Category: <span>Emotional Neglect</span>

4 signs you suffered neglect in childhood

4 signs you suffered neglect in childhood
Neglect is the most common type of abuse

Neglect is the most common type of abuse. According to the National Children’s Alliance (2021) and Brown et al (2023), 76 – 78% of victims are neglected. Neglect can be physical or emotional. Childhood neglect comprises the absence of appropriate care, be it for children’s emotional or physical wellbeing. Despite its common occurrence, it is not as easily identifiable by its victims as physical or emotional abuse. If you suspect to have been a victim and would like clarification on the matter, here are 4 signs you suffered neglect in childhood:

  • You neglect your own health and wellbeing: you forget about your body’s needs. You ignore signs of ill health and do not take action to address physical and mental vulnerabilities in a timely manner. You delay seeking professional health and only do it when pressured by others or when it has already started affecting your ability to function.
  • You believe not to be worthy of care: you feel selfish, guilty, ashamed and/or afraid when in need of help, love and attention. While it feels natural for you to give and be available for others in their time of need, you feel uncomfortable and inadequate when it is your turn to receive help and be looked after.
  • You believe not to be worthy of good things: you feel selfish, guilty, ashamed and/or afraid of the thought of having good quality and expensive things. You feel uncomfortable when you treat yourself and dare to break your rigid spending rules, and when others give you nice things.
  • You have low expectations in life: you settle easily for mediocrity. You have a sense of familiarity, safety and, in some cases, even relief when things do not work out and you are let down by others. You cry or feel inadequate when something big or positive happens to you, as when you are praised or recognised for your efforts by others.

To overcome the effects of childhood trauma caused by neglect, be mindful of how you might be perpetuating abuse via self-neglect. Learn how to connect, listen, and validate your body’s needs. You can do that by practising mindfulness meditation, for instance, and implementing a self-care routine. If you feel overwhelmed by the thought of doing these things alone, hire a trauma therapist to help you put them into practice and start healing.

References:

Brown CL, Yilanli M, Rabbitt AL. Child Physical Abuse and Neglect. [Updated 2023 May 29]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK470337/

National Children’s Alliance (2021). National Statistics on Child Abuse. https://www.nationalchildrensalliance.org/media-room/national-statistics-on-child-abuse/#:~:text=Nationally%2C%20neglect%20is%20the%20most,and%200.2%25%20are%20sex%20trafficked.

5 signs your weight problem is trauma related

5 signs your weight problem is trauma related
Victims of abuse are more likely to turn to food to regulate their emotions.

The connection between maladaptive eating behaviours such as calorie restriction, food addictions, binge eating and grazing, and trauma is widely accepted as significant (see research below). If you struggle to keep a healthy weight, it is worth considering that a change of diet alone might not be enough to produce lasting effects. To gain greater awareness of how your mental health affects your relationship with food, here are 5 signs your weight problem is trauma related:

1- You eat emotionally to soothe yourself. Emotional eating is motivated by negative feelings such as loneliness, tiredness, anxiety, sadness, shame, guilt and anger that are stored in the body from traumatic events. Victims of emotional abuse, physical neglect and/or sexual abuse are more likely to turn to food to regulate their emotions and deal with traumatic stress (Kong et al, 2009). Or as Stojek MM et al (2019) point out, “From a psychological perspective, consuming high-calorie foods that stimulate the reward neurocircuitry may be a powerful emotion regulation strategy in response to increased stress”.

2- You overeat to defy authority. You express anger at your abusive caregivers and control over you own body by overeating or eating whatever you want not to conform with their rigid diet and beauty standards.

3- You undereat to defy authority. You express your anger at your abusive caregivers and control over you own body by dieting and becoming smaller/thinner and making them jealous or resentful of your autonomy and weight loss.

4- Your weight makes you feel safe. You feel stronger when physically bigger or “invisible”, in a way that makes you feel protected from attracting attention to yourself and less vulnerable to abuse.

5- You are addicted to sugar. Unresolved childhood trauma and PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) “commonly co-occur with addiction” (Flanagan et al, 2016). Sugar is used to soothe traumatic stress, and it serves the same purpose of other addictive substances such as alcohol and drugs.

A trauma aware approach is essential if you are committed to overcoming an eating disorder or managing your weight effectively. For a successful outcome, combine a healthy diet with psychological treatment of unresolved trauma and address your health wholistically, from head to toe.

 

References:

Kong, Seong & Bernstein, Kunsook. (2009). Childhood trauma as a predictor of eating psychopathology and its mediating variables in patients with eating disorders. Journal of clinical nursing. 18. 1897-907. 10.1111/j.1365-2702.2008.02740.x.

Flanagan JC, Korte KJ, Killeen TK, Back SE. Concurrent Treatment of Substance Use and PTSD. Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2016 Aug;18(8):70. doi: 10.1007/s11920-016-0709-y. PMID: 27278509; PMCID: PMC4928573.

Stojek MM, Maples-Keller JL, Dixon HD, Umpierrez GE, Gillespie CF, Michopoulos V. Associations of childhood trauma with food addiction and insulin resistance in African-American women with diabetes mellitus. Appetite. 2019 Oct 1;141:104317. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2019.104317. Epub 2019 Jun 8. PMID: 31185252; PMCID: PMC6629477.

5 strategies for coping with parental emotional neglect

5 strategies for coping with parental emotional neglect
If you feel inadequate when you share your feelings with your parents, that means they are not suitable to give you emotional support

Emotionally neglectful parents fail to properly see, feel and hear their children. Consequently, their children often crave attention, validation and support, even in their adult years. Although such needs are reasonable, adult children of emotionally neglectful parents’ insistence on having them met by their parents perpetuates unhappiness and disappointment. If that behaviour seems familiar, here are 5 strategies for coping with parental emotional neglect to help you get out of that cycle:

1- Let go of the ideal family fantasy: most of us were conditioned to believe that our families are the first and most reliable sources of safety, love and support. That is a fantasy. Even though some experience safety and security while connecting emotionally with their family, others feel ignored and alienated by their self-absorbed and emotionally immature parents, which has a negative impact on their emotional development. If you grew up in an environment of emotional neglect, keeping the ideal family fantasy alive through always hoping that one day your parents will change and honour how you feel is counterproductive.

2- Get the support you need from emotionally mature individuals: if you feel invisible, insignificant or inadequate when you share your feelings with your parents, that means they are not suitable to give you the emotional support you seek. When feelings of hope try to convince you otherwise, do not entertain them. Go talk to an emotionally mature friend instead. If you do not have one, hire a therapist.

3- Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries: whatever is going on with your parents has nothing to do with you, most of the time. Their lack of interest in you does not mean you are uninteresting. Their difficulty to connect emotionally started way before you were born. Therefore, draw a line between you and them. Remain in your body, especially when around them, and do not feed the narrative that you are the reason for their emotionally neglectful behaviour.

4- Practice self-love: as a mature adult, you no longer depend on your parents to feel loved, competent and good enough. You can get those needs met through relationships with things and people outside your family circle. Friends, loving partners, pets, colleagues, neighbours, and even random people you come across have their ways of showing respect and love for you. A rich spiritual life or beliefs that help you cultivate a sense of being part of something bigger than yourself also give you a sense of belonging and inner safety.

5- Practice emotional maturity: break the habit of relying on external factors to feel better about yourself and start honouring your own emotions. To deal with the anger and sadness you carry as effects of your relational trauma, allow time to process your grief. Having a good cry when the need arises and expressing your anger creatively or through exercise are healthy means of regulating your emotions.

If you suffered trauma from emotional neglect and need professional help to heal, contact me to book an appointment and find out more about Attachment-Focused EMDR therapy.