Emotional abuse

Does it feel like your family or someone you know hates you? Do they constantly put you down just to make you feel bad? This is emotional abuse.

This content has been written for children and young people. If you’re looking for information for over 18s, visit our Types of Crime information about emotional abuse.

Emotional abuse can include name calling, being left out or ignored, being treated differently to others like your brothers or sisters, and being controlled.

It’s important to remember that emotional abuse is never your fault and it’s not okay.

Young boy sat across from a girl looking upset.

The person abusing you could be your parent, carer, brother, sister, other family member, friend, boyfriend, girlfriend or another adult or young person. They may not realise they are doing it, or they may be doing it to hurt you. You may love the person who is upsetting you, but it is never okay and it needs to stop.

You may also have other types of abuse happen to you alongside emotional abuse, such as:

  • physical abuse – when someone hurts you on purpose, such as hitting, slapping, kicking
  • relationship abuse – when your girlfriend or boyfriend puts you down or makes you feel bad
  • neglect – you may feel ‘they don’t care about me’ – your parents/carers may not be looking after you properly and not keeping you safe.

Emotional abuse can make you feel worried, sad, scared or angry, especially if you feel like you’re trying to deal with this all on your own. Lots of young people find that it can help if they talk to someone. Some things you can do are:

  • Tell an adult you trust – this could be a teacher, a family member, your youth worker, social worker or support worker. It can be difficult to know how to have this conversation; we have some tips on asking for help.
  • Think about reporting it to the police. If you are at immediate risk of getting hurt, call 999.
  • If it is safe – and the person who is abusing you cannot find it – you could think about writing down what has happened, including times and dates, like a diary. You can show this to your trusted adult or the police if you report this.
  • With an adult you trust you could develop a safety plan, which would help you choose how best to keep yourself safe.
  • Talk to your friends. A good friend will listen to you and may help you speak to an adult.

If you are worried about a friend, we have some tips on how you can start the conversation and get them the right help

It is really important to remember that emotional abuse is never your fault, even though the person who is emotionally abusing you may be telling you that it is. It is not okay for someone to make you feel like you are useless. It may not feel like it but there are other people who will treat you with the respect you deserve, and who you can trust if you want to talk about what is happening. We have some tips on asking for help.

It might feel like no one will believe you if you choose to tell someone about what is happening to you, but there are people you can trust to tell who won’t laugh or disbelieve or you. It can help to write down what has happened to you so that you can show this to the person you trust. They can help you to keep yourself safe or report it to the police if you choose to do so.

Victim Support’s Children and Young People Services – you can contact your nearest Victim Support office, call the 24/7 Supportline, contact us via live chat, or if you are 16 or older, you can create a My Support Space account. This is a free, safe and secure online space where you can work through interactive guides to help you move forward after crime.

Childline – 24-hour support for young people, both on the phone and through online chats and message boards, on physical, sexual and emotional abuse and a range of other issues: 0800 1111.

The Mix – information and support for under 25s on a whole range of issues. Get confidential help by email, text, webchat or phone: 0808 808 4994.

Young Minds – information and advice on dealing with abuse.