21 Things People Don't Realize You're Doing Because You Survived an Abusive Childhood

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.

It’s been said before that “no one escapes childhood unscathed.” But sayings like these can have an especially significant meaning for folks who had an abusive childhood. The effects of experiencing abuse growing up can be both debilitating and far-reaching, often extending out of childhood and into adolescence and adulthood. For many, experiencing abuse at a young age can affect their self-worth and relationships. For some, emotional abuse may even have contributed to a current struggle with mental illness.

We wanted to know what kinds of effects childhood abuse can have on adulthood, so we asked our Mighty community to share one thing they do now that stemmed from the abuse they experienced growing up.

No matter what your experience of childhood abuse was, it is important to remember hope is never lost and there is help out there.

Here’s what our community had to say:

1. Dissociating

“I didn’t realize growing up that I disassociated from almost everything because it was easier, and I still do it now. I always sit in the back corners if possible because I have to be able to see everyone around me, and I need to be able to leave quickly if possible.” — Arianna J.

2. Being Too Self-Critical

I’m very hard and self critical of myself because my whole life I was treated as though I didn’t matter and that I’m not good enough. Unfortunately I’ve carried on that negativity because it had been so prominent in my life.” — Kaitlyn M.

3. Constantly Apologizing

Constantly apologizing for everything. It’s not because I’m really sorry I said something, it’s because I don’t want to be yelled at for having an opinion.” — Marie V.

Apologize for things that aren’t my fault. Avoid confrontation at any and all costs. I also constantly stay busy, because if I’m busy, nobody can accuse me of being lazy.” — Marie T.

4. Taking Care of Everyone Else

“[I] take care of everyone, work in special education and mental health trying to take care of everyone like I wish someone had taken care of me.” — Becky O.

“I go out of my way to help others, build them up when they’re having a bad day, remind them they are loved.” — Stine S.

5. Shutting Down When Conflict Arises

“I instantly back down and cower if someone says something too loudly or gestures too exuberantly. If someone’s working on something frustrating I become very anxious that they’ll lash out.” — Courtney L.

6. Being a “People-Pleaser”

“I feel the need to please the people around me and be everyone’s favorite. Even if people tell me they are happy and like me, I have a hard time believing them. People don’t realize I try so hard because I was emotionally abused as a child (not by my parents but by a caregiver). Even my family doesn’t recognize the source of this behavior and I have been ridiculed for it. I’m not sure if I will ever be able to fully stop this, but I am getting better at accepting I cannot make everyone happy or like me.” — Mallory B.

“People-pleasing to avoid conflicts.” — Priscilla G.

7. Having Trouble Making Decisions

“[I’m] unable to make decisions… because I always had to listen to instructions, and now I don’t even trust my own decision-making. Big life choices are terrifying.” — Rachel W.

8. Pushing People Away

“I push everyone away and sabotage every relationship because I have never felt worthy of love. Having love held from you as child sets you up for trust issues, abandonment and much more. I’m just a hot mess looking to wake up the next day hoping someone will accept me for who I am. I just want to be happy being me without the guilt and shame of my never ending black hole I desperately want to get out of.” — Keelie V.

9. Refusing Compliments

I only started accepting compliments after my psychiatrist taught me how to in my mid 20s. I felt uncomfortable when someone complimented me because I was uncomfortable with the attention and I struggled to believe I really was good at something.” — Rebecca K.

10. Being Dependent on a Significant Other

“Becoming overly attached to my significant other.” — Bridget D.

11. Assuming the Role of “Peacemaker”

I became a complete peacemaker in all my relationships. I will try to defuse any hostility by cracking a joke or by offering to mediate for people, depending on the severity of the argument.” — Katy T.

12. Needing Constant Validation

“Endless need for validation. It doesn’t matter how many times people tell me they love me or I’ve done a good job, I always feel like either they aren’t telling the truth or it’s just barely good enough.” — Monika S.

13. Being “Ultra” Responsible

I am ultra-responsible and I handle everything. In part because the only one I could count on was myself, and in part because I knew I would be blamed if anything went wrong, even if it wasn’t my fault.” — Vicki P.

14. Always Being “on Defense”

“I’ve always been incredibly defensive and still am. I was always ignored, abused, shushed and talked over. So I’m always very wary in social situations — always defensive.” — Cherry R.

I’m very overprotective of others and tend to go straight on the defensive/aggressive without giving the other person a chance to get in there first.” — Rebecca C.

15. Not Being Able to Say “No”

Not having the strength or courage to say ‘no.’” — Daniel N.

16. Being Hypervigilant

“Being hyper-vigilant in anticipation of anything that could go wrong so as to avoid criticism and blame or to bring attention to myself.” — Kathy M.

17. Disliking Physical Touch

I dislike being touched by people.” — Annie H.

18. Overplanning

“Excessively plan for the absolute worst. Better to be prepared than to be caught off guard.” — Codi W.

19. Seeming “Shy” or Quiet

“Staying quiet constantly. Speaking up meant getting beat, but staying quiet meant we would survive another day.” — Falina B.

“Being ‘shy.’ I’m not shy. I’m just terrified of people thinking everything I say is a lie or a put on.” — Jesse L.

20. Avoiding Eye Contact

“Avoid eye contact with everyone and stare at the floor… You’re scared they’ll see the bottomless pit of misery pooling behind your eyes and run away…” — Chloe C.

21. Canceling Plans

“I cancel plans and obligations without realizing that seeing me was important to the other person. I have this fundamental belief that my presence is a burden and spending time with me requires sacrifice for other people. It’s gotten me into trouble when the person was looking forward to seeing me and I canceled on them just assuming they wouldn’t mind.” — Melanie F.

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