Emotionally Abusive Parents
While childhood should be a time of fun and learning, and parents should be loving and provide gentle guidance as we grown, this is not the case for everyone. Some children have parents that are cruel and manipulative. Emotional abuse is also known as psychological or mental abuse. Emotionally abusive parents cause their children distress that can last a lifetime without help.
Emotional abuse can take many different forms. It may also be combined with other types of abuse, such as physical abuse or sexual abuse. With emotional abuse, the abuser may isolate the child from friends and other family members. He or she may throw insults and criticism at the child, withholding love and affection, and humiliate you. They will minimize the child’s pain and deny their role in it. They will blame the child for everything that goes wrong in their lives. Many times, the emotionally abusive person will suffer from a personality disorder like borderline personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, and antisocial personality disorder.
Children usually have difficulty identifying emotional abuse at the hands of their parents. When we come into the world, we depend on our parents for our every need. When our parents hurt us at a young age, it’s easy for children to assume that it’s because of something they themselves did wrong, particularly if their parents tell them that it’s their fault. It can also be difficult for other adults, such as teachers, to notice there is a problem. It is one thing to see unexplained bruises and broken bones, but it is another to detect emotional scars that don’t leave physical marks.
Common Symptoms of Adults Who Were Emotionally Abused as Children
- They have low self-esteem.
- They don’t believe compliments that are given to them.
- They are quiet and may not be social.
- They have difficulty trusting others and may have commitment issues.
- They may self-harm because they never learned appropriate coping skills.
- They are overly critical of themselves.
- They fear rejection and abandonment.
- They have trouble making decisions because as children they were taught that everything they did was wrong.
- They are scared of conflict and avoid it at all costs.
- They are perfectionistic.
- They are very sensitive.
- They doubt themselves.
- They may have problems with addictions.
- They are people pleasers.
- They have trouble making eye contact.
- They may isolate themselves.
- They are often anxious.
- They disassociate and will “blank out” in conversations.
Healing from Emotionally Abusive Parents
Healing from the scars caused by emotionally abusive parents takes a lot of work. Often, it takes time for adult children of abusive parents to even recognize that their parents were abusive toward them. They may believe that what happened to them growing up was “normal.” The detrimental effects of experiencing emotional abuse include low self-esteem and having difficulty forming relationships with others. You may repress your emotions because you learned growing up that your personal feelings did not matter. You likely also have a pessimistic outlook on life. Emotional abuse in childhood has been shown to literally change the brain. Studies using MRIs have proven this -- there is a very real, negative effect from emotional abuse.
The first step in recovering is recognizing that what happened in your home when you were growing up was not normal and in fact was abusive. You need to find a good therapist to help you work through the pain and change your thought pattern and the belief system that your parents instilled in you, from the idea that there is something about you that is not good enough to one where you can love and accept yourself for who you are.
Famous People Who Have Survived Childhood Emotional Abuse
If you have survived childhood emotional abuse, it may be hard for you to imagine a time when life will ever get better. After all, during your entire childhood when you were developing your sense of self, you were made to feel insignificant, called names, and treated terribly by the person who was supposed to protect you and love you the most. It may help to know that other people have been in your shoes and have still gone on to have very successful lives. These include celebrities like Mary J. Blige, Jewel, Chevy Chase, Janice Dickinson, and Angelina Jolie. Often, their childhoods were filled not only with emotional abuse but also physical and sexual abuse. They were able to work through the pain and their struggles and make something more of their lives.
Find out if the adults in your children's lives have an abusive background with a criminal records check.