Physical abuse or neglect are, unfortunately, common subjects with childhood abuse. But emotional neglect is less often discussed, even though it can be just as damaging for a child dealing with it.
In many cases, emotional neglect can leave lasting scars on a child’s mental state. It’s something that can stay with them well into adulthood, impacting their everyday lives.
In fact, it could be impacting your life without you even realizing it.
So, what is childhood emotional neglect? How do you know if you’ve experienced it, and how could it be affecting you today?
An Unrecognizable Abuse
Unfortunately, emotional neglect isn’t often recognized by children as it’s going on. That’s why adults who had to deal with it growing up don’t often know what it is. It can also often get misdiagnosed if you don’t open up with a therapist about your experiences as a child.
So, it’s important to have a full understanding of what emotional neglect really is. There isn’t one concrete definition, because it can take many different forms. On one end of the spectrum, maybe your parent(s) had extremely high expectations of you that were impossible to meet. If you didn’t meet them, you didn’t feel “good” enough for them.
Or maybe they never listened to what you had to say. Maybe they didn’t value your feelings or take you seriously.
Do any of those situations sound familiar? If so, it’s time to consider the idea of emotional neglect. If you’re still not sure how to recognize it as an adult, let’s look at some of the common symptoms.
Signs of Emotional Neglect
Again, there isn’t a concrete list of symptoms that everyone who experiences emotional neglect deals with. Instead, there are some common signs that tend to show up in adults who went through that kind of abuse as a child. Some of those signs include:
- A feeling of something “missing”
- Sensitivity to rejection
- Low self-esteem
- A sense of perfectionism
- Feelings of emptiness
- Finding yourself easily discouraged
If you’re feeling one or more of these things consistently, it’s a good idea to talk to a therapist. Chances are, you’ll eventually have to dig deeper into your childhood to bring up what might cause these feelings, and to get to the root of your emotional neglect.
How Can You Recover?
Once you recognize you experienced childhood emotional neglect, it can be overwhelming. Carrying that weight around for years on your own makes it hard to deal with right away once you’re faced with reality.
But you don’t have to carry that burden forever.
As an adult, it’s very possible to recover from the effects of emotional neglect.
First, it’s not uncommon to feel disconnected from your own feelings. The first step is to be aware of those emotions as you experience them, rather than trying to push them away. The more aware you are of your feelings, the easier it will be to fully process them.
Identify your needs and take care of yourself. If you grew up with neglect, it’s easy to continue that pattern by neglecting your own emotions. While you might not be able to take any giant leaps forward right away, small steps of self-care can make a big difference.
You deserve to have your needs met. Say that to yourself, every day. Your needs should be met by the things you do and the way you think. They should also be met by the relationships in your life.
If you believe you experienced childhood emotional neglect, it’s important to know you’re not alone. Feel free to contact me for more information or to set up an appointment.
To find out more about my services in Delray Beach, FL, click here.