10 Signs You Were Emotionally Neglected As A Child

Photo: Sanja Radin, Kamonwan Wankaew | Canva
Young good being emotionally neglected with his head down, adult boy feeling the same

As a child, no one noticed enough what you were feeling or what you needed. You received covert messages to guide your life.

Silent, unintended, and usually invisible, these messages took root early and well. As you went through adolescence, they undermined the self-confidence and self-knowledge you should have gathered.

As you grew into adulthood, they prevented you from making the right choices. As you formed relationships and fell in love, they prevented you from valuing yourself. If you had children and raised them, they weighed you down and left you feeling mystified about what you were missing and why.

The only way to reduce this power over you is to realize the signs you were neglected as a child and understand how you got them. You must consciously choose to stop letting the past neglect hold you back and push you down.

RELATED: If These 7 Signs Sound Familiar, You Were Likely Emotionally Neglected As A Child

Here are 10 signs you were neglected as a child:

1. You may believe it's not good to be too happy or too sad.

As a child, you naturally had intense feelings. This is how all children are wired. Exuberant one moment, intensely frustrated the next, you needed someone to teach you how to understand and manage your emotions.

But what you got instead was a covert message that your emotions were excessive. What you learned was to dampen your feelings, not the skills you needed to manage them.

2. You are overly sensitive.

As a child, you naturally felt upset when things upset you. You naturally felt angry when you were hurt. You needed to have your feelings soothed by a loving parent so you could learn how to soothe yourself.

But what you got was a message that your feelings were a weakness. What you learned was to judge yourself for having them.

RELATED: The #1 Indicator You Were Emotionally Neglected As A Kid

3. Your needs and preferences are irrelevant.

As a child, you had needs, just as all children do. You had things that felt important to you and things that felt good or bad to you. You needed someone to notice or ask what you needed or wanted so you would feel you mattered.

When no one asked you enough, you learned you don’t ask.

4. You may feel talking about a problem will unnecessarily burden other people.

Growing up, you had problems with school, siblings, and friends. What you needed was to know that you could talk to a parent.

Instead, you knew they, for whatever reason, could not handle it. You learned others couldn’t handle your problems, so you’d best keep it to yourself.

5. You may see crying as a weakness.

All humans cry and for a reason. Crying is a way to release and process your emotions. As a child, you cried, and you needed this to be okay.

Instead, your family didn’t know that crying has a purpose, so they ignored your tears or shamed you for having them. Perhaps they never showed tears themselves. You learned that crying is negative and should be avoided. This is one of the biggest signs you were neglected as a child.

6. You may think others will judge you for showing your feelings.

Were you judged for showing feelings in your childhood home? This powerful message has been carried forth with you. “Hide your emotions from others” is the message, “or others will think less of you.” Or, worse, they will use your feelings against you.

7. You may believe anger is a negative emotion and should be avoided.

As a child, you felt angry. This is a natural part of life. As a child, you needed help to name, understand, and manage your anger.

Perhaps your anger was squelched or overwhelmed by another’s. Maybe you were punished for showing it. What you learned was anger is bad, and you should suppress it.

RELATED: Signs You Have Avoidant Personality Disorder

8. You may think relying on others is setting yourself up for disappointment.

Children need help, period. So do adolescents and adults. As a child, you needed support, direction, suggestions, and assistance, but you could see your parents were not up to that.

You learned it is best not to ask for help in general because you are setting yourself up for a letdown.

9. You may believe others are not interested in what you have to say.

As a young child, you had endless wonder at the world around you. As you grew, you had endless things you wanted and needed to ask and say. Yet talking was not valued in your family, and you were not asked or listened to enough.

You learned your questions and words are not valuable and that you should keep them to yourself.

10. You may believe you are alone in the world.

As a child, you needed to feel an adult had your back. No matter what happened, there was support and help for you. Instead, when you needed something, you discovered that your adult(s) were busy, overwhelmed, or unaware. What you learned was you were all alone.

The Truth

These lessons are too real and feel too true when you grow up receiving them in such a covertly encompassing way. But do not forget they are merely lessons of your family, not truths. The fact you learned them does not make them right.

The truth is...

Strong feelings connect us to ourselves and each other, and being able to have them is a sign of health and strength.

Knowing your needs and preferences and expressing them is a key to living a happy, fulfilled life.

Talking about your problems helps you solve them.

Crying is a healthy way of coping.

Letting others see your feelings helps them know you better.

Anger is an important message from your body that empowers you.

Mutual dependence is a form of teamwork that makes you stronger.

What you have to say is important, and you should say it.

You are human. You are connected, you are important.

You are not, in fact, by any stretch, alone.

RELATED: How People Who Were Emotionally Neglected Can Break The Cycle With Their Kids

Jonice Webb Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist and best-selling author of two self-help books. She specializes in childhood emotional neglect, relationships, communication issues, and mental health. Dr. Webb has appeared on CBS News and NPR, and her work has been cited by many publications.

This article was originally published at Psych Central. Reprinted with permission from the author.