Childhood Emotional Neglect and Adulthood

Every child has many needs that require attention for their healthy development. From food, water, and shelter, to psychological needs of warmth, emotional closeness, respect, and compassionate attention, the list goes on. 

Unfortunately, not many children grow up with all their needs met by their parents or caregivers. On top of this, some children have experienced prolonged or recurring neglect of their emotional needs. 

The impact of this emotional neglect can present itself in adulthood, with some individuals unaware of where their triggers or unhealthy coping mechanisms originate from.

The Immediate Impact of Emotional Neglect

An emotionally neglected child can feel confused, perhaps even invisible. This child feels lonely, maybe also bored. When no one is interacting with a child or validating their emotions, they miss out on experiences that can help them grow mentally and intellectually. 

They aren’t receiving an emotional connection from their parents. Therefore, they aren’t learning to recognize, respect, and be with their own emotions. There is no model for them when it comes to healthy relationships. They may grow up not knowing how to handle their emotions since their feelings were never validated.

woman dealing with emotional neglect in adulthood

Long-Term Effects of Childhood Emotional Neglect

Emotional neglect can present itself in adulthood through attachment trauma, emotional unavailability, and poor self-discipline, amongst others. When early attachment dynamics are either unhealthy or non-existent, children often suffer later in life, especially in their closest relationships. 

An emotionally neglected child might feel confused and invisible now as an adult, just like how they felt at home. In moments of conflict, they might feel extremely angry or scared, unable to self-regulate and naturally move through their emotions. 

Speak with a Professional

Most of the time, parents are doing their best and don’t intentionally mean to brush off their child’s emotions. It’s often the case that the parents themselves were emotionally neglected as well and therefore don’t know how to offer emotional space for their children. In any case, speaking with a professional can help those learn how to express their emotions after years of suppression.

Attachment trauma (which is also called developmental trauma) is very common. Each of us carries at least some such trauma. Learning about developmental trauma, getting skilled at recognizing what triggers our early relational wounds, and working through our wounding are essential steps we each need to take to lead beautiful lives. 

woman in therapy discussing emotional neglect

Choosing to Heal 

Healing from trauma is neither easy nor comfortable. Such healing is a tremendously empowering choice that can change how you feel about yourself completely. As this healing deepens, you connect with your sense of natural power, dignity, self-acceptance and love. 

Your relationships begin to heal also. Instead of confusion, you can have clarity. Instead of emotionally shutting down, you can stay connected to yourself and navigate relational challenges with maturity and ease. Choosing to heal is an enormously powerful gift you can give yourself.

At Georgia Strait Women’s Clinic, our approach includes individualized care and a range of therapeutic methods. We offer CBT, Somatic Therapy, Hakomi, DBT, Hypnotherapy, and EMDR along with a variety of workshops. If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health and/or addiction, please contact us to learn more about our services.