15 Signs You Had An Emotionally Abusive Parent Growing Up

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Emotional abuse goes unnoticed, especially when it happens to kids. We live in a society that holds parents to a standard of universal truth where they are almost always right. But that is hardly the case for many people. Here are 15 signs that you had an emotionally abusive parent.

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Constant Criticism

Not all parents who criticize you are emotionally abusing you. Let us first clear that. But if a parent constantly criticizes you, your actions, or your choices, it could well be emotional abuse. Besides draining your mental well-being, it could affect your confidence and make you feel worthless.

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Invalidation of Feelings

Ever had a moment when you poured your heart out, only to have your feelings brushed off like they did not matter? That is emotional abuse. When your parent constantly disregard your emotions or how you feel, it can leave you broken and feeling unwanted. It could also make it hard for you to trust anyone.

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You ever feel like you are being played, but you just cannot quite put your finger on it? That might be emotional manipulation. When a parent guilt-trips you or messes with your head, it can mess with your sense of reality. It can leave lasting scars on your psyche, making it hard to trust others and yourself.

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Control Issues

Does your parent tell you what to do every step of the way? It can suffocate people. When a parent tries to control every aspect of your life, they are robbing you of your freedom. It can make you feel trapped like you are never allowed to be your own person. This overbearing control and micromanaging can stifle your independence and self-expression.

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Lack of Empathy

Did your parent listen when you wanted to share something? A lot of parents fail at this. When a parent lacks empathy, it feels like they are not even trying to understand where you are coming from. It might also feel like your feelings do not matter to them, leaving you lonely.

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Conditional Love

We have all heard since childhood that love is unconditional. But for some, it is not. If your parent only showed you love when you did what they wanted, it means you are constantly walking on eggshells, trying to earn their affection. It is the kind of love that can leave you feeling insecure, never quite good enough for their love.

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Isolation Tactics

When parents try to cut you off from your favorite friends or family, it is called an isolation tactic. They want you all by themselves. But then again, some parents are genuinely concerned about your company and may have good reason to discourage you from meeting some people.

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Emotional Blackmail

Do you ever feel like your parent is using your emotions against you? When a parent threatens you or tries to make you feel guilty to get what they want, it can make you feel really manipulated. Such kind of emotional blackmail can lead to feelings of guilt and obligation, even into adulthood.

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Constant Comparison

Are you constantly measured against other people? It might feel like they say you are not good enough unless you are like someone else. That kind of comparison can really impact self-esteem, making you feel like you will never measure up. No matter what you do in adult life, the feeling of inadequacy never goes away.

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Emotional Neglect

When a parent ignores your emotional needs or does not give you the support you need, it can leave you feeling really alone and unimportant. Most people start feeling unworthy of care when they face emotional neglect as a child. As an adult, it becomes tough to connect with someone or easier to fall into a narcissist’s trap.

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Explosive Anger

When a parent has unpredictable outbursts of anger or rage, it can be really scary. It can feel like you never know what is going to set them off next, and that constant fear can make it hard to relax and be yourself. For example, can you feel what someone is feeling by the sound of their footsteps?! If yes, the answer lies in your past.

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Blame Shifting

If you see that you are always getting blamed for everything, even when it is not your fault, it is a problem. Although kids do not realize this until very late, if ever. This is when a parent cannot take responsibility for their own actions, so they make you the scapegoat instead. That kind of blame can lead to feelings of guilt and self-blame.

smiling girl in black and white striped shirt

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Emotional Withholding

Emotional withholding is very different from parents scolding you for something you did wrong. It is when a parent withholds affection or praise to control your behavior or as a punishment. Not only can this leave you feeling unloved and unworthy, but it will also always make you crave validation.

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When a parent humiliates or belittles you, it can really damage your self-esteem. It can tear you down and lead to deep-seated shame and self-doubt. It shows up in many ways in your adult years. For instance, you cannot hold a conversation with confidence and you always keep on second guessing yourself.

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Boundary Violations

When a parent crosses your boundaries or invades your privacy, it can leave you feeling violated and powerless. Violating boundaries essentially means they do not see you as a separate person with your own needs and desires. It can be really damaging to your sense of self-worth.


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