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Understanding emotional abuse

When an adult is hurting you with their words or actions over and over, it’s not ok and there are people who can help.

Content Warning: this article contains violence and trauma related content that may be triggering or distressing.

Sad teen with adult shouting

What is emotional abuse?

Emotional abuse happens when someone keeps treating you in a way that makes you feel scared, worthless or alone.

It’s sometimes called psychological or verbal abuse.

It’s when someone keeps saying or doing things that are hurtful to you.

It can include constant yelling, criticising, rejecting, isolating and bullying.

Emotional abuse can be just as harmful as physical abuse.

Nothing you say or do makes it ok for someone to emotionally abuse you.

Types of emotional abuse

Here are some examples of emotional abuse:

Calling you names or constantly putting you down

Withholding love, support, praise or attention

Forcing you to do things by scaring you

Driving recklessly in the car to scare you

Constantly criticising, humiliating or blaming you

Having expectations of you that are too high or you cannot reach

Ignoring or pretending you aren’t there

Often swearing, yelling or screaming at you

Threatening to harm you, people you care about or your pets

Making you feel different from other family members

Telling you that you’re worthless, unloved or not good enough

Not letting you be independent, learn new things or make friends

Not allowing you to express your ideas or making fun of what you say

Treating you badly because of things you can’t change (eg. disability, gender, sexuality)

You deserve to be treated with care and respect. No-one has the right to make you feel bad about yourself.

Words hurt

While emotional abuse might not hurt your body, it can be just as harmful and painful to you on the inside.

You may feel:

  • Worried, guilty, angry or confused
  • Fearful of doing something wrong
  • Sad, lonely or like hurting yourself
  • Self-conscious or not liking yourself
  • That you can’t express your feelings
  • Unloved, unwanted or rejected
  • Like running away or getting even with someone
  • Worthless, hopeless or betrayed
  • Unable to trust others or always having to please them

If emotional abuse is happening to you…

It’s important to remember:

You’re not alone
Abuse is NEVER OK
This is NOT your fault
You are important
You deserve to be treated with love and care
Kids Helpline is here for you

There are people you can talk to who can help

Here’s a list of some people you could try talking to. Remember, if at first you don’t get help, keep trying until you find somebody who will help you.

Kids Helpline - 1800 55 1800

An older relative or friend

1800 RESPECT - 1800 737 732

A teacher or school principal

Child Protection

Doctor or nurse

School Counsellor

Youth worker

You don’t have to go through this alone

No matter what you’re going through, no matter how alone or worried you feel - Kids Helpline is here for you.

Talking about abuse can be hard, but we’ll always listen and support you. Give us a call, start a WebChat or send us an email.

This content was last reviewed 06/09/2018

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