The Silent Struggle of Traumatic Invalidation (And How to Cope With It)

Last Update on January 5, 2024 : Published on January 6, 2024
Traumatic Invalidation

Our emotions are complex and to appease them we often seek validation. Validation of our emotions plays an important role in shaping and influencing our self-perception and that of others. However, not all validation is equal. When I talk about our psychological well-being, I refer to the darker side of validation — invalidation, more particularly, traumatic invalidation.

We like it when we get validation, but it can also hurt when we express our emotions and feelings and are ignored or belittled for them. This kind of invalidation can hurt our self-worth and our mental health, eventually.

Traumatic invalidation is when your emotions, feelings, and trauma-related memories are unheard, dismissed, belittled, and criticized. This can either be intentional or unintentional, but in any case, invalidation can worsen post-traumatic stress.

What is Traumatic Invalidation?

traumatic invalidation by Grace Guffey Licensed Mental Health Counselor

Traumatic invalidation is a psychological notion where your thoughts, feelings, and traumatic experiences are dismissed, belittled, or criticized in ways that cause emotional harm. It goes beyond simple dismissal or disagreement. Traumatic invalidation is more of a strong denial of your trauma and reality, leaving you feeling isolated and invalidated.

Traumatic invalidation could look like this;

  • You tell someone about your traumatic experience, only to be met with a response like, “You’re overreacting” or “It’s not a big deal.
  • You share your feelings with your friends, and they downplay it by saying, “There are others who have it worse than you” or “You’re making this a big deal that it is.
  • You express your feelings about your trauma and someone responds like, “You’re too sensitive” or “You’re being dramatic about this.

Symptoms of Traumatic Invalidation

Knowing what traumatic invalidation looks like can help you minimize the effects of this invalidation on your mental well-being;

  • Persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety, and anger
  • Feeling a diminished sense of self-worth
  • Constantly questioning the validity of your thoughts and feelings
  • Fear of opening up because of past invalidation experiences
  • Withdrawing from relationships to avoid invalidation

What Causes Traumatic Invalidation?

Feelings of invalidation can often come from childhood experiences. If your parents or caregivers have ever dismissed your emotions or made you feel that your memories and experiences are invalid, then that could cause you to feel invalidated as an adult. More often than not, people of marginalized races, ethnicities, and sexualities often experience traumatic invalidation. This can cause them to feel like their identity is invalid.

It is believed that people of the LGBTQIA+ community are more at risk of traumatic invalidation which could make them feel dismissed, ignored, and even questioned.

Then there’s the lack of emotional intelligence in your community that can cause traumatic invalidation. People who struggle with expressing their emotions might end up inadvertently invalidating others’.

How Does Traumatic Invalidation Affect You?

Traumatic and emotional invalidation can also affect your emotional and mental health, causing symptoms of borderline personality disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). A recent study revealed that children who have seen and been witness to domestic violence are more likely to feel emotionally invalidated and are at a higher risk of experiencing PTSD and depression.

Moreover, any emotional wounds you take from invalidation can impact your ability to form healthy relationships. Traumatic invalidation can also be linked to a higher risk of anxiety, depression, and mental health disorders such as BPD and post-trauma stress.

When you suppress your emotions, especially trauma-related emotions to avoid invalidation, you eventually lose self-expression and with that, your self-worth. Constant invalidation of your trauma can also impact your sense of self.

How To Cope With Traumatic Invalidation?

The invalidation you receive isn’t your fault, but even then, there are ways you can do something about the invalidation. Here are some ways you can learn to cope with and deal with traumatic invalidation;

1. Become self-aware. Acknowledge the impact of traumatic invalidation on your health, mental and emotional. Once you know how invalidation is affecting you and what it looks like for you, you can take active steps to take and do something about it.

2. Seek help and support. You can connect with your friends and family who support you and understand your trauma, or you can connect with a professional therapist to seek validation and support. Therapy techniques such as DBT, CBT, and somatic experiencing can help you address trauma.

3. Set boundaries. You also need to clearly communicate your needs and limits with your loved ones, and establish firm boundaries with people who often tend to invalidate your trauma. Setting boundaries can help you protect yourself, your emotions, and your mental space.

4. Self-validate. You can also learn to validate your feelings and emotions, regardless of what others say. When validation comes from within, it can also give you a sense of authority over your experiences.

5. Share your experiences. You can also do your part in educating others about traumatic invalidation by sharing your experiences about trauma and the importance of validating trauma-related emotions.

Wrapping Up…

Traumatic invalidation is when your trauma-related emotions, feelings, and experiences are dismissed or belittled by others. It might be a silent struggle, but it’s an intense one that can influence your behavior and mental well-being. Recognizing its symptoms, what it looks like, and where it comes from can help you break free from its toxic hold.

Your emotions, no matter how big or small they are, deserve to be heard. Your experiences are valid, and your voice needs to be heard. So, speak up against the silent struggle of traumatic invalidation.

Traumatic invalidation might be complicated, but it can have profound effects on your mental health and well-being. It’s important to address this invalidation for the sake of your happier future and health. If you or your loved one is struggling with traumatic invalidation, then do not hesitate to seek help and support from a professional.

I hope this blog helped you understand what traumatic invalidation is and how you can cope with it. Let me know your thoughts and views on this article in the comments box below. If you liked reading this article, then do leave a thumbs up for us!

Take Care!

About The Author

Swarnakshi Sharma
Swarnakshi Sharma

Swarnakshi is a content writer at Calm sage, who believes in a healthier lifestyle for mind and body. A fighter and survivor of depression, she strives to reach and help spread awareness on ending the stigma surrounding mental health issues. A spiritual person at heart, she believes in destiny and the power of Self. She is an avid reader and writer and likes to spend her free time baking and learning about world cultures.

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