10 Tragic Ways Emotional Neglect F*cked Up Your Life: Signs & Symptoms

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Do you struggle with feelings of emptiness? Are you moody and sad but don’t know why? Do you feel out of place sometimes? Like you’re distant and confused?

First, important disclaimer, I AM NOT A COUNSELOR. OR A PSYCHIATRIST. OR A DOCTOR. I am just a psychology nerd that struggled with those sh*tty feelings for a long f*cking time.

I thought I was depressed. I questioned if I was mentally f*cked up (whatever that even means?). Was I just victim to circumstance? Did I have a chemical imbalance? My questions were answered when I came across the CEN questionnaire. I discovered that my negative feelings stemmed from childhood emotional neglect.

What is CEN?

According to Dr. Jonice Webb, childhood emotional neglect is:

“A parent’s failure to respond enough to the child’s emotional needs.

Emotional Neglect is, in some ways, the opposite of mistreatment and abuse. Whereas mistreatment and abuse are parental acts, Emotional Neglect is a parent’s failure to act.”

Typically, symptoms of emotional neglect develop when:

  1. A parent fails to validate or notice the child’s emotions

  2. The parent places extreme expectations on the child without focusing on the child’s emotional needs

  3. Parents fail to provide structured standards of discipline and boundaries

Most neglectful parents have good intentions. They honestly want their kids to feel loved. In fact, they have no idea that they are neglectful. They typically experienced emotional neglect themselves. Because of this, they are emotionally unaware and repeat the cycle of neglectful parenting.

For example, my parents placed high standards for me to succeed academically, but they never praised me for my achievements. Also, I would often get punished for getting decent grades in school. This manifested in my inability to fully understand my self-worth.

You can take the CEN questionnaire if you think you may have experienced emotional neglect.

10 Symptoms of Childhood Emotional Neglect

After childhood, emotional neglect manifests in 10 symptoms that are sometimes unnoticeable. I didn’t understand the root of my negative emotions until I read Dr. Jonice Web’s book, Running on Empty.

In fact, these symptoms were taken from her book:

1. Emptiness

You feel happy and unhappy at the same time. You never feel fulfilled. You may chase after stimulation to try to overcome confusing emotions.

2. Counter-Dependence

You are afraid of asking for help. You don’t want to seem emotionally weak or dependent. This is due to your parents’ lack of emotional availability.

3. Confused Self-Concept

You are not sure of what your strengths and weaknesses are. You doubt yourself often

4. Lack of Love for Self, Loving For Others

You are your own toughest critic, but you can’t say no to others. You easily forgive others - something you struggle to do for yourself.

5. Guilt & Shame; What is Wrong With Me?

You didn’t grow up abused or traumatized. Most likely, your parents provided you with everything you needed besides emotional validation. You question why you still feel empty. It makes you feel guilty and wrong.

6. Self-Blame & Anger

You get angry at yourself for not being more happy or “normal”. You may use drugs and alcohol to deal with this.

7. Feeling Fake

You feel that you have to hide your true self. If people get too close, they will find out that you are weak or flawed.

8. Difficulty Nurturing Self & Others

You don’t know what to do when you’re feeling upset. When you’re friends cry in front of you, you are awkward and distant.

9. Lack of Self-Discipline

It is difficult to stop yourself from over-indulging. You may eat a lot of junk-food, procrastinate often, or spend impulsively.

10. Alexithymia: Poor Awareness & Understanding of Emotions

You are often irritable. You snap at others often. Most of the time, you do not understand where your emotions are coming from. You go through great lengths to avoid feelings because you cannot tolerate them.

Final Thoughts

If you relate to most of these symptoms, you are not alone. I feel every. single. one. of them. Your life is not f*cked up. I definitely thought mine was. Once I learned where my pain stemmed from, I was able to begin the process of healing.

We can forgive the past. We can move on. We can thrive. I discovered that my strong emotions were a gateway into channeling loving compassion.

The first step is becoming aware and understanding. The next step? Self-Care. Self-Love. And building emotional resiliency.

I’m on a mission to build my emotional strength. If you’d like free resources on emotional strength, mental health, wellness, and positive living, please join the community of #EmotionalGangsters.

Get the Book: Running on Empty by Dr. Jonice Webb