17 Things People Don't Realize You're Doing Because You Had an Emotionally Abusive Father


Editor's Note

If you have experienced emotional abuse, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

For many people, the word “dad” can conjure up a host of glowing adjectives — “strong,” “steadfast,” “supportive.” At least, those are the kinds of things we are taught to believe fathers should be.

But what if growing up, your dad was anything but?

What if instead of loving and providing for you, your father was emotionally abusive?

It’s no secret that growing up in an emotionally abusive environment can leave psychological scars that often endure long into adulthood. When your abuser was your father — one of the most important adult figures in many households — the impact can be devastating.

We wanted to know what kinds of effects growing up with an emotionally abusive father can have on adulthood, so we asked our mental health community to share one thing they do now that stemmed from their experience with their own fathers.

No matter what kind of abuse someone experienced in childhood, it can be hard to navigate life in adulthood when your worldview and personhood were informed by an abusive upbringing. And while it doesn’t ever excuse abusive behavior, it’s important to note that parents who abuse their children don’t usually set out to become abusers — and were sometimes abused themselves in childhood.

Here’s what our community shared with us:

  1. “I invalidate my own emotions. So many times, my emotions were ‘wrong’ and I had ‘no right to be upset’ and I wouldn’t have felt like this ‘if I had just made a different decision.’ I’m now going to therapy and have learned that I have a lot of pent up anger, rage, sadness and anxiety that I have no clue how to express in a more constructive way.”
  2.  “I latch onto any guy that treats me better than I was used to. And they might be doing the bare minimum to be honest.”
  3. “[I’m] very insecure and I have a really hard time trusting men in general. I can’t connect with them in fear that they will turn around and do the same thing my father did to me and my mom. I find it hard to trust people in general, but men specifically. Being around someone who was so unpredictable can really cause a person to shut down and close off to anyone that shows the slightest interest.”
  4. “I overanalyze everything and even when I’m validated and appreciated, I don’t believe it. My husband gets so incredibly frustrated. But I’m soooo used to being put down.”
  5. “I cry whenever someone yells at me. I can’t stand being around people who are having an escalating (aggressive) argument, even if it’s just two random people out in public yards away from me. I have a hard time saying ‘no’ to absolutely anything. Avoidance of men in general.”
  6.  “I get really clingy and have a very hard time noticing if I’m actually being abused or not and end up being scared of the relationship and leaving.”
  7. “I apologize for everything and I flinch if someone raises a hand just to point at something. I shut down and distance myself from anybody if I feel like I’m not doing anything right to their standards. I avoid as much as I possibly can by either shutting down or going somewhere away from situations.”
  8. “I always feel unsure of myself around large groups of people. I feel as though I’m being judged by others. Keeps me at home most of the time.”
  9. “I hate having to learn how to do new things. I constantly think I’m going to fail because I always failed at things growing up.” — Laura P.
  10. “I learned to walk silently (even in boots) because I used to get screamed at for ‘stomping around’ (a.k.a. walking normally like most people would). So now I clear my throat, yawn or make some other small noise when I enter a room to avoid accidentally scaring people.”
  11. “Holding my breath when people start being loud in case it becomes a conflict. Making myself as small as I can when people start becoming angry.”
  12. “I blame myself for everything, which causes me to apologize for everything even if it’s out of my control. I can’t handle being yelled at, I have panic attacks when I’m yelled at. I try to be as non-confrontational as possible no matter how angry I get, which is saying a lot because I’m constantly angry.”
  13. “I find that I push people away to see if they’ll stick around. Then, if they do, I become far too clingy, needy and terrified to lose them, because I can’t be alone. Also, I apologize for everything even when it’s not my fault, and I don’t believe I’m worthy of being loved.”
  14. “I won’t look anyone in the eyes while walking. It’s mostly men, but I avoid eye contact even when talking to most men.”
  15. “I’m pretty emotionless.. I can fake it really well, but I notice more and more it’s not there… at all… about anything…”
  16. “I shut down, cry and have panic attacks when anyone yells at me or am faced with a certain amount of conflict.”
  17. “I walk on egg shells around my spouse. Expecting to be shouted at for not doing something perfectly right. He never has given me any reason to be that way but I know it stems from having an emotionally abusive father.”

If this is your experience, know you are not alone. You can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. A list of local resources can be found here.

Getty Images photo via Yalana


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