The 5 Signs of an Emotional Abuser

Let’s face it: college relationships can either be the best, or the worst. Think back to the comfort of being in high school, surrounded by people who you knew, with behavior you could predict.

Now all of a sudden, college comes and brings a whole new type of person. There’s nothing predictable about a stranger, and making friends as an “almost-adult” isn’t always as easy as when you met your best friend in the sand box in the 1st grade. The point is this: new friends and relationships can be scary and trusting new people in the world of drinking and partying may leave you feeling vulnerable. How do you spot the genuine soul from the degenerate in disguise?

Being able to zero in on a friend or significant other who is emotionally abusive is incredibly important at this age. At the end of everything, you’re going to college for an education, but you need to be able to preserve your feelings form getting hurt or used. So here are 5 tell-tale signs that your friend/significant other might not be someone you need to have in your life:

1. They dismiss your feelings
We all go through our stresses and ups and downs daily – especially in college. It’s okay to get upset over a test or from that daunting 12 page paper. But if you turn to someone you consider a confidante to express this, and they tell you you’re “overreacting,” that is a potential red flag. Step back from the situation when you have calmed down and really categorize your feelings. If it was important enough to you that you became upset about it, your friend has no right to tell you you are overreacting.

2. Their opinion is the gospel.
After anything traumatic or distressing happens, “therapists” begin to pop up in everywhere your life – left, right, up, and down – especially after a break up. An emotional abuser will give you advice or their opinion on your next move – that you may not ready to take – and will become offended if you don’t listen to it. Healing is an individual process, and your friend should be able to respect that.

3. Anger in response to your opinion/feelings.
These past 7 months, I’ve been at a real emotional low. Instead of having some of my friends support me through my sadness, I received anger from them. They were angry that I wasn’t “better,” and they’d take their anger out on me for not being the person I once was. No one should ever chastise you for feeling sadness or for not being who you “used” to be. Emotional abusers will try to solve an emotion with a worse emotion. Hint: it never works well.

4. Not caring/Unresponsive to your feelings.
As someone who lives with depression, having a support system is important to me. However, the emotional abusers in my life have proven to be tired of my illness. If you’re feeling bad about something, and you express that to someone you care about, they should respond positively to you. It should not matter whether you have been feeling this way for the past year or the past day. Having someone not care about your emotions is incredibly painful, and one of the most damaging tools in the emotional abuser’s arsenal.

5. Pretending things are okay for the sake of normalcy.
Things happen, and people change. This is life. Just because things change, that does not allow a pass for forgetfulness. Sometimes things can’t be the same forever and ignoring a change can hurt feelings. By an emotional abuser pretending that something did not happen – especially something that hurt you- they’re telling you that it’s more important for things to be the way they were and your position on the matter is secondary. It’s negating to your experience. That is not fair. You’re a person, and you matter.

I hope these tiny tips help you spot the hurtful people in your life. Never forget that you are your own biggest fan, and you have to want better for yourself. With that comes prohibiting others from treating you however they please. To quote Eleanor Roosevelt, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

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