5 Signs of Childhood Emotional Neglect

Farrann Sanchez, IMH19867 on Jun 08, 2022 in Mood and Feelings

For many individuals, childhood is a time of wonder and adventure, a time when all needs are met and comfort is merely a whimper away.

And yet for others, childhood never feels quite safe or secure. For these people, emotional neglect colored their early years and affects them as adults.

Childhood emotional neglect (CEN) is the result of parents not responding enough to the emotional needs of their children. While it is an invisible form of suffering as opposed to bruises and broken bones, it has lasting ramifications. And adults that have suffered from CEN have no idea that their current world is being created from a place of lack.

What Makes CEN Invisible?

There are a couple of specifics that make CEN invisible to the victim:

It can happen in otherwise loving families that have no material needs.

A parent’s failure to respond to your emotional needs is not something that happens to you as a child. It is something that doesn’t happen to you, and therefore, your brain has nothing to record as “proof.”

These adults find themselves creating lives that don’t quite feel right. They may investigate their childhoods looking for clues but usually come up with nothing, which can add to their sense of stress and anxiety.

In the end, they feel that something must be innately wrong with them. They take the blame, assuming that they are simply flawed and different from other people who seem to have their acts together.

If you identify with this feeling, here are five signs you grew up with childhood emotional neglect:

1. Fear of Being Dependent on Others

Independence is a good quality to have. But having a deep-seated fear of depending on anyone for anything and never asking for help or support is not healthy.

2. You Don’t Really Know Yourself

When you meet new people and have to tell them about yourself, do you find it difficult? Do you know your strengths and weaknesses? What you like and don’t like? Victims of CEN tend to not know themselves as well as they should.

3. You’re a People-Pleaser

You spend a lot of time trying to meet other people’s needs and pay little attention to your own. You’re hard on yourself but soft with others.

4. You Feel Empty

This can feel different to different people. Maybe you feel an empty sensation in your gut, throat, or chest. Maybe you are struggling to find your purpose in life which leaves you feeling empty. Maybe you find it difficult to enjoy the small moments in life. For some it comes and goes, for others, this feeling is there 24/7, 365.

5. You Have Trouble Feeling Your Emotions

When your emotions were ignored as a child, you never learned how to feel them and express them in healthy ways. As an adult, do you find it hard to identify the feelings you feel, let alone express them to others?

If you’ve just had an "Aha" moment and think you may have suffered CEN and would like to explore treatment options, please get in touch. There is hope, and you CAN heal from the invisible wounds and start creating the life you were meant to live.

Farrann Sanchez is a Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern in Oviedo, FL.
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