Childhood should be a time for creating happy memories—for playing, growing and learning about the wonders of the world. But sadly, that’s not the case for many people who experience emotional abuse as children. This abuse doesn’t just affect the childhood years, but will often linger far into adulthood.
Emotional abuse comes in many forms, and is harder to recognise than physical abuse. It can include manipulation, neglect, ridiculing, insulting and exploitation. And as childhood is a time when the brain and sense of self are still developing, these types of abuse have a long-lasting impact.
If you experienced emotional abuse as a child, you likely still suffer from the consequences as an adult. Whether it’s in the way you handle yourself in your relationships, your self-esteem or your physical health, you might find that you experience some of the following effects:
You don’t process or express emotions in a healthy way
Your understanding of your own emotions has probably been warped from your childhood experiences. You were likely never taught how to properly cope with your feelings, so you probably bottle up your anger, suppress your sadness, and don’t speak out when you’re feeling uncomfortable. This can have a damaging effect when your emotions do finally reach breaking point.
You’re always worrying about what other people think
Emotional abusers normally convince their victims that they’ve done something wrong. If you were treated this way as a child, you’ll grow into an adult who’s always fretting that you’re going to say or do the wrong thing to upset someone else. You probably find yourself apologizing a lot, even if you aren’t at fault.
You’re susceptible to mental health issues
Victims of childhood emotional abuse are more susceptible to anxiety, depression, panic attacks and other mental health issues. This can be a result of not processing emotions properly, and not feeling comfortable asking other people for help or guidance. You might also feel alone and isolated in the world because of the way you feel and what you’ve suffered.
You lack confidence and self-esteem
You might blame yourself for the way you were treated as a child, and this will cause you to lack self-esteem and confidence in your later life. This is especially true if the emotional abuse you experienced involved a parent or authority figure insulting you or constantly putting you down. You probably judge your physical appearance harshly, and public speaking and social interactions might be a cause of stress.
You run away from conflict
It can be a positive thing that you avoid conflict and drama, considering you had to deal with so much of it as a child. But this can also mean that when you want to stand up for yourself, or work through an argument with a partner or friend, you flee. This can make you a pushover in the workplace, and can also mean you never properly deal with issues in your relationships.