15 Signs Someone Was Emotionally Abused by Their Parents

The scars of emotional abuse can be invisible, lingering beneath the surface and impacting us long after childhood. Unlike physical abuse, emotional abuse can be subtle, cleverly disguised, and sometimes even mistaken for normal parenting. But its effects are just as damaging. Here are a few common signs that signify you were emotionally abused by your parents: 

1. Constant Criticism 

Mother Upset with Child.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Parents with emotionally abusive traits tend to criticize everything you do without understanding your efforts or intentions behind it. Due to this behavior, you might feel unworthy, and feelings of never being enough also stem from it. It eventually leads to low self-esteem and confidence, which may affect multiple other areas of your life. 

2. Gaslighting 

Upset woman yelling at teenager on couch
Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Gaslighting refers to your parents making you believe that certain events did not happen or your emotions are completely invalid. It can lead you to doubt your memory and sanity alike, and you may depend on the abuser for reality checks. Moreover, this manifests in seeking validation from others later in life. 

3. Extra Control 

Son annoyed with mother.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Emotional abuse by parents can also take the form of micromanagement, where they dictate and supervise your daily activities, even when you are old enough. They actively make major life decisions for you without considering your own will. This aspect significantly hinders your growth, and you will usually feel dependent on others throughout your life. 

4. Unpredictable Reactions 

Photo Credit: Adobe Stock.

You may describe your life as walking on eggshells if you had emotionally abusive parents. It's majorly because you don't know which action could trigger their anger, leading to unwanted reactions. This unpredictability in behavior is one of the major reasons you might face increased stress and anxiety. 

5. Favoritism 

Man smiling at coffee shop
Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Although a subtle form of emotional abuse, favoritism by parents can deeply impact your mental state; as an unfavored kid, you may struggle with low self-esteem. Moreover, you might also face trust issues and a chronic need for validation. Besides, it could even give birth to sibling rivalry, extending into long-lasting conflicts between you and your brothers/sisters. 

6. Disrespecting Boundaries

Worried Man with Child in background
Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

When parents constantly violate your personal space, it can lead to a sense of insecurity. This could be entering your room without permission, reading your diaries, or making decisions on your behalf. If you faced this in childhood, you will likely have difficulties establishing healthy boundaries in your relationships now. 

7. Anxious When Expressing Needs 

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

If you went through emotional abuse by your parents, you would develop a hesitation or fear in expressing your needs or desires to others. The major reason behind this is an unfortunate history where your caretakers dismissed your physical and emotional requirements or even punished you for having them. Consequently, it might make you feel that your needs are unimportant and that you would burden others by expressing them. 

8. Passive or Aggressive Communication 

Father And Daughter Discussing Basketball On Porch Of Home.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Do you have problems maintaining healthy communication in your daily life? This issue most likely stems from having emotionally abusive parents. In this scenario, you would either be passive or go completely aggressive, struggling to find a common ground. As a passive communicator, you may avoid expressing your thoughts or feelings. Contrarily, aggressive communication often leads to responding with anger and dominance. 

9. Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms 

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

If you have developed unhealthy coping mechanisms, it’s a huge sign that you had emotionally abusive parents. This means that you often choose the wrong ways to manage intense feelings of stress, emotional pain, and anxiety. Precisely, you may get involved in overeating, substance abuse, gambling, or any such risky behavior. 

10. Parentified Behavior 

Upset Mother and Daughter
Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Parentification refers to taking on the responsibilities of an adult from a young age. It usually happens due to role reversal, where you had to care for your parents or siblings in your childhood. This would have put you in significant emotional and psychological trouble, and you may struggle with focusing on yourself now. 

11. Fear of Abandonment

Photo Credit: Adobe Stock.

Emotionally abusive parents can cause you to persistently worry about being left all alone. This becomes rooted in your personality and may manifest as fear of abandonment. Due to an unstable relationship with your parents, you may remain anxious, always thinking that any moment of conflict could lead your loved ones to leave you. 

Ready to make your first budget?

Enter your email and get the free template

12. Emotional Numbness 

Sad woman sitting at a table.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Emotional numbness, or the difficulty in feeling or expressing emotions, can be a protective measure you may develop in response to the emotional pain caused by your parents. By experiencing this, you learn to disconnect from your emotions as a way to cope with the harsh, unpredictable, or hostile emotional environment created by your caregivers. This detachment serves as a defense mechanism to shield yourself from further emotional hurt or trauma.

13. Perfectionism 

Photo Credit: Adobe Stock.

When your guardians constantly criticize you, you start believing that making mistakes is some sort of a crime you shall never commit. Due to this, you might start striving for perfect performance in all aspects of life to avoid disapproval of others. However, this could stress you out as you start setting unrealistic expectations for yourself. 

14. People-Pleasing 

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

If you are a people pleaser, the behavior can be traced back to being emotionally abused by your parents. You might possess this trait with a desire to avoid conflict or get the approval of others. You perceived that only satisfying your parent’s commands could maintain peace in the house at an early age, which shaped your future personality into someone who struggles to say no to others' demands. 

15. Chronic Indecision

Man with confused expression talking to a woman.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Chronic indecision may develop if you grew up in an environment where mistakes led to severe punishments and criticism. The fear of potential negative consequences can instill a hesitation to make decisions. Therefore, you may obsess over finding the ‘perfect' choice to avoid any possibility of error.

“Trust Shattered” No One Will Ever Trust You Again If You Do These 10 Things

Photo Credit: Adobe Stock.

Trust forms the foundation of any healthy and meaningful relationship. The delicate thread binds individuals together, fostering openness, vulnerability, and a sense of security. However, trust can be fragile and easily shattered by certain behaviors and actions. Recently people shared some of the fastest ways to lose trust in others.

How I make $11,000 per year renting out my spare rooms?

Get access to my FREE guide now.

“What Were Boomers Thinking?” 10 Cringe-Worthy Modern Things Future Generations Will Wonder About

Love, hiking and portrait of old couple holding hands on nature walk in mountain forest.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

As time moves forward, certain practices, beliefs, and customs become outdated, irrelevant, or downright embarrassing to look back on. Now we will explore the opinions of various individuals about the current state of affairs and how people in the future might look back on them with disbelief. 

“Blood Clots Are Unpredictable?” 20 Breathtaking Scientific Facts That Don't Seem Real

Photo Credit: Adobe Stock.

Are you ready for a scare? Buckle up for a ride through some of the scariest scientific facts out there.

“Yes, Everyone Has A Gallon Of That” 10 Weird Things Foreigners Believe Everyone in American Has

Image Credit: Adobe Stock.

“Is America The Best Country?” 20 Terrible Things About The USA Many Don't Want to Accept

Image Credit: Shutterstock.

The American culture is diverse and unique, but some aspects of it can take time to accept by people from other countries. Recently on an online platform, people have shared their thoughts on some of the challenging aspects of American cultures, such as casual debt, limited vacation time, school mascots, zero-tolerance policies, and more.


How I make $11,000 per year renting out my spare rooms?

Get access to my FREE guide now.