If you experienced physical or emotional neglect as a child, it has very likely impacted on your psychological, social, and physical well being.
The Different Types Of Neglect
There are two main types of neglect, physical and emotional. Both forms impact children in different ways, and not everyone will experience both. Physical neglect is when there is a failure to provide for a child’s basic needs, like food, clothing, shelter, and medical care.
Emotional neglect, on the other hand, is more insidious, since, if a child is well dressed and physically healthy, it may not be noticed by others. Emotional neglect is a lack of emotional support and attention. This shows up in parents who are very cold towards their children, who rarely show affection (or only show it to one child and not the other), it’s dismissing or shaming a child who needs or asks for comfort, it’s failing to listen or believe a child who is trying to say something, it’s gaslighting and tricking children in ways that may be seen as funny for adults, but something that may leave a child hurt and confused about. In short, it’s failing to provide a safe and supportive emotional environment.
The Mental health Impacts Of Childhood Neglect
If you are an adult who experienced childhood physical or emotional neglect, you are at higher risk for developing mental health struggles such as:
- Substance use
- Eating disorders
- Complex post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Neglect can also affect your ability to form healthy relationships, leading to difficulties with intimacy, trust, and attachment. When you’re an adult who experienced neglect as a child, you could also have a hard time forming bonds with others, or may struggle to express your emotions effectively.
Health Issues Associated With Childhood Neglect
Childhood neglect can have long-term effects on your physical health. You may be at higher risk for chronic health conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, and eating disorders. You may also have a weakened immune system, making you more susceptible to illness.
Emotional Neglect Impacts Your Ability To Self-regulation
Childhood emotional neglect can affect your ability to regulate your emotions and behavior. You may struggle with self-control, making impulsive decisions that can negatively impact your life. You may also have difficulty managing your emotions, leading to outbursts, mood swings, and a sense of feeling overwhelmed. This makes sense, because if nobody was able to help you to learn how to manage your emotions growing up, how would you know how to do it as an adult?
When You Are Neglected, You Could Have Difficulty With Trust
If you experienced childhood neglect, you may struggle trusting or being intimate with your loved ones. You may find it hard to let others get close to you, or have difficulty opening up and sharing your feelings.
Neglect can affect a person’s ability to form secure attachments with others.
Adults who experienced neglect as children may have a hard time forming bonds with others, or may struggle with feelings of abandonment or rejection. This can make it challenging to form healthy relationships and may lead to a fear of getting close to others.
Neglect Can Impair Cognitive Function
A big part of why this happens is because of low self-worth. Adults who experienced childhood neglect may struggle with low self-worth, feeling unworthy or undeserving of love and affection. They may have a hard time seeing their own value and may struggle to find meaning and purpose in their lives.
Despite the challenges that adults who experienced childhood neglect face, there is support available to help overcome these difficulties. Counselling can be an effective way to address the emotional pain caused by neglect, providing you with the tools and skills you need to manage your emotions and form healthy relationships.
Self-help strategies, such as mindfulness, healthy coping strategies, and stress reduction techniques, can be effective in managing the impacts of childhood neglect. Part of empowering and healing yourself is also taking care of your physical well being. Making sure you are eating nutritious food, seeing your doctor regularly and getting in movement and fresh air in your day to day life all go a long way to ensuring you are taking care of your overall well being.
While childhood physical or emotional neglect can have long-term impacts on a person’s mental and physical health, with appropriate interventions and support, you can overcome these challenges and go on to live a happy, healthy, and meaningful life. If you want to begin your healing journey, please reach out, or look at our resources page to learn more about how you can get support.