We all hope that our parents are the ideal role models and treat us with respect, but unfortunately, that's not always the case. Some kids grow up with mothers and fathers that can cause their children harm with the way they behave. There are some distinct signs you had an emotionally abusive parent, and although you can't go back in time and change the way they acted, you can use this information to help not only gain back your confidence and self-esteem, but to learn from their mistakes so you don't treat the other people in your life the same way.
"Emotional abuse includes behaviors by caregivers that includes verbal and emotional assault such as continually criticizing, humiliating, belittling or berating a child, as well as isolating, ignoring, or rejecting a child," says psychotherapist Mayra Mendez, PhD, LMFT over email. "Emotional abuse results in injury to a child's self-esteem and damages a child’s emotional or psychological well-being."
All parents are human, which means they have their flaws, but some have deeper psychological issues that end up affecting how they treat their children. If you have a strained relationship with your parents and think it may be a result of their actions, look out for these 11 signs that you had an emotionally abusive parent.
1You Have Unhealthy Relationships With Others
If you have issues in relationships with others, this could stem from how your parents treated you. "The ability to engage in healthy relationship patterns is informed by strength in social emotional competence," says Mendez. "When children experience emotionally abusive caregiving, trust is compromised, and the ability to engage in and maintain healthy relationships is impaired."
2You Have Low Self-Esteem
"Persistent exposure to belittling, berating, name calling and verbal punishment breaks down a child’s sense of competence and forms a foundation of self-doubt, self-hatred, and worthlessness," says Mendez. "Emotional abuse shatters hope, pride, and motivation. There is considerable risk of mental health challenges such as depression or poor capacity for functional emotional regulation."
3You Are Very Pessimistic
If you have a dismal view on life, it could be a result of your parents' treatment of you, as emotional abuse slowly chips away at hope and motivation. "Long-term exposure to negativity and personal attacks damages the foundation of hope," says Mendez. "A negative self-perception is created and solidified over time."
4You Repress Your Emotions
Limiting your emotional availability could be a result of emotional abuse from an elder. "Children learn to repress emotions to survive the pain of the emotional attacks," says Mendez. "Shutting down feelings is necessary for psychological survival."
5You Sought Out Attention
"A child who does not receive praise, acknowledgement or acceptance, grows-up longing for connections and seeking positive attention," says Mendez. "Emotional abuse starves a child of necessary love and affection, often resulting in over-reaching for validation from others and excessive approval-seeking behaviors."
6Your Parent Excessively Teased You
It's okay to joke around sometimes, but excessive teasing can have long-term negative effects. "Individuals exposed to repeated experiences of mockery, humiliation, and demoralizing interactions learn to interact with others in the same way," says Mendez.
7You Were Ignored
Verbal abuse is the most obvious form of emotional abuse, but less obvious is being ignored or ostracized. "This is when you express a need or a viewpoint that's not endorsed by your parents and you feel discarded as a result," says Holly Brown, MFT over email. "They let you know, through exclusion, that it's not okay. This can cause you to feel that you are not okay."
8You Were Frequently Compared To Your Siblings
Emotional abuse can include frequent comparisons to your siblings. "Instead of your parent highlighting your strengths, your weaknesses were brought to the forefront in relation to the supposed virtues of your siblings," says Brown. "This is not only painful in terms of self-esteem, but it can also hinder the relationship you could have had with your siblings because it turns it into a rivalry."
9You Were Put Under Pressure & Scrutiny
Sometimes, emotional abuse is just love that's made to feel like it's not unconditional. "You were under intense pressure and scrutiny, and constantly felt that you had to measure up or risk losing your parents' love," says Brown. "This leads to great insecurity and sense that relationships are always conditional."
10You Were Made To Feel Guilty
An emotionally-abusive parent will make a child (no matter what age) feel guilt for having relationships outside of them. "The parent, for example, will make statements such as 'You are dropping me,' 'I feel you are pulling away from me,' or 'Why do you want to be with them versus me," says Lisa Bahar, LMFT, LPCC over email.
11Your Privacy Was Violated
If your parent constantly invaded your privacy, in an unnecessary way, they may have been emotionally abusive. "A parent may 'snoop' at computers or cell phones or check journals or calendars to find information of the child being 'sneaky' or 'suspicious,'" says Bahar. "The parent will accuse child of being sneaky, projecting on the child their own behavior."