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How Childhood Neglect Creates Havoc in Adulthood

Many people come from dysfunctional families. Some had mothers or fathers who struggled with addiction. Others had complicated relationships with an emotionally absent parent. Adults all have pain from their past, though some have more than others. Neglect, however, can be one of the more damaging and impactful types of dysfunctions a child can face. Children with absent and neglectful parents often have unhealthy coping mechanisms as adults. Here are the 5 top ways that childhood neglect creates problems in adulthood.

1. You Believe You are Unlovable and Flawed

Those who were neglected as children tend to believe they have less intrinsic value than others. Children need unconditional love from a set of stable parents who live in a functional environment. Without that, adults who were neglected as children can feel that they are less loved than others or have something wrong with them that makes them “not good enough” for others. These individuals remember that being emotionally or physically rejected does not mean that they as people are not important or that they are “flawed.” The responsibility must be taken from the adult child to work though this type of pain.

2. You Always Feel Responsible For Others

As an adult who was neglected as a child, you probably had to take on too much responsibility when you were younger. You may have overseen watching younger siblings or lying for absent parents when necessary. This creates a lot of unnecessary anxiety and a misplaced feeling to be responsible for others’ actions, words, and thoughts. Because we are not in control of others, you may constantly feel anxious or that you’ve let others down. Letting go of things outside of your control can help to release this anxiety and need to please others.

3. You Ignore Your Needs

Every single person on earth has needs. The need to be loved, the need to be safe, the need to have people to talk to. As a neglected child, you were denied your ability to express your needs. You may have been too busy trying to survive that you pushed your needs aside. Unmet needs in children create angry, distrustful, anxious, and unhappy adults. You owe it to yourself to take ownership of your needs and to find out what it is that you want. Talking to a therapist can be a wonderful way to get in touch with your needs.

4. You Don’t Take Risks

Playing it safe isn’t always a bad thing. We all want security and taking unnecessary risks can put us in precarious situations. But always playing it safe and avoiding the risks that may lead to future growth and happiness is not the way to go about life. Neglected adults never felt safe as children. As adults, they may struggle with low self-esteem and a fear of change or uncertainty. Working with an expert who can help you build up your self-esteem and let go of unnecessary fear can help you take on risk in a constructive way.

5. You Think You are a Burden

If you find yourself over-apologizing or always trying to do things alone to avoid burdening others, you are displaying typical behavior of a neglected child. Neglected children always felt as though their needs and wants didn’t matter. Those negative emotions don’t just disappear as an adult, though they can be alleviated through talking with a good therapist. It is important that you recognize your own needs and boundaries before entering new relationships and friendships. This will help you avoid getting hurt or being used, and it will help improve your self-confidence moving forward.

Do you struggle with anxiety, depression, or feelings of neglect? If so, please contact Straight Talk Counseling at 714-828-2000 or visit our website at to talk to a professional counselor today.


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