Your Feelings are Valid

Emotional abuse is real: how to recognize signs and find help

Eve Slemp

It’s okay to not feel okay. A type of abuse that is too frequently overlooked is emotional abuse. We hear about the violence of physical abuse between couples, families, and in the public through various news stations, town gossip, and other media, but the rise in emotional abuse and its impact on victims has yet to be brought to attention.

Not only is emotional abuse prevalent in adults, but there has also been an uptick in incidents with adolescents.

In 2014, a study from the National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence reported that just 15.7 percent of children ages 14 to 17 had experienced emotional abuse in the previous year. In contrast, in 2022, the percent increased to more than 55 percent of students surveyed at 7,700 schools across the United States who said they experienced some form of emotional abuse.

Emotional abuse can vary in many ways. From young, inexperienced relationships, difficulties at home with parents, complex power dynamics in the workplace, and more. The perpetrator has one goal in mind, may it be intended or subconscious: they want to control.

The perpetrator manipulates the victim by criticizing, embarrassing, gaslighting, blaming, and numerous other ways. At this point, after daily incidents, the victim will often doubt themselves, feel as though they’re being “too over dramatic” when confronting the perpetrator’s actions, and their mental health, self esteem, and feelings are deemed invalid. This constant push down can cause one to easily be disillusioned and lose a sense of identity and reality.

When it happens for far too long, the victim oftentimes takes the blame, sees this as the new reality, and becomes too afraid to leave the situation, because, especially in a relationship, they may feel it is “better to be abused than to be alone.”

But, recognizing the signs is not always easy. A lot of the time, the victim doesn’t even recognize the situation as abusive. It isn’t until later where they no longer can escape the repetitive abusive behavior.

Often, the situation becomes confusing. When the abuse happens gradually, the distortion in reality becomes too apparent. Sometimes, the abuser can continue to be encouraging, loving, and caring, but just as easily, can resort to verbal abuse. This is dangerous, especially in relationships, because it makes it difficult to leave the partner, for they could have just had an “off day,” or, they “didn’t mean it.”

Too many people find themselves in this wounding situation, but victims need to recognize when they are being abused, and not dismiss the abuser’s behavior.

Signs of abusive relationships:

Having Unrealistic Expectations

When a person expects unreasonable demands, pushes aside your needs, expects you to always make time for them, dissatisfied no matter how much you give them, when confronted, they expect you to give specific time and dates and occasions from when you felt a certain way and often dismiss your accusations saying, “That never happened,” or, “It was just a joke.”


When they repetitively dismiss or distort your reality by not accepting your feelings, make you redefine how you should feel, force you to explain how you feel, accuse you of being “too sensitive,” or “crazy,” don’t acknowledge your opinions as valid, dismiss your requests as “ridiculous,” say you “exaggerate,” and make you feel selfish and needy.

Acting Superior.

When they treat you as though you are inferior to them, blame you for their mistakes, constantly want to prove you wrong, make jokes at your expense, say your opinions and values are “stupid” or “illogical,” use sarcasm when discussing anything with you, act condescending, they know what is best, and act like they are smarter than you will ever be.

How to get help:

Don’t underestimate therapy.

Going to therapy is extremely stigmatized, and for what? Just because people are brave enough to recognize they need help and are getting help is no reason to be ashamed. By speaking with a therapist, your emotions will be validated. It will help you recognize the abuse. But don’t think it’s only professional help that will let you escape. Discussing situations with friends, families, counselors, and people you trust is a great way to put yourself back into reality.

Give yourself self love

Make time for yourself. Go on dates with yourself. Show your mind and body that you love yourself and that you are your own person. Reflect on the situation you are in, meditate, walk, spend time with nature, and start to recognize that you value yourself.


It’s not worth it. It can be confusing when abuse might be infrequent and purely emotional. When that person continues to express love and affection occasionally as well as abuse. It’s hard to recognize an argument versus repetitive emotional abuse, especially when they act differently at various times. Notice if you feel upset or anxious when you see them more than excited. Even if they make you feel loved and appreciated sometimes, it’s not worth it when most of the time they make you feel as though you are nothing. You deserve better.