I grew up believing that I was stupid, couldn’t do anything right, that I was never good enough, that mistakes weren’t allowed and that I had to be perfect. I was constantly put down and criticized, my accomplishments went unrecognized, I attended events alone that were important to me and never had parents who took part in my life at all.
This was rung number 3 on the Complex PTSD ladder. I had no self-esteem at all and I was shy and very introverted as a child growing up. Verbal and emotional abuse was rampant in my dysfunctional home and praise and acceptance was absent. In fact I don’t even believe that my family ever knew me or knows me to this day, that’s how little they paid attention.
I lived in fear of the next verbal assault, constantly walking on egg shells, constantly on the look-out for mood changes and spent a lot of time in my room to get away from it all. I took solace in reading quietly on my own most days and lost myself in places and characters just to escape my reality for a while. I felt unloved, not seen or heard almost like I was invisible. Living in a constant state of fear every day takes its toll on the body, I remember having trouble sleeping even as a young teen and most days feeling exhausted. I remember never feeling comfortable in my own body and thinking that there was always something wrong with me, most of all I remember feeling lonely in my own home.
Luckily I have healed those wounds and I now know I am worthy, there is nothing wrong with me, I am intelligent, I am beautiful and most of all I have a beautiful heart. I learned to give myself the emotional support and love that I need and took the time to find out who I really was.
What Is Emotional Abuse?
“Emotional abuse of a child is commonly defined as a pattern of behavior by parents or caregivers that can seriously interfere with a child’s cognitive, emotional, psychological or social development. Emotional abuse of a child — also referred to as psychological maltreatment — can include:
- Ignoring. Either physically or psychologically, the parent or caregiver is not present to respond to the child. He or she may not look at the child and may not call the child by name.
- Rejecting. This is an active refusal to respond to a child’s needs (e.g., refusing to touch a child, denying the needs of a child, ridiculing a child).
- Isolating. The parent or caregiver consistently prevents the child from having normal social interactions with peers, family members and adults. This also may include confining the child or limiting the child’s freedom of movement.
- Exploiting or corrupting. In this kind of abuse, a child is taught, encouraged or forced to develop inappropriate or illegal behaviors. It may involve self-destructive or antisocial acts of the parent or caregiver, such as teaching a child how to steal or forcing a child into prostitution.
- Verbally assaulting. This involves constantly belittling, shaming, ridiculing or verbally threatening the child.
- Terrorizing. Here, the parent or caregiver threatens or bullies the child and creates a climate of fear for the child. Terrorizing can include placing the child or the child’s loved one (such as a sibling, pet or toy) in a dangerous or chaotic situation, or placing rigid or unrealistic expectations on the child with threats of harm if they are not met.
- Neglecting the child. This abuse may include educational neglect, where a parent or caregiver fails or refuses to provide the child with necessary educational services; mental health neglect, where the parent or caregiver denies or ignores a child’s need for treatment for psychological problems; or medical neglect, where a parent or caregiver denies or ignores a child’s need for treatment for medical problems.”
The Effects of Verbal Abuse on Children:
“The effects of verbal abuse on children, women and men follow the same general principle: verbal abuse causes people to feel fear. However, victims may deny or not recognize their anxiety and feelings of wanting to get away as fear of the abuser.
When the victim feels kindness or love from the abuser, they know that it is short-lived and abuse will re-occur. Victims live in a constant state of hyper-awareness, watching for clues of impending abuse. Victims can’t trust the smile of someone they love, and that is a very big deal.”
“The report suggests that, when verbal abuse is constant and severe, it creates a risk of post-traumatic stress disorder, the same type of psychological collapse experienced by combat troops in Iraq. The research on which the report is based points out that children who are the target of frequent verbal mistreatment exhibit higher rates of physical aggression, delinquency, and social problems than other children.”
“The victims of psychological maltreatment suffered from anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, post-traumatic stress disorder, and suicidal tendencies at the same rate — and in some cases, an even greater rate — than those physically or sexually abused. Joseph Spinazzola, who lead the study, points out that since psychological abuse has no physical wounds associated with it, child protective case workers have a particularly hard time recognizing it.”
We may think words don’t harm, but when they’re constant put downs, criticisms and verbal assaults in atmosphere that creates fear: they cut into the soul of a child that can wound for life.