Emotional neglect is one of the most dangerous types of abuse someone could experience. It’s especially harmful because it’s not about actively hurting someone else. As opposed to, for example, physical abuse, neglect doesn’t leave any signs. And it doesn’t look like abuse at first glance. Emotional neglect is much more subtle than other mistreatments, so it’s hard to realize if you are experiencing it.
People often do way too much for love or preserve relationships around them. When it comes to family, friends, and even romantic relationships, you will do anything to keep them intact. The problem is that some people we care about don’t return that same care and attention. Sometimes we sacrifice much of ourselves for the connections that we don’t stop to consider if anyone meets our needs.
While it’s true that neglect usually affects children, it can also appear in other types of relationships. Kids are more vulnerable to neglect because of the apparent power imbalance in a parent-child relationship. Parents don’t take that extra step to listen and understand what their children need. But that doesn’t mean that a romantic partner can’t also neglect you. That’s possible, seeing as even they can overlook your needs.
If you couple that with the fact that most people don’t even know how to stand up for themselves and fulfill their needs, you get a society prone to allowing neglect in their relationships. So, what red flags do you need to look out for when it comes to neglect? And what can you do to avoid either being neglected or neglectful?
What Is Emotional Neglect?
Neglect can take many forms. The one type that comes to mind most often is physical neglect. When someone is physically neglected, they are potentially hurt, unsafe, left to starve, etc. That should never happen to anyone, and it’s disgusting that people even physically neglect others. But emotional abuse is different. It’s much more subtle and harder to spot. Sometimes, even the person who is being emotionally neglectful towards others doesn’t realize what they are doing. That doesn’t make matters any better. No matter your intentions, you should never hurt or abuse anyone else.
Emotional neglect means being inattentive to others’ needs and desires. Or, in simpler terms, emotional neglect means repeatedly ignoring someone to the point where you don’t meet any of their needs. For example, neglecting your partner means never asking them what you can do to make their day easier. It can mean never asking for their opinion regarding significant life changes, like big purchases.
Neglect can also affect kids, and it has a much worse effect on them than the one it has on adults. If a child is emotionally neglected, the parents never make time for them. They leave them with a nanny all day. For example, they don’t make time to look at their drawing. They give them too many responsibilities from a very young age. Emotional neglect halts a child’s normal development and leaves them with many issues to deal with when they reach adulthood.
Neglected people will always be made to believe that there are not worth anyone’s time or that they aren’t good enough. Neglect doesn’t only affect people while it’s happening. Trauma and scars will linger for years and years after the abuse is over. Unfortunately, there’s not much that kids can do while living with their parents.
The only ones who can intervene for children are relatives who might notice the red flags. But, when it comes to adults, you must be strong enough to address it. You start with a conscious effort to learn the red flags and how you can avoid ending up in abusive situations. So, here are three of the red flags that reveal emotional abuse you need to look out for.
3 Red Flags That Reveal Emotional Neglect
Do you see these behaviors that display emotional neglect?
1. Neglected People Have Trouble Expressing Their Emotions
Everyone who has ever experienced neglect can confirm that it feels like screaming for help in the middle of a deserted field. You can scream as loud as you want, but no one will hear you. So, after a while, you grow weary and give up. You succumb to your fate. Emotional neglect feels the same. You try to communicate and express your needs, but no one cares. It seems like your safety doesn’t matter.
When you don’t feel listened to, you start believing that it’s your fault that you are so needy. You start thinking that your feelings are a burden and you should hide them as deep as possible. You stop talking about how you feel, and you start feeling ashamed if you ever feel sad, tired or need help.
If one of your friends or relatives closes you off, that’s a red flag. If you ask someone about how they feel, and they do everything to avoid answering, that should make you at least a little suspicious. And, if you are the person who is being neglected, remember that being able to share your emotions is necessary. Having needs and desires isn’t something to be ashamed of. It’s just part of the human experience. And if anyone makes you feel differently, cut them out of your life.
2. Emotional Neglect Makes People Feel Numb
Neglect is one of the most horrible things anyone can experience. Of course, all emotional abuse is bad. But most types of emotional abuse make you feel stuck and drive you insane. Neglect has a different effect. It doesn’t make you mad. Instead, it makes you feel unwanted and overlooked. It makes you feel numb, like you don’t even matter. And this feeling isn’t simply an emotional one. It manifests in a physical sense. You feel the numbness in all parts of your body. You feel heavy and empty.
After being forgotten for so long, you eventually stop caring. You stop making an effort to be seen and heard. You start feeling like it’s useless to stand up for yourself, so you give up. After a while, you’ll notice that you don’t feel strong emotions anymore. You just become numb and empty. You stop caring about yourself and even about others. This might be simply because you don’t feel worthy of ever being happy.
Or it’s just a defense mechanism meant to protect you from ever getting hurt again. When neglected, people feel a moment of happiness, it just seems like their starting to have false hope, so they give up on trying to be happy. If you think that this describes you, you need to reach out to s psychologist as soon as possible. And, if you know someone who seemingly gave up on trying, know that’s a red flag, and it might signal neglect.
3. Neglected People Have a Hard Time Trusting Others
Because neglected people feel overlooked and ignored so often, they have difficulty believing that anyone could genuinely care about them. Being ignored is maddening because it seems like it’s your fault. Like you are not enough, and, if only you’d done something differently, maybe they’d care about you.
But, because of how hurt you feel, you don’t trust that anyone could ever truly see and understand you. You don’t want to risk developing a new connection, only for them to push you aside and ignore you later. Neglected people feel easily replaceable, but they also have an inferior and unrealistic view of themselves. They are the people who don’t even do things for themselves because they don’t think they are worth it.
People who live in neglect are the ones who will try their hardest to stay away from society and gatherings. They don’t easily trust people because they fear relying on them. They know that people have hurt and forgotten about them throughout their life, and they don’t want to end up in that situation again.
People on the receiving end of emotional neglect learn to be independent and self-sufficient. Plus, if they are currently in such a situation, they don’t have the emotional strength to trust new people. If you know someone who shuts you down and seems mistrustful of people, don’t just brush it off. What you are witnessing might be a cry for help.
Final Thoughts on Understanding the Red Flags That Reveal Emotional Neglect
Emotional neglect is something so horrible that no one should live through it. Unfortunately, it happens way more than anyone would like to admit. People are selfish, busy, or don’t care enough about others, so they neglect them. The one doing the neglecting doesn’t stand to lose much from their actions.
But the neglected will be so affected that they might never fully heal from the abuse. Neglect is, unfortunately, way too common, even amongst children. Parents get so caught up in their busy work schedules or other endeavors that they don’t make the time for their kids. But that means that those kids will never have their needs fulfilled, which will negatively impact their development. Of course, neglect can happen in all different relationships, from romantic to family relationships.
Neglected people have to live with that pain every day. Consequently, they will have a tough time communicating and properly conveying their emotions. They will not understand how to express their feelings, mainly because they don’t see them as relevant. Or, in some cases, they might even feel numb and void.
Neglected people also have a hard time trusting others because they don’t want to risk getting hurt again. Or it might be because they have a terrible view of themselves and don’t see themselves as worthy of love. If you notice any of these red flags, make an effort to reach out and help.