As it seems, abused and neglected children are very likely to develop mental illness later in their life. As a result, they grow into broken adults.

We have to keep trying, right? We must learn to mend what’s broken. Why? Because mental illness doesn’t just affect the mind, it can also cause chronic physical illnesses as well. And it’s not just about you or me, it’s about the human race as a whole.

We cannot just medicate and blend into society. Yes, this helps others who have to deal with the sick, but what does it do for the ones who suffer firsthand? We must keep trying to relate to mental illness. If we know where something came from, then we are better equipped to fight it.

We must study cause and effect

Sometimes, in order to understand what’s happening, we have to travel back in time. Mental illness is not one of those ailments that can be traced to the last cigarette or the last two years of eating unhealthy foods. No, we must go back further than that because…

…I believe mental illness originated from childhood neglect and abuse.

One way that we have learned to understand the origins of depression and anxiety is by taking a look at genetics. Mental illness, we have found, can be passed from generation to generation. But, it’s sometimes a little more complicated than that. Although genetics plays a huge role, mental illness comes from other things as well -like childhood trauma.

Did we, as parents, friends, and relatives, do this to our children?

I’m going to a dark place and I want you to come with me. You will not like the wind that blows through these parts. I’m taking you back to where I think the madness began-childhood neglect and abuse.

Neglected children

This is what I think. It’s our fault. It’s not just the genetic makeup, it’s about what we did or didn’t do for our children. I don’t think we fully understand what childhood neglect can do and how neglected children feel.

Neglected children suffer from all sorts of disorders while still young -they battle fear, low self-esteem, and anger. When they are offered loving adults to heal their neglect, it seems that these monsters of emotions will not go away.

Neglected children don’t always have to suffer by being orphaned behind a dumpster either. Sometimes parents never leave, but still, children feel alone. This kind of childhood neglect can be just as devastating.

The damage is done -depression sets in, followed by the anxiety of not knowing how to repair or cope. The darkness of being a neglected child can follow all the way into adulthood and cause serious repercussions. As a result of the past, a child may not be able to connect to her own children, leaving a pattern of childhood neglect.

Abused children

As with neglected children, abuse can have a similar effect. Unlike neglect, abuse is aggressive harm, consisting of molestation, violence, or emotional damage.

I believe that long before adulthood, mental illness has taken root, growing from the fertile grounds of abuse. A child cannot sleep because of fear of vulnerability, a child cannot eat because of nervous anxiety, and neither can this child socialize because of the weight of awkward rejection stealing a peaceful mind. It’s useless to fight it, mental illness is a destiny that can only be avoided by the strongest victims.

At least this is what I believe…So, am I right?

Dr. Martin Teicher, along with other Harvard researchers tested 200 participants, between the ages of 18-25, to see if there was a clear connection between childhood neglect and abuse and adult mental illness. Other traumas, such as gang violence, were excluded in order to get an uncomplicated picture of what was going on.

Of the participants in this study, 25% suffered major depression at some time in life. Of these, 7% suffered from PTSD. Of the 16% that had suffered from some form of child mistreatment, the results were pretty conclusive. Most of them, 53% suffered from depression, while 40% suffered from PTSD.

Brain scans revealed the truth after trauma. Regardless of their mental health, former abused children showed a 6% reduction in the size of the hippocampus and a 4% reduction in the subiculum and presubiculum.

This is where it all connects. Apparently, the high hormonal stress levels, resulting from childhood neglect and abuse, damages these regions of the brain. This can affect a person’s ability to deal with stress later in life.

What’s more, this damage can cause a feedback loop -the subiculum, after abuse, releases warning signals while also producing dangerous levels of neurotransmitters that kill brain cells. This is useful for soldiers or children hiding from their abusers but can be detrimental long-term-thus permanent chemical imbalances or mental illness.

Addiction can also occur due to damaged subiculum. Signals can go haywire triggering a dopamine stress response, forming cravings and feelings of low self-worth. This combination causes damaged people to seek substances to fill the void and hunger. We need a do-over or a reset!

So, we have to keep trying

So many broken children living in grown bodies mimicking adult lives.

So many broken children living in grown bodies mimicking adult lives.


You know, I would like to believe that childhood neglect and abuse are unrelated to mental illness, but I don’t. Studies seem to follow closely behind what I have always thought to be true. Fortunately, by learning these connections, we can also learn new ways of mending what is broken.

I hope that one day, medications, counseling, and group therapy isn’t the only way to help us get through the day. Mental illness is not a death sentence after all. It’s simply a way to let us know that we are still broken.

We must keep fighting our way out of the darkness, further toward enlightenment and fulfillment. Maybe one day…

We can be whole again.

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This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. Nenari Anne Diamond

    Or some such as myself go on to break those patterns in our DNA into the RNA or Soul essence and then go on to be leaders in showing others how to be leaders within themselves and how to heal it as I have <3 Not all abused and neglected children grow into broken adults. Some rise above and into Love <3

  2. Thomas

    Isn’t this common sense?

  3. Donna

    It has ben a lifelong struggle, “I get knocked down, but I get up again.”

  4. Guest

    You should look into Pharmacogenomics, Sherrie.

    A person’s particular genes can influence the way one reacts to certain stresses in life and predict the likelihood of developing a consequent illness from trauma and what particular conditions may prevail, as well as how they may respond to the influence of certain medications prescribed to treat their ailments.

  5. DorothyRockwell Olson Williams

    I had narcissistic parents! Young parents with NO parenting skills. My father’s father came from a sexual liasion and the two people never married. My paternal grandfather was taken to the South Dakota territory for eventual adoption and raised by a Ms. Morrison who I don’t know. She had him as an infant until he was adopted in 1900 around age 13. I have found the birth parents if you can call em birth parents. They had two children, my grandfather being the second. They sent my grandfather off to be raised by a Mrs. Morrison, in SD, until he was adopted. My grandfather was adopted by a Norwegian woman and raised in Omaha, NE. Not a good adoption. My father stated in his autobiography that his Norwegian woman was harsh to his father. I think my grandfather slept in the barn. Never christened in the Lutheran Norwegian Church like her other biological children. She lost her husband and I think he was treated like a slave worker. His life was rough. I am still trying to piece it all together. It’s been complicated and hard. My father had a father with no parenting skills. My grandmother didn’t either. She was OCD, had an alcoholic Irish father who drank himself to death but I think he was a Type 1 Diabetic and probably killed himself at age 34, because of no insulin. Everything had to be perfect and super clean in my grandmother’s house. Everything was regimented and you couldn’t go out of the perimeter of her mold. My grandfather joined the Navy at age 17 to get away from his horrible Norwegian adopted mother. His Navy career was his “Saving Grace!” Thank you Navy, but his beginnings in life was Horrid!

    My father was a Type 1 diabetic, sickly and always angry. I was scared of him. My mother could not be bothered with properly raising two children, so my brother and me were neglected and scared all the time. We would both cry, bite our nails to the nubs, walked on hot coals, and tried not to anger our mean father and neglectful mother. My father got a broom and started beating my mom!. I cried many a night in my bedroom, alone. I I HATED MY FATHER!

    The hell my grandfather went through gave him NO PARENTING SKILLS! Then he had one son, my father, and my grandfather could be harsh. The hell he went through would make anybody CRAZY, but he was healthy, and thank you JESUS and the Navy. It was his life-long career. My father was raised by himself and went out exploring. He joined the Navy at 16 per my grandfather’s orders. That’s all he knew. My father was in WWII and the Korean War. Never healthy, Type 1 diabetic and other autoimmune diseases. Everything he tried to accomplish failed. He was screaming, hollering, yelling, busting glass all over the place and he threw our money away on his toys. I needed braces on my teeth but instead he spent money on a 1937 Rolls Royce he restored. He had money for shipping cost from England to Savannah, and restoring a Rolls Royce, but no braces for his daughter. I drank kerosene out of a Fanta bottle and turned blue as a baby! Mother not watching me. I turned blue! My mother was one of 11children and called Cleo Beauty. She wanted all the attention. It was all talk, talk, talk and being the center of attention, always! My father wanted attention by getting a chemistry degree he couldn’t finish because of the Korean War. He built our house along with my younger brother who is scared of him in photos. I was the baby and called a ‘Misfit.” I had Celiac Disease and my mother ignored it. I was neglected, ignored and “seen” and “not to be heard.” I was kept by my neighbor and she noticed I could not tell time, tie my shoes and put on my clothes correctly. She showed me the way and there was PEACE! She actually talked and explained things to me my own mother never did. She taught me how to shell butter beans, shuck corn, and peas. It was Heaven. I wanted them to be my parents.

    The abuse continued. My first cousin’s husband tried to choke me three times. Took three big men off me to stop the choking. Was he trying to kill me? I don’t know. Then I was sexually assaulted and harassed by a pillar of the community doctor. The CEO of the hospital blamed me and destroyed my career as a RN. I suffer from PTSD and can’t find therapy because therapists in my southern town are scared of the hospital. All I need is therapy for Goodness Sake! Can’t get it!

    My life has been a nightmare! I do think my grandfather being thrown away, adopted by a harsh mother has caused a 4-Generational Disaster. My brother has become mentally ill and I now I want to fight – anybody! All I know is to yell, scream and raise Hell. I’m angry as I type – my father, my mother, the doctor who would’ve eventually raped me and my mother said, “why didn’t you let the doctor do what he wanted to do because you now have no job.” Nice coming from your mother, huh? I want to get even with the CEO at the hospital here. I hate his guts. The SOB!

    I need help but can’t find it. I was labeled with PTSD in Texas, but we’ve come back to my hometown, Savannah, GA. It ain’t that great with poor health care. I have a love/hate with this place. I don’t know what to do or where to start. I seem to hate everybody and I want to fight.
    Thanks, Dorothy

  6. Robert Austin

    I deeply feel your pain ,I am trying not to cry.
    My suggestion surround yourself with better people,
    Be still ,listen, and watch .You can only give it up to God ,he’s good at these types of things.
    Love is love and be in love with love. Ignoring somebody’s pain is abuse and some people don’t even know they are doing this .They don’t understand and can’t connect.I do art of different kinds,yoga,sing,and having love and compassion for
    myself.Just remember it is not you ❤️

  7. Sherrie Hurd, A.A.


    Thank you for your kind words. Many times, I’ve been surrounded toxic people believing they were good for me. Now, I’ve grown to understand their true intentions.

  8. april dawn

    Comorbid fetal trauma, c-ptsd, OCD, extreme anxiety, and possible brain damage from an accident, plus being completely disenfranchised, I am the strongest person alive.

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