What Is Emotional Invalidation? Emotional Cause & Effects

Updated March 10, 2023by Regain Editorial Team

Validation forms part of the foundation for feelings of safety in any relationship. It can be a very important tool for fostering healthy discussions, emotional intimacy, and healthy love. Thus, emotional invalidation of your partner's feelings, or any form of invalidation of their identity, can be disrespectful to your partner. Similarly, validating your child's emotions so they know their feelings matter is also very important. If you want to learn more about how to effectively develop a healthy home for yourself, your partner(s), and your children if you have any, try online therapy services.

Your Emotions And Experiences Matter

Emotional invalidation involves the process of telling someone in some way that their internal experience is not important or valued and can be considered a form of emotional abuse that occurs in many social landscapes, structures, and relationships.

Because it can be so subtle, many people may not know when emotional invalidation is happening, or they may not recognize the potentially damaging effects of it to themselves and their relationship(s). Furthermore, emotionally dismissive people may not recognize their behavior of invalidating someone else's feelings, which makes it all the more important for healthy communication to be encouraged and nurtured between all individuals involved in any relationship.

Examples Of Emotional Invalidation

You have probably seen many examples of emotional invalidation, even if you haven't recognized them. In fact, you may have experienced it in one way or the other, whether your feelings were invalidated or someone else's feelings were. Regardless, here are a few examples that might sound familiar.

  • “Aw, It Could Be Worse!” – The statement "it could be worse" is emotional invalidation because the person dealing with an uncomfortable emotion is told that their emotion isn't justified. "It could be worse," could imply to the person that they are only allowed to have such feelings if their situation is “bad enough.” Though the statement may be made with positive intentions, it can also contribute to the individual feeling somehow guilty for the way that they feel or as though they don’t deserve, so to speak, to feel that way. This could lead to emotional suppression and denial, both of which are known to negatively impact mental and physical health

  • Eye Rolling – This nonverbal expression implies that your feelings are somehow silly or wrong. If the rolling eyes are directed at another observer who laughs at your emotion, it may be even more damaging to your sense of self and your overall mental health and well-being. Your feelings deserve to be heard and respected because your emotions are important.

  • “You're Too Emotional” – When someone declares that you're too emotional, it may be a way to hint that you need to get yourself together and be stoic. It seems to say that emotions aren't worth paying attention to or should be denied. However, nearly anyone may be emotional when things are not going their way. In addition, many physical and mental health issues may heighten your emotions. That doesn't mean the emotion isn't real or doesn't matter. To deal with your emotions, you need to notice and recognize them and be acknowledged – not suppress and hide your emotions.

If you want to learn more about your emotional health, you can find many articles on dealing with emotions online. Your emotions are important, and you deserve to be able to express any emotion without being ridiculed, ignored, discounted, or invalidated in any way. Look for articles that have been medically reviewed to ensure they are authoritative and correct. Medically reviewed articles are evaluated by mental health professionals.

What Does It Mean To Be Emotionally Invalidated?

Being emotionally invalidated means that someone is minimizing or brushing aside your emotional experience. This can occur for a variety of reasons. The individual may feel uncomfortable with emotional expression, and therefore project that onto others. Maybe they just never realized how their words about others’ emotions might affect those individuals. In some cases, emotionally invalidating someone can be a form of manipulation.

Whatever the reason, being emotionally invalidated means being told verbally or nonverbally that your feelings aren't real, don't matter, and/or that your emotional well-being isn't important. A relationship with emotional invalidation lacks emotional safety, which is the foundation of healthy and meaningful relationships that are anchored in openness, vulnerability, and intimacy with each other. Relationships in which one person consistently invalidates the emotions and experiences of the other can be confusing, hurtful, and difficult. 

What Causes Emotional Invalidation?

Emotional invalidation occurs when someone exhibits invalidating messages about the other person's experience of emotion. The person who is giving the messages may say the other person's emotions are not real or valid in some way. They may convey these messages face to face, on phone calls, through texts, or in any other type of communication, including nonverbally.

Well-meaning and compassionate people can also engage in emotional invalidation and may or may not even realize they are doing it. For example, they may be trying to cheer up the other person by telling them that things could be worse, or something similar. Unfortunately, for the person experiencing sadness, depression, grief, or other difficult emotions, this can cause them to feel guilty for their emotions, or unseen and unheard when trying to be open about them. Additionally, many of us may minimize or otherwise invalidate our own emotions, perhaps without fully realizing it.

Sometimes, emotional invalidation can be conducted purposefully with the intent to somehow manipulate or control an individual. In these instances, invalidation can be considered a form of abuse and toxicity. Continuous emotional invalidation can cause the individual to question their own perceptions, thoughts, and feelings. Over time, this can negatively impact self-esteem and result in the individual remaining in the toxic relationship. This dynamic can occur in any relationship, be it between parent and child, platonic friends, coworkers, or romantic relationships. A well-known form of toxic emotional invalidation is called gaslighting, which involves invalidating another person’s experiences to such a degree that they begin to question their own reality. 

No matter what the cause, it's important to learn how to recognize and honor your own emotions and those of others. Offering yourself and those around you emotional support and validation can be a powerful tool that can aid in minimizing stigmas regarding feeling and expressing tough emotions. Additionally, validating the experiences and emotions of others can help them to manage and work through said feelings healthily, safely, and efficiently.

When someone can go through that emotional process without being hindered by invalidation, they can maintain or even improve their mental health. At the same time, if you have told someone their feelings aren't valid, it will help them if you accept responsibility for your words or actions and acknowledge the other person's experience. Through this experience, you may find that you are better able to recognize and validate your own emotions, too.

Talking with a therapist or psychologist who has been medically reviewed can provide help with finding the specific cause of your condition. Doctors and psychologists who work with mental health challenges and disorders are medically reviewed and must be re-certified yearly to ensure that your treatment is legal, up-to-date, and appropriate for your needs and preferences. and helping you achieve better health, whether mental or physical. However, it's important that your medical provider, regardless of their certifications of area of expertise, listens to and validates your emotions in a non-biased manner.

How Do You Fix Emotional Invalidation?

Fixing emotional invalidation can be extremely difficult if it has been going on for a long time; if not corrected, it can lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms. In that case, talking to a mental health therapist may be the best solution. They can help you learn to manage your own emotions and discover how to reduce your need for external validation. By improving your own mental health, you become less vulnerable to other people's invalidating remarks because you are better able to validate yourself.

However, it's relatively simple to correct emotional invalidation if you realize that you've said something to invalidate someone's feelings. Compassionate people occasionally say something that they later realize made someone feel bad. Suppose you gave them unsolicited advice or brushed off their emotional response, perhaps without intending to. 

When that happens, you can accept responsibility for this through having a candid conversation with them in which you acknowledge that you invalidated them or were not supportive. By being open and showing them that you truly do care, you may enable them to feel safe and supported in working through their emotion in their own way. When someone feels accepted, their self-doubt may begin to ease, and they may begin to find a healthy way through tough emotions.

What Is Stonewalling In A Relationship?

Stonewalling occurs in relationships when one partner gives the other partner the silent treatment or otherwise refuses to engage in a discussion regarding something important to their partner. This harmful technique is often handed down generationally, as many of us initially learn how to manage (or mismanage, in the case of stonewalling) our emotions and how we respond to situations from our parents.

What Is Traumatic Invalidation?

Traumatic invalidation happens when someone's feelings are constantly denied. The environment is such that the person or people you engage with regularly continually say your feelings don't matter or aren't somehow wrong. Being regularly told that you don't know your own feelings or that your emotions aren't important can lead to self-doubt and low self-esteem. 

Many people have grown up in such environments. A medically reviewed study of people with borderline personality disorder found that there was a significant connection between the development of borderline personality disorder and invalidating parents, particularly the mother.

If your feelings were often invalidated by your parents or other caretakers, you could get help in your community or online. Psychiatrists can diagnose conditions, provide guidance on your healing journey, and prescribe medications if needed. Psychologists and therapists will acknowledge your feelings and help you learn how to better manage your emotions. Doctors may be medically reviewed to ensure they are providing the best guidance and treatment(s) for you. 

What Is Emotional Neglect?

Being emotionally neglected means that a child is not receiving understanding and support for their emotions. The child may start feeling ignored or uncared for by the parents. A mother or father who neglects their child emotionally could cause serious damage to their emotional growth and health.

Emotional neglect can involve parents not acknowledging or empathizing with the child’s feelings, downplaying their emotions, saying their feelings don't matter, suggesting that the child should feel differently than they do, or ignoring their feelings altogether.

A child whose emotions are persistently neglected may have fewer opportunities to learn how to deal with their emotions. Later, when an emotion comes up, they may squelch it down and pretend the emotion doesn't exist. Or they may have frequent crises with their emotions because they have never been allowed or shown how to practice managing emotions healthily.

If the person who is being invalidated is still a child, their doctor might make sure that their case is medically reviewed when they come in for a checkup. Once it is medically reviewed, the doctor might talk to the parents about getting professional family counseling.

Examples Of Gaslighting

As part of the psychology of bullying, gaslighting involves someone telling you that you haven't experienced what you thought you did. The experience could be a physical event, or it could be your emotions. It's a way of playing with your feelings, and it's usually done specifically to harm and control you. Here's an example of gaslighting:

Suppose you and your boyfriend have agreed not to see other people. However, you found out that your boyfriend was texting someone else intimate things and expressing his innermost feelings with her. Then, you hear phone calls between them, with him inviting her over for the night. Naturally, you have an emotional response. Your feelings are hurt, and you are very upset. You tell him this, expecting to talk it out and decide what to do. Yet, he says you're being too emotional. He downplays your feelings and tells you it's nothing to be upset about. Maybe he even tells you that you misread the text or misheard the calls. This can make you doubt yourself and you may feel emotionally unstable like there's something wrong with you. You have just been emotionally invalidated. Relationships that continue along such a course – with gaslighting as a feature – often break up or become more abusive.

Examples Of Invalidation

Often, the person who participates in emotional invalidation is not aware that they are doing so; they may believe they are genuinely helping the other person. Typically, they do not intend to shame their thoughts and feelings.

In cases in which a person is aware that they emotionally invalidate others, they may do so as a way to manipulate and establish control over another individual using emotional invalidation.

Reasons for engaging in invalidation can range from an inability to empathize to not knowing how to validate others and express it effectively. Some individuals may learn emotional invalidation from a young age from their parents, which is why self-awareness is very important if you want to be a supportive partner, friend, or offer support to family and yourself.

Some Common Non-Validating Emotional Statements:

  1. "It could be worse." / "I'm sure it wasn't that bad."

These statements minimize and marginalize a person's emotional experience and force a toxic positivity on them.

  1. "You shouldn't/don’t need to feel that way. I don’t respect that."

This can convey superiority over someone and denies their experience by making them feel small and implying their experience is somehow wrong.

  1. "Just get over it/Just let it go."

This is an extremely dismissive expression and can make the other person feel emotionally suppressed and brushed aside.

Effects Of Invalidation

Psychological invalidation can cause psychological damage. Here are some of the effects of emotional abuse:

Not only can it create emotional distance, conflict, violence, and disruption in relationships, but an emotionally invalidated person can feel alienated, confused, inferior, worthless, and problematic.

Studies On Others’ Feelings And Relationships 

Being in a non-validating environment has been shown to have a negative impact on one's emotional self-efficacy, with a study published in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology revealing that it can lead to serious consequences.

Another study found that children who experienced emotional invalidation such as psychological abuse, punishment, and minimization experienced chronic emotional distress in adulthood which led to symptoms of depression and anxiety. This study discovered that emotional invalidation can be the root of low self-esteem, a deep-seated fear of rejection.

This can lead a young child to believe that if their feelings do not matter, neither do they. That's why it's so important to validate a loved one's feelings and show them that their feelings matter.

Please note: If you or a loved one are experiencing abuse of any kind, including emotional abuse, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1.800.799.SAFE for help anytime.

Ways To Show Emotional Validation

If you notice that you have been emotionally non-validating toward others, the chances are that you had a parent, teacher, or friend who did the same to you. The good news is that you can improve these behaviors and take the first step toward change.

The first thing you can do to validate someone is to acknowledge or reflect on the other person's experience. Let them know that you hear them and that it is okay and valid for them to feel that way. For example, you may say something like, "I hear you are feeling disappointed about what happened." Or “That must be difficult to experience. Do you want to talk about it more?” Perhaps your partner expresses to you that they feel anxious around bodies of water. A validating and supportive response could be, "I hear that you are feeling scared. Can you tell me more about this anxiety?”

It's important to remember that emotional validation is not about agreeing with someone; you can have different thoughts or opinions but still be able to empathize with the other person.

Avoid giving unsolicited advice, and if you feel the need to, always ask them if they want help with this problem. If the answer is no, keep on listening. Remember, it is not your responsibility to “fix” anyone.

Emotional validation means acknowledging, accepting, and understanding another's feelings and thoughts, and communicating that you support them in their perspective. A supportive relationship shouldn’t make you feel uncomfortable about your feelings. They may understand that having a productive conversation can help them understand you better and that listening is a critical communication tool.

If you have a habit of invalidating yourself, you can start by practicing simple affirmations that accept your feelings and experiences. Examples of these can include:

"My feelings are valid, and they are important."

"I respect and honor my feelings."

"I accept my feelings and acknowledge that they're not wrong."

What To Do About Invalidation

Emotions serve an important purpose and will almost always point to something that needs to be acknowledged. They are not right or wrong; they reflect your inner experience. If you are the recipient of emotional invalidation, know that you are not irrational for feeling; your thoughts and emotions are valid because they are real and your feelings matter. While your feelings may not seem important to that person, they may be a big deal to you, and being able to safely express yourself in a relationship is a critical communication tool.

Being the recipient of emotional invalidation can often trigger a fight-or-flight response that may compel you to act aggressively or defensively. However, this may only establish conflict and division and play into the perpetrator's plan of distracting you from the real issue at hand. If someone is being non-validating to you, it is understandable that you may be feeling angry  or may want to defend yourself and increase your efforts to be understood.

Instead of getting angry or defending yourself against this invalidating behavior, however, try not to accept the invalidation. Let them know calmly using "I" statements how you feel and be prepared to end the conversation if they do not hear you or want to hear you. Let them know that you will discuss the matter with them when you feel safe to do so. Be neutral and assertive and set clear boundaries with them.

If this person continues to invalidate your feelings and resist change, it may be wise to take inventory of the relationship and think about whether it is worth your time and investment.

Therapy is an effective way of dealing with intense emotions, can help you reclaim your self-confidence and assertiveness emotionally, and help you in overcoming emotional invalidation.

A licensed therapist can also help you cope, offer support, and create a safe space for you to express how you feel without judgment.

If in person therapy isn’t for you or transportation, health issues whether mental or physical, or time constraints make getting to appointments tough, online therapy can help. For example, a recent study on internet-based mindfulness therapy for improving emotional control and self-validation found it to be just as effective as in-person therapy. 

Online therapy allows you to receive therapy anywhere you’re most comfortable and have an internet connection, including from home. Additionally, many online therapists are able to hold non-traditional work hours, meaning that even those with unique or full schedules can get the help that they deserve. Sessions can be held via video chat, phone call, instant in-app messaging, or live voice recordings. 


Validation doesn't mean that you lie or agree with another person, but that you acknowledge and accept someone's experience as truthful for them. Surround yourself with people who support this, and who are kind, encouraging, and validating.

Equally as important is being in a compassionate relationship with yourself. Remind yourself of your inherent worth – that you are enough and that you matter, regardless of what others think or say about you. When you truly know this, you are better able to validate yourself without seeking it from outside sources. 

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