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19 Ways Childhood Emotional Abuse Affects Your Mental Health as an Adult

Experiencing emotional abuse in the formative years of childhood can be incredibly damaging to a child’s mental health. Unfortunately, the effects of early emotional abuse often do not stay confined to the period of time when they occurred. The effects can be debilitating and far-reaching, often creeping into adult life in ways we may not expect — much less want.

What happens exactly when emotional abuse from childhood follows you into adulthood? And what happens if your experiences contributed to a present struggle with mental illness?

We wanted to know the effects of experiencing childhood emotional abuse, so we asked our mental health community to share how emotional abuse in their upbringing affects their present mental health.

If your experience with childhood emotional abuse has contributed to challenges you face now, please know help is available.


Here’s what they shared with us:

1. “[I have] very low self-confidence, [have been in] toxic relationships [and experience the] feeling of being never enough… Currently I’m battling with depression and eating disorders.”

2. “I overanalyze every situation, what I did wrong and what I could’ve done better. My self-esteem is shot, my self-confidence is minimal. I question people’s intentions about everything and have a difficult time trusting others because of it, which causes extreme anxiety quite often.”

3. “When I get yelled at, I start to panic and will sometimes have a panic attack. This is mostly because my mother was unstable when I was young and would yell at me very often… It definitely attributed to my anxiety today.”

4. “I can’t do anything without apologizing for it. I’m constantly fearful of and waiting for people to abandon me. The constant anxiety makes me physically sick. If someone seems even the slightest bit annoyed or disappointed in me, I burst into tears. I feel deeply emotionally attached to anyone that offers me any emotional comfort, as if it can make up for what I’ve lost.”

5. “On top of emotional abuse, I was also sexually abused, so that probably has compounded my problems. I had very low self-esteem, trust issues, eating disorders, feelings of worthlessness, [I] obsessed with perfection, [had] anxiety, depression [and] suicidal ideation and [also] abused alcohol — all of which carried over into my adult years… I have made great strides in the past five years or so. I no longer use alcohol to cope and I have gotten out of a toxic marriage. Some days are worse than others, but for the most part, I have learned how to cope with everything in healthy ways. I still deal with not feeling like I am good enough and I second guess myself a lot. Some days I need more reassurance. When the bad days come and anxiety or depression creep in, I know it won’t be around forever. My faith in God and my church family have been instrumental in my growth and healing. I know my worth now, even if I sometimes need reminding of it. My past still affects me, but I no longer allow it to define me.”

6. “I can’t trust anyone. I internalized it and learned to hate myself. I learned to believe all the things they said about me. I have anger issues. I can’t get close to anyone. I fear being around people. As a result of it all I can’t work. I live with almost constant anxiety.”


19 Ways Childhood Emotional Abuse Affects Your Mental Health as an Adult