The Impact of Emotional Neglect on Mental Health

emotional neglect May 20, 2024

By: Katie Honeywell, LPC

EMDRIA Consultant

Emotional neglect often goes unnoticed and can have a significant impact on an individual's mental health. This can be a form of abuse, but can also exist with well-intentioned caregivers who lack necessary skills. It occurs when a person's emotional needs are consistently not met, often leading to feelings of vigilance, loneliness, and inadequacy. Let’s dig a little deeper into the impact of emotional neglect on mental health and the importance of addressing this issue to promote overall well-being. 

Neglect can have long-lasting effects on an individual's health. It can lead to a range of mental health issues including depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, complex trauma, and difficulties forming healthy relationships. 

Examples of emotional neglect:

  • A child who grows up in a household where emotional needs are consistently ignored, dismissed, or gaslighted.
  • The absence of feeling, naming, and support in navigating the information that we can gain from our emotions.
  • Disregard for someone’s autonomy and boundaries.

By understanding the impact of emotional neglect on mental health, we can work towards creating a supportive environment that promotes emotional well-being.

  1. Emotional neglect can significantly contribute to the development of mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. If someone is unable to understand and work through big emotions growing up, it can cause internalized feelings of worthlessness and inadequacy, leading to a negative self-image and persistent feelings of sadness or anxiety.
  2. Emotional neglect can also impact an individual's ability to form healthy relationships. Without a strong foundation of emotional support during childhood, individuals may struggle to trust others, communicate their needs effectively, and establish boundaries in relationships. 
  3. Low self esteem: When individuals do not receive validation and support for their emotions and experiences, they may begin to doubt their own value and capabilities. This can lead to a cycle of negative self-talk and self-doubt, impacting various aspects of their lives, including work, relationships, and overall well-being.
  4. A person who has experienced emotional neglect may develop ineffective coping mechanisms such as substance abuse or self-harm.

Every person's experience is unique, thus the list could go on. If you have experienced emotional neglect and want to learn more, seek out mental health treatment. Try out the EMDRIA therapist search tool. To support your clients, reach out to learn more about implementing EMDR in your clinical practice.


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