Physical abuse is obvious to everyone, and we could easily detect it.
But emotional abuse is not so evident, and the signs and symptoms could be much more difficult to identify —although the consequences are sometimes even more dangerous than the ones of physical abuse.
One of the most explicit definitions of emotional abuse is given by psychotherapist Beverley Engel. In her book The Emotionally Abusive Relationships she writes that:
“Emotional abuse is like brainwashing that systematically wears away at the victim’s self-confidence, sense of self-worth, trust in their perceptions, and self-concept. Whether it is done by constant berating and belittling, by intimidating, or under the guise of ‘guidance,’ ‘teaching,’ or ‘advice,’ the results are similar. Eventually, the recipient of the abuse loses all sense of self and remnants of personal value. Emotional abuse cuts to the very core of a person, creating scars that may be far deeper and more lasting than physical ones.”
That is especially true when it comes to children.
Kids often lack the experience to identify the abusive elements of their emotional relationships, and it’s not before they become adults that they can recognize them but even then it’s not quite certain that they will be able to.
That’s why it is necessary to require specialists’ opinion on how to reveal if a person was the victim of an emotional abuse during their childhood.
They helped us outline 6 of the most common long-term consequences caused by emotional abuse in the childhood:
This is a phenomenon caused by extraordinarily narcissistic or self-centered parents who like to manipulate the feelings of their children. Growing up with such parents means living with the belief that your actions should be dictated and controlled by others because you are not able to act the right way.
“Some parents abuse their children because of pathological narcissism,” Laura Endicott Thomas, author of Don’t Feed the Narcissists, explains. “They are commanding an unreasonable amount of worshipful behavior from their children.”
Narcissistic parents often view their children as accessories to impress others.
They will manipulate their kids’ actions and emotions to produce a good impression in public. That could lead to a child who has become an adult lacking confidence in their abilities. Someone who doubts every move they take and feels the need to be validated by other people.
2. They don’t value their own emotions.
The first sign of emotionally abusive environments is that emotional exchange is one-way. Children’s emotions are not important or are regarded as competitive to the feelings of the person who’s rude. If the child feels scared, angry, confused or manifests any other emotional reaction, he or she is mocked at, underestimated or ignored.
Being “deliberately silenced” is a typical sign of an emotionally abusive environment.
In The Guardian, the psychologist Carrie Disney explains that children from emotionally abusive homes often “learned that emotions are dangerous.”
“In a good enough upbringing,” she writes, “we learn that feelings can be managed, they may sometimes be scary, but they can be thought through.”
Such children grow up with the idea that their feelings and thoughts are less important than the other people’s. Consequently, they don’t develop the ability to create adequate emotional life.
A child who’s restricted from interacting with others is often suffering from their parents’ excessive control which is abusive and dangerous. Even if the parent is trying to justify their actions stating he or she is doing it “for the child’s good.”
“Isolation behavior on the part of emotionally abusive parents,” notes the organization Emotional Abuse Answers, ” It begins with mistrust.”
Parents like the ones described above are suspicious of most people who are not part of the family. They try to control their children’s environment, which could make the kid close off to the outer world. And hence develop introversion personality traits.
People who’d been treated that way during their childhood are careful not to openly show who they are because they could hardly trust anyone. For them, it’s difficult to let other people into their life because they believe no one. They feel the safest when they are on their own.
4. Find it difficult to build stable, loving relationships
Feeling threatened and afraid as a child because of the environment is emotional abuse, even if it never gets physical. If the adults who take care or are in the close circle of the child constantly scream, threaten, impose and use the child’s fear as a method of control they are behaving in an emotionally abusive manner.
This often has a very distinct result for adult survivors of this kind of abuse. Parenthood counselor Elly Taylor explained this:
“From a counseling perspective, “the way emotional abuse would show up between couples was when one partner would seek comfort from the other, but not be able to trust it, so instead of the comfort being soothing when they got it, it would actually increase the person’s anxiety and they would then push the partner away… and then seek comfort again. This is the adult version of the parent/child dynamic that occurs when as a child, a caregiver is also a scary person.”
5. Blame themselves for everything.
People might have a lot of reasons for insulting a child. Trying to “toughen them up,” is one of them. However, calling a kid stupid or worthless makes him or her to grow up with the feeling they aren’t loved. The NSPCC’s definition of emotional abuse highlights that it “may involve conveying to a child that they are worthless or unloved, inadequate, or valued only insofar as they meet the needs of another person.”
As a result, as adults, people who were treated that way find it hard to turn off the negative self-talk. Here is the opinion of Tom Bruett, MS, LMFT, and founder of Tom Bruett Therapy:
“Notice if you are tough on yourself,” he says. “Whose voice is it that you hear being critical or toxic? Typically, it can be the voice of a critical or abusive parent that we have internalized.”
If we criticize our kids and blame them for something all the time during childhood, that could cause the adults they become to blame themselves for everything. These people might often apologize to others for things that are not even their fault.
6. Suffer from psychological conditions or disorders.
Although there are many reasons that could lead to psychological problems and disorders, they could also be due to falling victim of a permanent aggressive behavior in childhood. Even passive aggressive behavior could be hazardous to a fragile child’s.mind.
“If you had a parent who was passive-aggressive, pleasant on the surface, but cold underneath, it’s likely a sign of emotional abuse,” Tina B. Tessina, PhD (aka “Dr. Romance”), psychotherapist, and author of It Ends with You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction,explains.
Child development could be negatively impacted by any continuous aggressive behavior. It could lead to psychological issues, eating disorders, and lack of self-esteem. It might also cause the person to bottle up anger. That could affect the way he or she thinks and behaves.
Have you been a victim of some of or all of these abusive behaviors? If yes, there’s a high chance you still have to deal with the consequences. We, from Sexy Intelligence, recommend seeing a specialist if your childhood traumatic experiences hinder your normal way of living.
And finally, it’s important to remember that there are many other ways of being emotionally abused so you need to pay attention to how others treat you or your children.
Had you fallen victim to emotional abuse in your childhood?
Please, share your experience with us.