7 Symptoms of Childhood Emotional Neglect

childhood emotional neglect

Are you searching for an answer? It might be hard to believe, but the flaws in your character could actually be from childhood emotional neglect.

The veil is being removed and now I can clearly see the reasons for why people behave the way they do. In ways, this makes life easier but in other ways, it makes life much more difficult. Those who suffer from childhood emotional neglect, as adults, are experiencing long-term effects. The roots of these actions are long and thick, causing a stronghold in daily life. Sometimes, I feel these symptoms as well.

Could I have been emotionally neglected as a child?

I was left with my grandmother, every weekday, while my parents worked. During those days, I was sexually abused by my adult cousin who paid a visit. Maybe my parents, in a sense, neglected me, but yet they had to work. Or was it my grandmother who was acting in a neglectful manner? Did they understand what they were doing? Probably not.

It was such a different way of life in the 70s. When my parents were at home, they never talked about my future and never really gave me credit for my creativity. It was normal to just keep me fed and safe. It wasn’t necessary to keep me enthusiastic.

I found the support that I needed in my older brother, who provided a small portion of the reinforcement that would give me a reason to live. We are still close to this day.

Have you been emotionally neglected?

If you try to figure it out on your own, it could be too difficult. There are signs, however, which point to the root of your feelings. If you suffered from childhood emotional neglect, you may have a better understanding after reading these indicators. Here are 7 signs that you probably were emotionally neglected.

Do you sometimes feel numb?

When I refer to being numb, I don’t mean losing physical sensations in certain parts of your body. I refer to losing emotional sensation in your thoughts. Numbness is a place where concerns become trivial, and emotions just disappear. Now, you might not feel numb all the time, but when you do, nothing matters.

You can almost feel like you are close to nothing, void and non-existent. After a while, you may actually start to experience a physical numbness.

Do you experience emotional confusion?

Those who have experienced childhood emotional neglect will sometimes be confused about what they’re feeling. They may be angry, irritated or depressed with no understanding of why they feel this way. Sometimes, they have trouble calming down as well, feeling anger and frustration continually building inside. It’s usually because of the past complex emotions after being left alone or forgotten.

Do you refuse help from others?

I have noticed with some people in my life, that no matter how difficult things become for them, they refuse to ask for help. In fact, I have felt this strange refusal as well. Using what I understand about the situation gives me insight. When neglected as a child, you sometimes had no help when you needed it the most. As an adult, you become used to this. Being dependent on someone else is abnormal for the emotionally neglected adult.

Do you often feel like something is missing?

When an adult has been emotionally neglected as a child, they will always have this hole inside. There will be a lingering feeling that something is missing from their lives, either a person or a situation that they may crave. Unfortunately, many people keep filling this space with things they hope will bring them joy but still feel so empty inside. You lose a sense of home and you lose a sense of love if not careful.

Do you have low self-esteem?

A low self-esteem also comes from being emotionally neglected as a child. You feel that if your parents and loved ones neglected you, then you aren’t worth their time or important to them. This is usually not true, but it’s complicated.

Oftentimes, parents just aren’t aware of the effects of their actions. As an adult, you transfer these feelings over to present situations and people. You experience a low self-esteem that sometimes becomes permanent and affects your home and work life. If you recognize this trait, you may have subject to childhood emotional neglect after all.

Are you a perfectionist?

If you are a perfectionist, you could have been neglected emotionally. Think about it this way, if your loved ones neglected you as a child, you could have tried almost anything to get their attention, even striving for perfection to be noticed. As an adult, this perfectionism grew and maybe, by now, you’ve become obsessed with this behavior.

Are you a neat freak, need everything to be organized perfectly, and even require perfectionist friends? You could still be trying to validate your existence. Be careful.

Are you sensitive to rejection and easily offended?

Being overly sensitive about much of anything is a sign of past rejection. You are afraid, and your fear is manifesting through being offended about what others say to you. Sometimes people are only offering constructive criticism, but those who have experienced childhood emotional neglect see it as being attacked.

How do you rate?

I never really considered the fact that I could have been emotionally abused in childhood until I understood the repercussions of this abuse. I had so many issues trying to figure out where each one of my faults and eccentricities derived. I saw my depression in a clear way, I saw my anxious traits in another, but there were things like listed above that I just couldn’t categorize….until now.

I appreciate the ability to learn the roots of my characteristics, how about you? When we learn where our faults come from, we will be able to heal each hurt and replace it with a peace of mind. I think it’s just one step closer to an enlightened self.

We’re getting closer. Just be patient.

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Sherrie

Sherrie

Sherrie is a freelance writer and artist with over 10 years of experience. She spends most of her time giving life to the renegade thoughts. As the words erupt and form new life, she knows that she is yet again free from the nagging persistence of her muse. She is a mother of three and a lifetime fan of the thought-provoking and questionable aspects of the universe.





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39 Comments

  1. Katie Turner July 29, 2017 at 3:03 pm - Reply

    Yep!

    • Sherrie
      Sherrie Hurd August 8, 2017 at 6:54 pm - Reply

      Katie,

      Thank you for reading!

  2. Simon Merrick July 29, 2017 at 3:06 pm - Reply

    I was Neglected and abused by my parents, but I have learned to forgive them and I do not blame them any more. It has taken many years but it does get better.

    • Sherrie
      Sherrie Hurd August 8, 2017 at 6:56 pm - Reply

      Simon,

      You are correct! I was also neglected and abused, and once told that my sexual abuser would never pay for what he did to me because it would hurt the family. I was basically told to stay quiet about it. I hated my parents for a long time, but now I don’t. I hate the society that we live in where shame is worse than abuse. It does get better, you just have to see the beauty and love in yourself and let that rise above all else.

  3. Kevin DelCol July 29, 2017 at 3:34 pm - Reply

    Last three for sure. But I don’t mind being a clean freak. I was married to a trashy woman. LoL. Having a clean house is nice.

    • Sherrie
      Sherrie Hurd August 8, 2017 at 7:00 pm - Reply

      Kevin,

      Thank you for reading, and yes, we have those little things that might seem quirky or they may even be a bit unhealthy, but we can use them to work through the pain and help others. I have so many symptoms of different things, I just stop when I’m overwhelmed and say, “Hey, take a number, I will be right with you!”

  4. Crystal Rose Collazo July 29, 2017 at 3:38 pm - Reply

    If you are not sure if you were neglected why would you go digging that up and add more strife to your life. Instead focus on the issues you know are dealing with and work on them. Don’t go looking for more problems.

    • Charlene Frances Marie July 29, 2017 at 4:24 pm - Reply

      DUH ! Many people walk through life with issues and never know why. How the hell do you find a solution when you are just walking through life with issues that could very well be turned around and have a better life.stop judging what you OBVIOUSLY dont understand. You have an opinion, great ! and thats all it is. But to tell people to back off from solutions and just be a floater in life is worse than this article.

      • Sherrie
        Sherrie Hurd August 8, 2017 at 7:09 pm - Reply

        Thank you for your reply, Charlene, and thank you for reading. 🙂

    • Sherrie
      Sherrie Hurd August 8, 2017 at 7:08 pm - Reply

      Crystal,

      Part of the problem with various mental illnesses and why they are not being healed is exactly what you want people to do! Yes, we can all continue to skip down the street and enjoy the weather, but when we find ourselves crying for no apparent reason and refusing to let anyone help us, then we want to know why.

      Let me tell you a short story, really short. I was in a relationship that centered around abuse. Well, it turned out that his father had neglected him and abused him. So, in order for him to deal with his own issues, he had to face this fact! If he had continued to skip down the road looking at pretty flowers, then when he decided to slap me across the face with a shoe, it would be quite apparent that something was wrong with him.

      Now, I know that we may possibly have those people who lack a certain boundary in the brain and commit all sorts of atrocities, but most people have a reason for their dysfunctional behavior.

      IF something is wrong, then you’re going to go look and find out why smart people do! Even smart spiritual people with a migraine headache don’t pray and refuse to take Tylenol. Really smart ones even research and find out what causes their headaches…..you know….

      getting to the ROOT of the problem.

  5. Charlene Frances Marie July 29, 2017 at 4:30 pm - Reply

    People have behaviors that come from abuse, neglect, etc. Understanding those behaviors can give a better idea of how to fix them. Some people are just heartless and like to give opinions on how to live your life, dont listen to them or the comments in this feed. Finding out why you do some things may help you find a better way to live without those behaviors and have a happier existence and experience in life. Good luck, love and hugs to all who suffer. I wish you all the best. This post may be the beginning to someones journey of self.

  6. jake July 29, 2017 at 11:17 pm - Reply

    i feel that you are similar to me . that’s why i read almost every post/article of yours .mutual in personality or character .psychology thing . not like . like-minded
    do you feel you still don’t understand yourself? what really you are or who you are . something deep in you . you still don’t know about?
    i’m curious about you because i think we have much in common
    i always wanted to study psychology to understand human and brain. but that’s not enough to teach myself by books nor by internet. get bored easily
    i doubt some of the above exist in me but i’m sure not all of them
    HAVE YOU STUDIED PSYCHOLOGY?

    • Sherrie
      Sherrie August 1, 2017 at 9:44 pm - Reply

      Jake,

      My knowledge of psychology comes from only a few places, none of which were under a degree. I studied a bit of psychology in college along with sociology, but most of my experience comes from various psychiatrists, therapists, child psychologist and counselors that I endured throughout my lifetime. From an early age, I saw child therapists at the orders of the school and my parents. This was due to multiple mental disorder symptoms: depression, anxiety, psychosis and other similar actions. By the way, I absolutely loved my time with them, they were the most interesting and unusual people I had ever met, and they actually understood the things that I understood.

      I am ashamed to admit that I learned many negative survival tactics as a child, in which I used to get my way (manipulation) and I would spend hours dwelling on all things weird/strange/odd (existential thoughts). So, unfortunately, I started to build a life out of dance with people (balance of control), which created more trauma and pain in my life. I guess you can say, I learned things about the mind by studying people, in both positive and negative ways. It was later on that I understood how my ways hurt people as well, and then I started to feel a little empathy, which I still struggle with today.

      This is the extent of my knowledge of psychology. It’s kind of like closing the book and breaking down the engine hands on. Clear as mud? I think there are more people like me than you know, and more people just like you, Jake. I am neither good nor bad, but I always said that I liked to lean a little more toward the light so not to drown in the darkness. After all, it’s the substance of the heart that matters and not the masks we wear for survival.

  7. Kathi Ingram July 29, 2017 at 9:56 pm - Reply

    I know them all

    • Sherrie
      Sherrie Hurd August 8, 2017 at 7:11 pm - Reply

      Kathi,

      Thank you for reading!

  8. divine spirit July 30, 2017 at 1:16 am - Reply

    all of the above then again people pass on what they know or have been taught. looking outside of the box at an early age helped me realize just how warped the “love” my parents defined had nothing to do with me. I wanted no part of their confusion or conditional love. that determination and over 45 yrs of off & on therapy, spiritually and a growing compassion of kindness, virtue and understanding kept my sanity and my faith in humanity. What did JC say as people were nailing him to the cross? “Forgive them for they know NOT what they do”. You take all the best your parents had to offer and leave the toxic behind on YOUR OWN designed journey in life. 🙂 peace

    • Sherrie
      Sherrie August 1, 2017 at 9:32 pm - Reply

      divine spirit,

      Yes, my parents instilled some good and some bad things into me. I now have reached an age that I am able to discern what was right from what was wrong. I have made many mistakes with my own children grant you, but I am learning to apologize to them yet be stern when I have to be. My results seem to be children who really do respect me. They also have their own flaws and I continue to have mine, but I still continue to cut off any generational curses that could have trickled down from the unhealthy rearing from my mother and father. I think this is the key too. Yes, always forgive them that have done wrong by you. Because you also desire forgiveness.

      Sherrie

  9. Staci Fizet July 29, 2017 at 10:20 pm - Reply

    A lot of people feel this way at any given time…
    If it happened, it happened. Re-living it over and over can’t change it… Deal with it and move on. Don’t use it as an excuse for who you’ve become today. Start living YOUR life.

    • Sherrie
      Sherrie Hurd August 8, 2017 at 7:16 pm - Reply

      Staci,

      Hey! I love the way you look at this, and also want to add, that it takes longer times for different people. It took me until the age of 40 to understand one simple fact in life. People are different. Once I realized this, it opened up a whole other level for me.

      I wrote a memoir about my life, which I might add, needs a complete overhaul in the grammar department. Well, since we couldn’t afford a professional editor at the time, I did it myself. This meant reliving my life over and over again while correcting typos and variously written mistakes. Talk about beating a dead horse, whew! Well, the more I read it, the more I cried and had nightmares. On the other hand, the more I read through my past, the more I learned as well. I remembered details and I remembered how much I enjoyed being me even through the abuse.

      So, I have to say, in ways, I agree with you, but in other ways, I do not. Since we are different people, I leave it at that. 🙂

  10. Amy Pang July 29, 2017 at 10:49 pm - Reply

    Instead of constantly pin-pointing what’s wrong with yourself, maybe it’s better to find what’s right with yourself, and how to make more ‘right’. Children of neglect already have their lives focused on negativity, it’s not always helpful for those to add on to the list. It is what it is. We can’t change what’s already imprinted in our minds. We need solutions, how to live with these issues. Learning to make tomorrow a better day..

    • Sherrie
      Sherrie Hurd August 8, 2017 at 7:20 pm - Reply

      Amy,

      Do you want to know why we pinpoint what’s wrong with us? It is because, we have symptoms, and so many others in society love to say that we are “crazy” “retarded” “emotionally draining” and other insulting words. It hurts us deeply and so we want to analyze these so-called negative traits in order to understand why we do things. When we understand why we do things, we can learn all sorts of ways to heal from them. As I was learning about why I was angry and nervous so much, I also learned that not everyone was out to hurt me in the process.

      There is a balance here, and we can learn to be better people even while analyzing our negative behavior. You will never change until you see, with fully opened eyes, what holds you back.

  11. Janet Hiscock July 30, 2017 at 3:22 am - Reply

    Well …I had a wonderfully loving secure childhood with devoted parents a happy home …and I still have some of those issues ….I think I have gone through life looking for the same secure love I had as a child so it works both ways in my opinion

    • Sherrie
      Sherrie Hurd August 8, 2017 at 7:22 pm - Reply

      Janet,

      Yes, you could be searching for that same feeling because you miss it so much. I do that sometimes when I think about my aunt who passed away a few years ago. Some of these symptoms can also be hereditary as well. I think there are different factors involved which point to the reasons we feel the way we do. We are such multi-faceted creatures.

  12. Marilyn Perez July 30, 2017 at 4:03 am - Reply

    Well duh. I grew up in the 80s.

    • Sherrie
      Sherrie Hurd August 8, 2017 at 7:23 pm - Reply

      Marilyn,

      I loved loved loved the 80s!!! That is one time that I would love to revisit.

  13. Melo Dy July 30, 2017 at 4:56 am - Reply

    I love my family, but I’m 7/7. The past is so deeply entrenched, it’s hard to get over even with professional help. I wish things didn’t have to be that way.

    • Sherrie
      Sherrie Hurd August 8, 2017 at 7:28 pm - Reply

      Melo,

      Thank you for reading. I won’t pretend to understand what you’ve been through in your past, but I do know what has worked for me. I used to, and still do sometimes, feel hopeless. But, I will just tell you what worked in my case.

      What helped me the most were these things. They might not work for you, but I wanted to share in hopes that they might.

      Finding the little beautiful things in life and spending time with them – things like nature, comedies, my children, my artwork, writing.

      helping others (this helps so much because it takes the focus off me.)

      gardening ( I love being able to coax life from the earth and the way certain plants feel and smell.)

      tell my story (although it was incredibly hard to do, I told my story. My 21-year-old son has now read my story and he has a new respect for my life and for me)

      I don’t know if these will help, but I just wanted to try and give something, some idea or thought that you might use.

  14. Yanie Nia Calvin July 30, 2017 at 5:39 am - Reply

    Interesting

    • Sherrie
      Sherrie Hurd August 8, 2017 at 7:29 pm - Reply

      Thank you for reading, Yani!

    • Sherrie
      Sherrie Hurd August 8, 2017 at 7:30 pm - Reply

      I apologize, it’s Yanie!

  15. Chris Brunelle July 30, 2017 at 5:45 am - Reply

    I think there’s a difference between abuse and neglect. Abuse is what happened. Neglect is what didn’t happen. If a person finds this helpful, maybe talk to a therapist. If a person doesn’t, then move along. I think everyone is different, everyone’s childhood is different, everyone’s response to it is different. I wouldn’t discourage anyone trying to better their lives or trying to sort shit out. It’s their path….

    • Sherrie
      Sherrie Hurd August 8, 2017 at 7:33 pm - Reply

      Chris,

      Thank you for your insight. I never really thought of abuse/neglect in that way. It’s refreshing. Yes, everyone is different and many therapists are now trying to improve treatment based on these variances. I think that may be why they always wait for us to start talking first. Every person has to be treated like a person!

  16. Don July 30, 2017 at 10:21 pm - Reply

    I have been taken back many times by what you write. There is something – always something – that affects or is close to my heart in your writing. Another comment here mentioned being similar, I find we are very dissimiler, yet so close in so many thoughts and feelings. We are different in background, lives lived, and problems faced, but you always reach into me in some way. You are strangely like a friend I don’t know, but comforts, and helps along the path.

    • Sherrie
      Sherrie August 1, 2017 at 9:28 pm - Reply

      Don,

      Thank you so much. It means so much to me to read these comments. I share my life and what I have learned through writing and research and here, at Learning Mind, in hopes that it does help people be hopeful. And yes, this is my job, but it’s more than that. Sometimes, to be honest, these comments make my day a little brighter. Just look! We are not alone!!! So many people reaching out to understand things! I wish, I really wish I could have found a site like this when I was in my twenties. I was suffering and hurting so much and just believing that I was no good. I had no idea how blessed I was, even in the midst of my many MANY imperfections. Most importantly of all, I had no idea how strong I could be until I realized the truth of what I was going through. Thank you so much, yet again, for reading! Please share comments as much as you like.

      Sherrie

  17. Bryan August 1, 2017 at 12:31 am - Reply

    I feel like life has ended even though I am 20, I have been disappointed in all areas of life. Now I am just not interested. Nothing is interesting. I’ve given up. I can’t bring myself to believe in wonder. I wish I were more innocent, hopeful and curious. I wish I were able to believe in wonders. I wish I could get my enthusiasm back. It feels like I am dead inside.

    • Sherrie
      Sherrie August 1, 2017 at 9:21 pm - Reply

      Hello Bryan,

      If I told you there was an easy solution, I would be lying. You may be feeling dead inside, at an early age, but there have been many young adults that have felt this way. I felt this way many times as well.But…..and yes, there is a but…

      There is something bright in your life somewhere. If you cannot see it, then just keep looking. These conversations are difficult and I am sure you’ve heard all sorts of enthusiastic people trying to lift your mood. Hey, they all mean well, and so do I. According to my own darkness, I should have given up a long time ago, but I didn’t. I started seeing things in the sky, the trees and in the warm ground beneath my feet. Everything started to get larger than me, as most things are. lol. I had children, and their light spread out and reached for me. I had friends, lost friends and then gained even more.

      But even more than that…all those little bright lights that filled me with warmth was not how I endured. It was reaching a place where I was okay with the fact that I wasn’t okay at all. Death, divorce, abortion, miscarriage, abandonment, abuse, neglect, sickness….and then there was still this desire and this passion to be me. When you can’t push anymore, and you can barely breathe, this is when you push just a little bit harder. When you feel dead, then get angry and live just to spite death. death, as with life, will always be there, but what’s important is that you be bigger than that. No words, not even these can reach your darkness, but you can. Look at it, embrace it and use it to create.

      And remember, no matter how much innocence you think that you have lost, there is more inside. One thing that helped me at my lowest of points was to help someone else. It was usually someone that could do nothing for me in return, nothing but talk to me. I always seemed to come away from that a little bit different and little more hopeful.

      Take care

  18. Sherri Brigance August 1, 2017 at 3:52 am - Reply

    This post is right on the money. I, too, was emotionally neglected as a child and I can identify with all of these things. I am a serious people “watcher” and am constantly trying to figure out peoples’ psychology. After doing that for the last 25 years, I feel like I have a much better sense of my own psychology and that many (MANY) of us have these same issues. We all created some kind of coping mechanism as children to deal with the neglect/abuse and these carry out into adulthood in our subconscious minds. Once we are able to identify that these are all patterns of similar behavior, it should give you a sense of solace that you are not crazy, or broken, or ruined. Try to understand that we created these coping mechanisms as children, and now, as adults, we must analyze those mechanisms from our new, higher perspectives. I’ve always been super sensitive about criticism and its only been in the last few years that I have been able to recognize that these are often constructive feedback thoughts and not a direct attack on my entire person. Self love is a good starting point. Recognizing that we are playing out the same old patterns over and over again is the KEY to stopping the cycle and decide on how you really want to live, and obtain what you really want from life. One of the best practices that has helped me is very simple, but world changing. In prayer last year during a very difficult period, I only heard the word “love”. From that point on, I started making every decision, every action/reaction based on love…. love for myself and love for others. Constantly asking myself, “is this choice the most loving choice?” “is this reaction just a gut instinct or can you use Love to see this from a better perspective?” It completely changed the way I was disciplining my 3 new step children, 2 of whom are disabled and all 3 had been through significant trauma from their former step mother. One has autism; it was extremely difficult to understand her lack of common sense and lens through which she reacted to the world around her. I would get so angry and upset. I was at my wits end! So, before I would allow myself to flow into anger or instant reaction, I took some breaths and asked how can I deal with this in the most loving way? At this point, all 3 of my girls are vastly better in every way. We have become a real family in less than 1 year together. Was it easy? HELL NO! But I have learned to discipline myself and choose love at every crossroads… maybe that sounds overly simplistic, but it is powerful. It has given me back control over my own life. I stopped letting some of the more “toxic” people in my life harm me by removing myself from that kind of drama and simply respond to them in love. Some people will flee, believe me. They are addicted to drama and they don’t know how to handle grace, empathy and goodwill. You CAN be better. And, you are the only one that can do it.

    • Sherrie
      Sherrie August 1, 2017 at 9:10 pm - Reply

      Sherri,

      I applaud you, Sherri. To experience any form of neglect and abuse takes real strength and courage to overcome. We can, however, find those tools and tactics that help us and we can surely grow stronger. I am in a strange place momentarily. I feel the outer shell of my damage cracking and falling away. Mind you, these are little pieces, but I still feel it. I FEEL IT! Only someone who has endured trauma and hardships can understand how healing feels. Now, I do take steps back at times, but now I am able to recognize exactly what I did and stand back up. Before, I got caught in a volley of stomping feet which kept me on the ground. It seemed like I could never stand. Thank you so much for your comment. I believe this right here, this support and knowledge that I (we) are not alone, is what breaks the stigma and really starts the healing process!

      Sherrie

  19. TOM August 15, 2017 at 4:28 pm - Reply

    Sherri,

    AMAZING post… hard to face reality but 5 or 6 from 7 for me… deep stuff.

    My question is… knowing/believing that I was neglected as a child, is there any way to find or discover the concrete situations that caused that?

    Thank you!

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7 Symptoms of Childhood Emotional Neglect