, Why Is My Mommy So Sad? and Why is My Daddy So Sick? Writing has become her way of healing and helping others. Find Cheryl on TwitterInstagramFacebook, and her blog

Christina Sharratt
December, 25 2023 at 10:46 pm

Someone I know said I was ignoring them,I did not do this purposely. They then went on the attack calling me a nobody ,a cabbage a lard arsenal.This went on from 1.30 to wasn't arguing ,just his verbal abuse.He was very aggressive.The next day I awoke with a hacking cough and full of cold.ITS 6 days later and I am still ill.

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