53 Ways to Describe Hurt Feelings

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Childhood Emotional Neglect: Happens when your parents do not address, validate, or talk about emotions enough as they raise you.

Growing up with your emotions ignored has some very specific effects on your entire adult life. Just as Childhood Emotional Neglect is a lack of emotional attention, one of its most harmful effects is also a lack of something: emotional skills and knowledge.

In my work with hundreds of CEN adults, I find, more specifically, that an almost inevitable consequence of growing up this way is a low emotional vocabulary. Many CEN people have few words to describe feelings. Some apply the same generic word to all of their feelings (like “stress,” “depressed,” or “anxious,” for example); some do not use any emotion words at all, and others use the wrong words altogether.

When emotions are seldom discussed in your childhood it is difficult to absorb and learn the thousands of words in the English language that describe emotions.

When we need to communicate a feeling we are having to another person, or even simply name it for ourselves, it is vital to be able to label it in a subtle and accurate way.

Imagine saying, “I felt hurt,” to your wife after she and her friends teased you relentlessly about your new white sneakers. Now imagine saying, “I felt chastised.” The difference may seem small, but it is significant.

The labels you put on your feelings matter.


There is no way to be alive and not get hurt. We have all been there. When someone says something hurtful to you, how do you name the feeling for yourself, and how do you express it to others?

Yes, you can say, “I’m hurt.” Or you can say exactly how you feel and this will make it far more likely that you will be — and feel — understood.

Next time you feel something painful, look through this list to see which word seems to best describe what you are feeling.

Find hundreds of additional emotion words in the extensive Emotion Words List in the back of the book Running On Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect.

53 Words to Describe Hurt Feelings

















Laughed at














Put down























To learn much, much more about Childhood Emotional Neglect and how it happens plus access the full list of emotion words see the book Running On Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect.

Do you have a word for “hurt” that is missing? Please share it! Simply post it in a comment on this blog.


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Cathy - August 31, 2023 Reply

I was looking for the word “dismissed.”

Featherless bird - November 24, 2022 Reply

Misunderstood. Judged. Silenced. Frustrated. Defeated. Erased. Powerless. Unreal.
This is how I feel when family members show no interest in knowing how I truly feel and when I try to explain am just made to feel I am bothering them or am “wrong” in how I feel or see things. They mean well and are not unkind and just want to help me see things the “right” way (their way), or to change the subject to pleasantries but the result is that I feel the above feelings I listed. Also invisible and squelched which are on your list. They are so well meaning though and if I confront them it only results in their feeling being hurt which causes me to then have to add guilt and sad to the list. I’m supposed to only be grateful and not “negative”. Confused could be another word.

Rebecca - January 20, 2022 Reply


Shell - January 10, 2022 Reply

I feel Abandoned, useless, overwhelmed, and incapable!

Mary - June 28, 2021 Reply

Dear Jonice,

I’m writing to ask for advice. I’ve recently started feeling anger and rejection towards a close friend because I’ve been noticing little by little that her affective insecurity manifests in wanting to know and be part of almost everything, and I feel controlled and slightly manipulated (at an emotional level), and I find that she may be a bit dependent and needy. We’ve become very close friends these past years, and I’m even going to be one of her bridesmaids, so I also feel guilty for my anger and my feelings in general. I think part of the fault is mine: due to CEN I’ve grown to be very adaptable and not very assertive… What do you suggest me to do?

Thank you,


Sharon - October 18, 2020 Reply

Hurt, to me, typically triggers a feeling of “emptiness”. It relates to rejection and abandonment.

Patricia - October 14, 2020 Reply


A feeling I’ve had numerous times throughout my life, in differing situations and relationships and the feeling of being dismissed continues. And the loudest voice is my own. Very interested in CEN and will be checking back regularly. Thank you for your work.


    Jonice - October 15, 2020 Reply

    To stop dismissing yourself is the most important thing!

Patricia - October 14, 2020 Reply

Dismissed. A feeling I’ve had numerous times throughout my life and the feeling continues. Very interested in this work and will be checking back regularly. Thank you for your work.

Robert - August 24, 2020 Reply

I realize I was fortunate and did not experience this, but I do believe that gaslighting or I was gaslit should be added to the list, esp since it now seems to be common in the modern vernacular.

Brianna - July 21, 2020 Reply

I feel that I am defective, forsaken, disowned, ostracized and that my sheer existence is regretted. It seems that even if I shared these feelings no one would even care let alone stop what they were doing to hear me say it in the first place.

    Jonice - July 21, 2020 Reply

    Dear Brianna, it’s very important that you talk with a professional about this. Please do seek a therapist for support and to help you understand what’s going on in your life.

    Nina - September 10, 2020 Reply

    I hear you, ditto. My entire existence was invalidated first by my family, later by numerous others who entered my life.

      Jonice - September 10, 2020 Reply

      Dear Nina and Brianna, please make sure you are not invalidating yourselves because that is what enables others to continue treating you that way also.

Lesli - March 30, 2020 Reply

Dismissed. I came across this article while looking for the list f words to describe feelings, that I thought I had seen before in one of these articles. Does such a list exist, or did I imagine it?

    Jonice - March 31, 2020 Reply

    It’s in my book Running On Empty and is also downloadable on this site under THE BOOK tab.

Adele - March 16, 2020 Reply

I felt hurt because I sent and email of warmth and concern to a friend who just had a baby. The response was I was ignored,the warmth was not return. Reminded me so much of childhood. Thanks for helping me clearing up my thoughts of childhood past. Adele

    Jonice - March 17, 2020 Reply

    Dear Adele, please keep in mind that having a new baby is all-consuming and that could possibly be the reason you haven’t had a response. Unless this is a pattern from them, try reaching out to your friend and checking in on what’s going on.

Rodney Fuller - February 14, 2020 Reply

Belittled, ignored, bullied

Taliba - February 12, 2020 Reply

Devastated. Haunted. Shocked.

    Jonice - February 13, 2020 Reply

    Thank you, Taliba.

Taliba - February 12, 2020 Reply


Elizabeth - December 24, 2019 Reply

Traduced: to expose to shame or blame by means of falsehood and misrepresentation.

I sometimes wonder at the reasons for it but I am not myself sufficiently dishonest to understand it. Currently enjoying my estrangement from the guilty parties, despite relatives who are uncomfortable with the split in the family. Reached rock bottom and now say a confident ‘no’.

    Jonice - December 29, 2019 Reply

    “Traduced” is a great word, Elizabeth. Thank you for sharing!

Diane - December 12, 2019 Reply

Worthless, burdensome, weak, incompetent

Carl - November 15, 2019 Reply

Censured. I was judged for who I am, discriminated against on something that is no different then my eye color, hair color, height or weight. I was then told by my parents that I had to just accept it, deal with it and tolerate the injustice, discrimination, judgement based on a siblings choices. I had to respect the parents wishes. It was a complete 180 on how I was raised. I was lost, confused, infuriated, self-doubting, conflicted, torn, smothered, ignored and never allowed to give voice to how any of this made me feel. Persecuted, judged, forced, betrayed, the list could go on and on. I was being held accountable for someone else’s choices and the accusations where so unfounded and meant to cut deep to drive me away. I realize that the individual who did this needs to be held accountable, which will never happen but I needed my parents to finally admit what was said was too vile for me to just forgive, forget and let it go because it was family and I had to think of the grand children. If I was dealt with like an adult by the person I was told I had to treat and an adult but the individual making the comments used my parents to deliver their message, so it was delivered and nothing would be allowed to be said and I wasn’t even allowed to discuss it or have an opinion with my parents. This behavior has been tolerated and I had to understand for the last 18 years, warping my sense of worthiness to be a part of the family. Somehow I have forged my own family, who have helped me emotionally recover after a relationship that was so wrong on so many levels and I’ve been doing self-reflection for 2 years, being helped by friends, who treated me better then family, called me on my doubts, encourage my passions, accepted me for me, expected from me what I obligated myself to do and helped me heal to a place where I want a healthy relationship, with a sister that accepts me and parents that at least accept I am an adult and I sure as hell will not live with restrictions that where unheard of, not tolerated or allowed in my childhood. The last sibling, she made her choice, I should be allowed mine.

I’ve ordered both books, can’t wait to read them, I’ve already shared with my Sis who’s dealing with similiar issues.

Cindy - October 28, 2019 Reply

How about incapable?

E - October 13, 2019 Reply


Donna - October 13, 2019 Reply

I felt omitted, unloved, frightened, abandoned, cast out, unimportant.

Marysa - October 6, 2019 Reply

underrated, disrespected, expelled, excommunicated

    Jonice - October 7, 2019 Reply

    Thank you, Marysa.

Alison - October 1, 2019 Reply

Hi Jonice. The phrases ‘I feel punished’ or ‘wounded’ often best describes how I feel. By recognising this I have identified that I also punish and wound, something I try hard not to do or, try to change how I word things to make them less wounding or punishing.
I really look forward to reading your articles on CEN as it relates to therapy I am receiving at the moment.

    Jonice - October 4, 2019 Reply

    Sounds like some good things to work on, Alison. Keep at it!

Kim - September 30, 2019 Reply

Rejected is how I feel. It’s also my self-fulfilling prophecy. I attract men, jobs, and friends that reject me over and over.

    Jonice - October 4, 2019 Reply

    Dear Kim, perhaps you are expecting rejection? Others can feel that and will oblige. It’s just a possibility I wanted to mention for you to think about.

Melissa - September 30, 2019 Reply

I hope it is safe to post here as I would not want any of my family to see this but my Mother has a sharp, critical tongue. She wields it with the precision of a surgeon. And I have been on the operating table for as long as I wish to be. I know that I have to forgive her for my own sanity. I understand. And I also understand her obsession with my weight. As she is Anorexic. And a Narcissist with a capitol, “N.” My life is comparable to Christina’s in the film, “Mommie Dearest.” I felt so validated seeing that film. She recently hurt me with her words regarding my son’s graduation. Why do I have to do everything she asks me to on her schedule? I want to procede with my life without her but am too afraid to do so. And I’m 54! At her age, I do not see her changing. People change when they get ready. And only then. I’m ready to change.

    Jonice - October 4, 2019 Reply

    Dear Melissa, please read my book, Running On Empty No More: Transform Your Relationships. You will need to protect yourself better from your mom in order to move forward in the way you deserve.

mieke - September 30, 2019 Reply

I am told I am hurting someone’s feelings when I don’t ‘automatically’ give out information about my disability, even with total strangers–who ‘balk’ if I need to know them better or longer to answer that kind of question. Some books say “Go ahead and ask; they would love to share that information with you!” as if feelings are somehow ‘absent’ for a person with a disability. After trying to diplomatically respond and be careful not to give them the impression they are being “hurtful”, it’s become clearer it’s more about “I’m entitled to this information, and I don’t care about what I have to do to get it”. Hopefully your suggestions about a res ponse to this double-bind situation will help.

    Jonice - October 4, 2019 Reply

    Intrusive, demanding people do not deserve an answer. You are entitled to say nothing, change the subject, or give a bland or generic answer.

Gilly - September 30, 2019 Reply


    Jonice - October 4, 2019 Reply

    Good word Gilly. Thank you.

Linda - September 30, 2019 Reply

Ditti to Donna’s comment above…confused, scared, frightened, panic, frozen, overwhelmed, impending doom. Gonna be thrown away again, very unsafe.

    Jonice - October 4, 2019 Reply

    Thank you Linda.

RBS - September 30, 2019 Reply

Inferior, inept, inadequate, insignificant, unimportant.

    Jonice - October 4, 2019 Reply

    Thanks so much RBS.

    MCB - July 22, 2020 Reply

    This nails it for me. I would sum those things up as the old adage children are to be seen but not heard.

      Jonice - July 23, 2020 Reply

      Dear MCB, that adage is the epitome of CEN.

Val - September 30, 2019 Reply

thank you for this list. At 72 I am still somewhat overwhelmed by childhood neglect issues. This list helps me to sum up what I want to describe, as opposed to sulking about others incorrect perceptions and doing nothing about them.

    Jonice - October 4, 2019 Reply

    Great Val!

Lou Lou - September 30, 2019 Reply

Could you add scapegoated to that list too?

    Jonice - October 4, 2019 Reply

    Excellent one! Thanks for offering it!

Naomi - September 29, 2019 Reply

Squashed. I was told not to feel the way I felt and that my mother just didn’t understand me. I don’t feel like she or my dad even tried. Looking forward to reading your two CEN books, ordered yesterday. Thank you!

    Jonice - October 4, 2019 Reply

    Squashed. Yes, a good one. I hope you enjoy the books Naomi!

Anna - September 29, 2019 Reply

So interested to hear you say it is hard to forgive someone who has done nothing to atone for their actions. I’ve previously been told I should forgive by someone who has done nothing to validate my feelings, so this is really helpful, thank you.

    Jonice - October 4, 2019 Reply

    Yes, that is said so often and it always bothers me. It requires you to be untrue to your self, and that is not OK. I’m glad you’re finding this helpful Anna!

Catherine - September 29, 2019 Reply

This is good advice but I find that people don’t want to know how we really feel. If I start telling someone how I feel, they look blank and generally change the subject. Generally people like to ignore feelings and pretend they don’t exist. Unless that’s just an English phenomenon and it’s different in America?

    Jonice - October 4, 2019 Reply

    No, sadly, it can be the same in America. It is very important to choose your words, situation and person all very carefully when expressing feelings. It’s a skill, for sure. Keep working on it!

Shannon - September 29, 2019 Reply

Marginalized and minimized, emotionally irrelevant.

    Jonice - October 4, 2019 Reply

    Yes, absolutely. Thank you Shannon!

Katydid - September 29, 2019 Reply

Brushed Aside

    Jonice - October 4, 2019 Reply

    Good CEN words Katydid.

Laura - September 29, 2019 Reply

I feel ashamed, ashamed that I could never tell anyone about the sexual abuse I suffered as a child. The fact that I still feel to blame because I joined in, I didn’t scream, I just cried. That night I didn’t want to hug my dad goodnight, the man that hurt me told me that mum and dad were the ones that asked him to help me. I couldn’t trust them. Because I didn’t hug dad, mum would let me hug her. I was the one that needed help but no one was there. I was an adult to them for such an early age because dad was violent to mum. I protected her, yet no one was there to protect me, so then I feel mad. My dad died a few months ago. I am left feeling guilty because I didn’t like him when he died, but that makes me feel so bad. It makes me feel guilty that I couldn’t show him compassion just because they have never shown me any. I feel like I’m such a horrible person. I don’t deserve for good things to happen to me, I feel like I am a bad, disgusting person.
My mum didn’t include me in any of the funeral arrangements, she hasn’t asked me how I am doing, yet have been there every step of the way for her. I am so stuck I just don’t want to continue. I know that’s not the answer but I cannot stand to keep feeling like this.
Bad things happen to me because of what I’ve done and what I’m like. He told me I was bad and I genuinely believe he was right all those years ago.

    Jonice - October 4, 2019 Reply

    Dear Laura, you are not bad! You are a victim of abuse. Please seek a therapist who is trained in treating sexual abuse and trauma. You can heal, and you deserve much better than you have received. I am so sorry you’ve been through all of this. Please do act today. Call a therapist.

    Christine - May 22, 2021 Reply

    Oh, goodness Laura! I’m so sorry to read all this. I suffered S/A as a young adult for 2 years in an extremely abusive cult and so understand the confused feelings. I got blamed for the abuse by my parents, who never suggested counselling, although they did help. My mother once turned on me in disgust and blurted out in contempt: “oh, you’ll never get married” and I was the joke of the wider family and a bit of a black sheep. If they could only see themselves! The Pot calling the Kettle black! I know it’s hard not to beat yourself up, I still do it sometimes, but please do find someone to talk to who does not judge emotions but will allow you to express how you feel without fear of being judged or accused. There are good experienced counsellors out there. I’ve had some wonderful counsellors who have made such a difference to my life. I don’t believe for a minute that you are a bad person, just horrendously neglected and misled and badly treated. That does not make you bad, just abused. I’m quite sure you deserve far better, and even special care and loving treatment above others because of what you have been through. Don’t bottle it all up, do find someone to talk to – they ARE out there. Sending lots of love and compassion, you deserve it.

Julie - September 29, 2019 Reply

Thank you for these great labels. I’m learning to not use “fine” as a response and to be more honest with those who are asking. Still trying to forgive my mother who continues to hurt me with her actions and dismissing my feelings

    Jonice - September 29, 2019 Reply

    Dear Julie, it’s hard to forgive someone who hasn’t atoned or changed their actions. If your mom has not done so, please be careful about sacrificing your feelings and making yourself vulnerable by trying to forgive under those circumstances.

      Judith Moody - October 2, 2019 Reply

      Hi Jonice,
      I am interested in your comments to Julie… I may be in a similar situation now!!!
      Am away from home and can’t move easily!!!!
      Working through alternative’s!!!
      Thank you!!

      Sarah - October 5, 2019 Reply

      I also struggle with forgiveness. I feel as if it is something I should be able to do to help me move forward if nothing else. It’s clear to me now that my mother has no interest in altering her ways. Maybe you could write a blog on forgiveness Jonice?

Donna Thompson - September 29, 2019 Reply

Just thank you Jonice as i have never had anyone give a name to the sort of childhood that i had . All your advice is helping me so much , i have a better understanding of myself .

    Jonice - September 29, 2019 Reply

    I am so glad Donna! Keep up the good work.

Diane - September 27, 2019 Reply

Insignificant is what I feel.

    Jonice - September 29, 2019 Reply

    That is a common feeling of people with CEN. I am sorry you feel that way!

Browneyed - September 27, 2019 Reply


    Jonice - September 29, 2019 Reply

    That’s a powerful word.

Kira - September 22, 2019 Reply


I grew up with a sibling with special needs, and to this day I continue to attract people with serious mental illnesses. I cannot seem to shake the notion that wanting to be heard and wanting to recover from CEN are selfish desires. Well-meaning friends and family have reinforced this idea for the past 30 years. It is difficult not to think that if everyone else believes that my needs come last in all situations and that I have no right to set boundaries, then it must be true. I actually kind of hate myself for even writing the words.

Thanks for the helpful list and all of your important work!

    Jonice - September 23, 2019 Reply

    Dear Kira, it is your responsibility to put your own needs first, above everyone else’s. Please keep working on doing that.

Jae - September 16, 2019 Reply

Misunderstood is a word my clients use.

Mark Williams - September 15, 2019 Reply

Excellent material to assist volunteer telephone crisis counselors – another target audience maybe.

    Jonice - September 16, 2019 Reply

    True, Mark! Thank you!

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