Susan Macklam

@susan-macklam | contributor
I’m almost 51 years old, on the outside at least. Have still not decided what I want to be when I grow up, because it hasn’t happened yet. I live in the UK with an elderly Christmas Cactus and a very new budgerigar for whom I feel terrifyingly responsible. And yes, I rely on silliness to divert attention from the fact I am a Cromwellian ruin of a woman, inside and out.
Chris Alter

Misconceptions About Dissociative Identity Disorder

There are a lot of misconceptions about dissociative identity disorder (DID). Here are some common ones I’ve heard: 1. “DID is so rare, you can’t possibly have it!” It isn’t actually as rare as you may think. The ISSTD (International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation) accept that up to one to three percent of the general population have DID, this is roughly the same amount of people who possess the “ginger” gene! 2. “If you really had DID, you wouldn’t know about your alters!” It’s fairly common for those with DID to know about their alters. Many report hearing others talking inside and can be aware of other “selves,” even in childhood. Many individuals will not remember what they have been doing for periods of time and can behave completely out of character. This is an extremely confusing experience, especially prior to receiving psychiatric support. Internal communication between alters is often worked on and improved through therapy. 3. “Do you have an evil alter? I’ve heard people with DID are dangerous!” This is a common misconception which isn’t helped by media portrayals of “split personalities” like the characters Jekyll and Hyde and sensationalized films like the 2017 movie, “Split.” Those with DID (like most mental illnesses) are more likely to be a danger to themselves, not others. There are no evil alters. There can be destructive alters, but they need the same amount of compassion as any other member of the system! 4. “You can develop DID as an adult!” The only possible time that DID can form is in early childhood, generally accepted to be before age of six and nine at the latest, because normal personality development that occurs at this age is interrupted by trauma. Traumatic experiences that occur later than this age can lead to other conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but not DID. 5. “DID is the same as schizophrenia !” They are two very different disorders. According to the ISSTD, DID is a dissociative disorder developed through chronic childhood trauma and characterized by “the presence of two or more distinct identities or personality states that recurrently take control of the individual’s behavior, accompanied by an inability to recall important personal information that is too extensive to be explained by ordinary forgetfulness.” Schizophrenia, on the other hand, is a psychotic disorder potentially caused by a number of factors including genetics, biology of the brain and stress. It is characterized by delusions, hallucinations, paranoia, disorganized speech, etc. which causes significant social or occupational dysfunction. 6. “DID isn’t real! Stop pretending!” DID is very real and there is a lot of evidence supporting it. Despite this, it remains a controversial diagnosis to some professionals. Despite having a diagnosis of DID, a psychiatrist on an acute psychiatric ward once told me it doesn’t exist, that I was lying and it is “the stuff of Hollywood movies!” Stigma surrounding this disorder can unfortunately sometimes include professionals, despite DID being a recognized psychological condition in diagnostic manuals worldwide. 7. “You can’t have DID, I would have noticed!” Often switches between alters are not obvious to those who don’t know what to look for. If you know someone with DID well, you may notice slight differences in body language, vocal differences, differences in handwriting, differences in vocabulary etc. that would otherwise go unnoticed. When DID develops in childhood, it is to protect the child from trauma and allow them to have as normal a childhood as possible. It is meant to go unnoticed. 8. “Everyone has multiple personalities!” Everyone has different aspects of their personality and different sides to themselves that are needed in different circumstances and at different times. Alter personalities are not just representations of different emotions but dissociated parts of the personality that have their own identities including their own age, gender, interests, dislikes, opinions and ways of interacting with the world. Alters only exist in DID and OSDD (otherwise specified dissociative disorder) and are not developed consciously. As mentioned, they develop as a result of repetitive and severe trauma in early childhood. 9. “You can’t have more than five alters, that’s just not possible!” The size of a DID system depends completely on the individual and their needs. Once DID develops as a child’s coping mechanism, it may continue and further splits may occur throughout life in times of trauma or extreme stress. The diagnostic criteria only specifies that there must be “two or more” alters and there are cases of hundreds of alters within one body (polyfragmented DID, which is often a result of more organized and extreme abuse). 10. “Switching always causes complete amnesia!” While there is often “lost time” experienced by those living with DID (also called dissociative amnesia), co-consciousness can also occur. This is when more than one member of the system is experiencing the external world at the same time and they are aware of each other’s presence. 11. “You can’t have non human alters!” Non human alters are fairly common and recognized by professionals. There are several reasons why non human alters may develop, for example, if a child is treated like an animal or if they identify with animals more than humans as “friends” or protectors. 12. “Integration is the only way to treat DID!” Despite this being the “aim” of therapy in the past, a lot of professionals now recognize this isn’t the only treatment option for those with DID. Improving cooperation and harmonious coexisting of alters is often the main therapeutic goal. 13. “People with DID can’t function or lead a normal life!” The prognosis of DID is actually quite positive, with many people successfully pursuing careers and having families. Like with other mental illnesses, recovery takes time, may include a number of treatment options and is an ongoing process. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Thinkstock photo via bruniewska.

Community Voices

Celebrate your small wins here 🎉

<p>Celebrate your small wins here 🎉</p>
276 people are talking about this
Madelyn Chung

I Have Depression and I Showered Today

I showered today. To you, it may not seem like a big deal, but to me, it marks being able to actually start my day, even if that means starting my day at 2 p.m. It means finally getting out of bed, finally making strides to get out of my apartment. It means finally stopping with the mindless scrolling on my phone, watching other people’s lives while I try to forget about mine, and then falling asleep until I wake up, only to scroll again. The cycle goes on several times and soon, I see the sun starting to set and I get even more angry at myself for wasting the day. I showered today. And I even washed my hair. To you, this may seem like necessary personal hygiene. To me, it marks self-care. Self-care isn’t always masks and epsom salt baths — to me, self-care is actually being able to push myself to get in the shower and to wash away the bubble I have placed myself in. That bubble of depression and dark feelings that gets dirty and cloudy on the inside, making it harder and harder to see clearly and escape. The grime builds up, the bubble gets darker and soon, you can’t get yourself out. Getting to the shower marks a win. Being able to cleanse my body of the bubble marks a fresh start. Washing my hair is almost like further determination to get rid of those dark feelings and move forward. I showered today. I even put on makeup. I feel hopeful. I exit the shower, freshly cleansed and feeling more capable of handling whatever is left of the day. I put on a fresh pair of clothes — not sweats — to inspire myself to get outside. I dry my hair, put on some makeup, and once I leave my apartment, I feel free of all of the darkness. I showered today. To you, it may not be a big deal. But to me, it’s a small and necessary victory. This story originally appeared on Madelyn’s site.

Heidi Fischer

7 Reasons You Haven't Heard From a Friend With Mental Illness

If you’ve decided to read this writing, my guess is you likely have someone in your life who has a mental illness and who also disappears. You might be aware that yes, this vanishing takes place, but perhaps you don’t know the why. Conversely, it could be that you are the person who takes flight, and you’d like a little help with finding the words to explain this phenomenon. Well, never fear, I am here to help with unraveling this mystery. Or at least as the self-proclaimed expert on disappearing acts, I’d like to suggest some themes I’ve noticed are pretty common. So let’s go ahead and get started. 1. “I don’t have enough energy for other people.” When folks are mentally unwell, every ounce of energy may be going into the basic activities required for living. It can feel like we have no energy left for anything “extra” like seeing a friend. 2. “People are better off without me around.” We may believe that we have nothing to offer, that we have no good qualities, or that no one misses us anyways. Likewise, we may feel like we are too much of a “downer” or will bring down the mood. 3. “I can’t fulfill societal norms.” We may feel overwhelmed by the idea of needing to perform in a certain way. Small talk, smiling, making eye contact, being dressed appropriately. All of this may just be too much for us right now. 4. “I can’t control my emotions.” We may be experiencing panic attacks, crying fits, or other things we don’t really want others to see. We may be afraid of “causing a scene,” doing something embarrassing, or that we will be judged or ridiculed. 5. “I feel embarrassed.” It could be we haven’t washed our hair for a week, our house may be extremely messy, or perhaps we feel shame that things have “gotten bad again” after being well for a period of time. 6. “I don’t know what to say.” We may feel like a broken record, or that we just don’t know how to explain things. Maybe it isn’t typical for someone of our race, gender, etc. to talk about this. Perhaps our memory and concentration are bad and we can’t find our words. Maybe we tried to talk about this in the past and received a bad reaction. 7. “It’s been too long.” We may want to reconnect but have decided our absence was too lengthy. We may feel reaching out will be too awkward or that you will have moved on and not be interested in us any more. We may think you are angry with us or don’t like us. In truth, I created this list based off my own experience of disappearing because of my mental illnesses and I also included some of the reasons I’ve heard from friends. Like most things in life, the reasons behind why people disappear can vary and be complex. Your situation may be missing or the explanations may be wrong for your circumstance. That’s OK, simply use it as a guide, and fill in the missing information. Lastly I would like offer some suggestions on how to be helpful to those of us who are “disappearers” as truth of the matter is we likely do need some human connection. You can: Continue to invite us to things. Directly tell us you enjoy who we are. Be a low pressure nonjudgmental friend. Educate yourself on our conditions. Ask us to join you in your errands, encourage us with ours. Send little texts, memes, postcards. Give some space at times if need be. Ask us what we need. And above all else be patient! Are your reasons for disappearing on this list? Did this  help you to understand someone who disappears, or give you an idea of how you may support them? Other thoughts or comments, please share below! If you enjoyed this article, please take a moment to check out some of my other articles here on The Mighty. If you’d like to follow along with my journey, you can find me on Instagram as @mentalhealthyxe.

Community Voices

When a Rheumatologist Said I'm 'Not Sick Enough' for Treatment

My body is nearly always in constant pain. On my good days, I only feel it protest just a little and can almost forget that I have pain at all. On my bad days though… Well, it could mean every time I stand and need to walk there’s pain generating through what feels like every muscle. This has been my reality for a few years now, but this past year, it’s been much worse. There were activities I had to limit or stop doing altogether. I suddenly became self-conscious of how often I heard myself complain about the pain my body felt. I knew just by the change in frequency of not only being aware of it, but talking about it, that I needed some relief. I would try everything from ice to heat to massages to help, and sometimes those things would provide some relief. It was never lasting relief, though. The pain was still present and only disappeared on the rare day here and there. Even now, I’m aware of the pain. I promised myself 2020 would be the year I would put me first. That included tackling the mountain that was my health. I had put it off for far too long due to things like inadequate health insurance, being too busy, taking care of others, and honestly because of fear. Chronic illness runs in my family — I was afraid of what the doctor would say. But despite those things, including delays due to COVID-19, I took the leap and started climbing that mountain. Cue the start of doctor appointment after appointment, test after test, and no real answers. My primary care promised that she and I will work as a team to find out what exactly is causing me to be in pain, that I won’t be alone in this. She wrote a referral to send me to a rheumatologist — one of a few other specialists — pending a suspected fibromyalgia diagnosis. That was months ago. I was not adequately prepared for the frustration and stress trying to get a referral to be approved. Four rheumatology specialists have declined to take my case thus far: three due to not accepting my insurance (even though my insurance company listed them in-network) and the other stating that I “wasn’t sick enough.” I was sitting at home one evening recently, trying to come back from a beyond stressful day that had left me reeling, when my doctor’s office called. I truly didn’t need this call just then, even if the lady on the other end was beyond sweet and understanding. The office had called to tell me their most recent attempt at getting a rheumatologist set up to help diagnose the reason behind my pain was unsuccessful. Again. This time, however, wasn’t because they didn’t take my insurance; it was because the rheumatologist who looked at my case said he wouldn’t work with me. “The doctor there said… he’s saying you’re not sick enough and won’t take your case. I’m sorry, I know how frustrating that has to be to hear,” the nurse told me. “Frustrating” was definitely one of the many emotions I felt in that moment. I instantly wanted to scream, not at her, but at this doctor. I have been living with this pain for years; he only glanced at a file with my name on it. Getting help to combat feeling sick took time and effort on my part; it seemed he just carelessly threw me aside. Although it stated I was struggling with widespread pain, it didn’t say that sometimes it gets so bad that I cry. Cry out of pain, out of frustration, out of feeling stuck in this body that I try not to resent on the worst pain days. Fibromyalgia (what my primary care suspects I may have) is an invisible illness. If appearing sick is what I’d need for a diagnosis, then I’d never look sick enough to most people. Complicating this more is the fact I grew up in an environment that demanded I’d never complain, even about things like feeling unwell. I’ve learned how to put on a brave face most of my life. Still, a brave face doesn’t mean pain isn’t present, no matter how good a person is at hiding that pain. The nurse promised to keep looking for another doctor before she went home that evening, and for that, I was grateful and honestly touched. She stayed late that evening to tackle this mountain with me. I’m still climbing the mountain that is my health. I’ve had “baby steps,” as my primary care doctor likes to call it, in the right direction, and we’re not giving up this fight for answers. Being in between a diagnosis while also being in pain is no fun. It’s stressful, overwhelming and defeating on some days, but it’s also proof of how strong we are for searching for answers and solutions and the determination that comes with that. That’s another thing the doctor wouldn’t have seen on that referral — my determination to find some answers and get my diagnosis.

Community Voices

I might “fake” a smile because...

<p>I might “fake” a smile because...</p>
436 people are talking about this
Juliette V.

Honest Pictures That Show the 'Embarrassing' Side of Depression

When you live with a health condition, oftentimes there are some unwanted or “embarrassing” symptoms you have to learn to live with. This can be especially true when you are struggling with depression. Maybe you can’t remember the last time you showered, and dry shampoo just isn’t covering it up anymore. Maybe your laundry has piled up so much that just looking at it makes you exhausted. Or maybe your emotions feel out of your control, and you can’t stop them from coming out in the “wrong” way at the “wrong” time. No matter what your experience of “embarrassing” depression symptoms looks like, we want you to know you aren’t alone. The only way we can break the shame and stigma surrounding “embarrassing” symptoms of depression is to talk about them, so we asked our mental health community to share one photo that shows an “embarrassing” part of depression they struggle with. Before we begin, we want to preface by saying that feelings of embarrassment are very real, and like all feelings, are completely valid. But even though it’s natural to feel embarrassed sometimes, we want you to know it’s more than OK not to be OK and there is no shame in struggling with depression. Here are the photos our community shared with us: 1. “This is me at least once a day usually. Never know what will be the cause that day. But this is the me no one sees. I’ve been living with anxiety and depression since middle school. I’m 26 now and still struggle this hard every day. Depression isn’t pretty.” — Kacey K. 2. “I used to go from just taking vitamins or minimal meds and now have to use a pill organizer that looks like this…” — Christa O. 3. “This picture was from my last panic attack… I was in my room. I don’t know how it comes, but I guess my mind wonders so far in advance about my studies, my classes, about my flight ticket, upcoming exams, my pending exams, missing classes and all. It started from the very basic, then it bombards me with those difficult thoughts processes.” — Ahmad Z. 4. “This is my bedroom. It has looked like this for as long as I can remember. I have clothes, dirty dishes, food trash, mail piled up. And I get anxiety just looking at this mess. But I don’t even know where to begin at this point when it comes to cleaning it up. I know I need to, but all I want to do is lay in bed watching ridiculous shows on Netflix. I’m so ashamed of my room. I don’t let anyone in.” — Ashlee H. 5. “This is a picture of me after a few days of a messed up sleep schedule, which has negatively affected my mood. My eyes are tired. I also can’t remember when I combed my hair last. I just throw it in a bun after I wash it. Hence the flyaways.” — Monica C. 6. “This is just a small part of my journal entry from the other day. I typically don’t open up much to people so I rely on writing my thoughts and feelings down. These types of feelings (written) are common for me and come on quite often.” — Christa O. 7. “This photo shows one third of the clean laundry sitting around in baskets because I don’t have the energy to put them away.” — Missie T. 8. “Skin chewing, very unkept hair (that takes two hours to brush out) and when I get overwhelmed and slip into a panic attack. (Which will make my face red and swollen for the whole next day, and I have to lie about why.) None of which I let people see/know about.” — Brittany H. 9. “The more depressed I get, the more cigarettes I need to get through the day.” — Liz C. 10. “ My dark days are not putting on makeup, letting my hair become tangled together and keeping a smile to mask my pain.” — Lavoya M. 11. “After losing my house and mother’s pets… Shook me to the core, hit bottom trying to bounce back…” — Stuart R. 12. “[ This picture] shows my kitchen when I’m depressed…” — Carter W. 13. “Greasy hair and all hope and happiness drained from my soul. Haven’t showered for over a week. Can’t get myself off the couch.” — Tara R. 14. “ Being military and struggling with mental health is insanely hard. So much is expected of you, and by the end of the day, I’m so tired I can’t bear standing up for much longer. All I do is sleep, and the mess just keeps building…” — Ethan B. 15. “My dark days look like this — makeup all over my face from crying so much.” — Samantha G. 16. “ I usually have a beard but I keep it quite tidy. Likewise I will go through periods where I grow my hair a bit but keep it in check. When I go through a dark phase though I have a habit of letting them get out of hand which, coupled with not enough sleep, leaves me looking exactly how I feel.” — Martin H. 17. “I have lived in this house for two years and this is all the ‘decorating’ I’ve been able to get done. I have beautiful things to put out but can’t seem to get the boxes unpacked.” — Becky B. If you see yourself in these pictures, you are not alone. There’s nothing to be ashamed of, and letting go of that shame can be a first step in healing. What would you say to someone who’s embarrassed of their depression symptoms? Tell us in the comments below.

Community Voices

On a scale of “I’m feeling fantastic” to “this is the most pain I’ve ever been in,” how are you doing today?

<p>On a scale of “I’m feeling fantastic” to “this is the most pain I’ve ever been in,” how are you doing today?</p>
238 people are talking about this
Juliette V.

21 'Signs' of an Abusive Parent We Can't Keep Overlooking

You don’t have to heal from trauma alone. Our Trauma Survivors newsletter curates the best stories and tips from others on the path to recovery. Subscribe here. “I brought you into this world and I could take you out of it so fast your head would spin.” Growing up, this was something I heard frequently from my mother. At the time, I believed my mom just had a “mean streak,” but now I know a lot of her words and actions were actually abusive. Because of this comment (and a lot of other ones like it), I unsurprisingly grew up feeling unloved, unsupported and downright terrified for most of my childhood. Even though I know my mother (like so many other parents who abuse their kids) was abused herself, it’s not an excuse for the years of psychological damage she wreaked on my younger self. If you can relate to my experience of growing up with an abusive parent, you’re not alone. Because parental abusive behavior can often fly under the radar, it’s important for us to talk about the signs. To open up this conversation, we asked members of our Mighty community to share one “sign” of an abusive parent we often overlook. In addition to their experiences, we’ve analyzed why each behavior can be abusive. Before beginning, we want to preface by saying this list is not an exhaustive one, but merely a small part of the large and under-discussed category of abusive parenting. If you are struggling with the emotional impact of growing up with an abusive parent, you’re not alone. You are worthy of support, validation and care as you heal. If you’re interested in getting more support on your recovery journey, sign up for our Trauma Survivors newsletter with weekly encouragement from people who have been there. Here are some “signs” of an abusive parent we need to talk about: 1. Withholding or Making a Child “Earn” Basic Necessities Parents who maliciously deprive their children of their basic needs or make their children feel guilty for receiving the things a parent is obligated to provide are abusive. “ I [haven’t] been abused by my parents, but the thing I noticed when my school friend was being abused by her parent was that the mother would always made basic needs like food, clothes, roof over their heads into a ‘privilege’ to be earned. If my friend did one thing wrong, it was thrown in her face.” — Kirsty F. “Using necessities as a means of control. Using necessities to make you feel like you aren’t being abused. My whole life I heard: ‘At least I put a roof over your head!’ ‘At least I feed you!’ ‘At least I don’t beat you!’ And I tried to tell myself  I was selfish for feeling bad after abuse, because I had a home and food and wasn’t physically abused. I didn’t realize until I was an adult that those were basic human rights. I thought not getting beaten or starved were just privileges I had to earn.” — Ashley B. 2. “Parentification” or Enmeshment “Parentification,” also known as “covert incest” or enmeshment, describes a “too close for comfort” relationship between a parent and child where boundaries are blurred and the child can end up feeling less like a child and more like a romantic partner. “Parentification. It’s not a child’s responsibility to take care of the needs of the parent. The child develops anxious attachment dependent upon the needs of the parent… They also constantly feel that anything bad that happens is their fault. I still can’t shake that and I’m 42 years old and have been in therapy for three and a half years. It’s a deep wound that takes massive effort to heal.” — Monika S. “When the parent relies on the child for emotional support. Talks to their small child the way the would an adult friend. This is not only confusing, but also [takes away] the child’s ability to know what healthy interpersonal relationships and boundaries are.” — Jodie A. 3. Favoring One Child Over Another According to Ellen Weber Lilly, Ph.D, author of “The Favorite Child,” not all instances of child favoritism are abusive, but when it does become abusive, favorite children can grow up with a distorted, inflated view of themselves, while unfavored children can grow up with a distorted, negative view of themselves. “Favoring one kid over the other. Pushing one child away in favor for the other.” — Amanda K. 4. Incessant Teasing/Humiliation According to Karyl McBride, Ph.D., L.M.F.T, a classic sign of childhood emotional abuse is the use of shame and humiliation. This can include harsh, incessant teasing or putting a child down in front of an audience. “When a parent ‘teases’ a child to the point that said child breaks down into tears. It’s emotional abuse, and it causes years of insecurities and self-loathing.” — Sarah H. 5. Not Giving a Child Privacy Not allowing a child to have age-appropriate privacy may impact their ability to trust others, maintain their own boundaries and respect the boundaries of others. Reading a child’s diary for example, is an example of this kind of abuse. “Lack of privacy. I know too many people, myself included, who have had zero to no privacy growing up. This included but was not limited to phone raids, room raids, having the door taken off the hinges so you couldn’t ‘hide’ anything, etc… As an adult I can see this behavior wasn’t always ‘for my protection.’ At times it was abuse hidden under the guise of safety. Behavior like that has caused me to be wickedly defensive and protective over my own space and belongings — it can often border on paranoia at times.” — Shmelshey S. 6. Threatening Physical Violence (Even If There Is No Intent to Actually Use Violence) Threatening physical violence creates an unsafe environment for a child. Even if no physical harm is actually done, this kind of fear tactic is emotionally abusive, and may be just as damaging as actual physical abuse. “Intimidation. My dad would stand at the bottom of our stairs at night if we weren’t settled down going to sleep and would snap his belt. We knew what it meant.” — Toni C. 7. Making Siblings “Compete” for Love and Approval Though similar to favoritism, this kind of emotional abuse isn’t just about choosing one child over the other — it’s about actively encouraging and “pitting” siblings against each other. It reinforces the lie that parental love should be “earned” instead of freely and unconditionally given. “Turning the children against each other so you have to compete with your siblings for approval. And every child thinks the other has it better; that she loves the other child better. Bonus points if she can play the kids against their other parent so every person in the family is isolated from everyone else.” — Tracy S. 8. Using Religion to Shame a Child Religion can be a beautiful thing for many families, but in some cases can be twisted and used as an instrument of shame and condemnation. Using religion to shame a child (as opposed to lovingly pointing them to spiritual values) can be damaging because in many religions, God is a father figure. This implies that not only is the biological parent ashamed of you, but so is the ultimate father of the universe. “Religious harm. My mom called me ‘Jezebel’ since I was 8. She raised me in a very strict religion and I knew who that was in the Bible. Everything I did wrong was twisted into shame from God… I was nothing but a piece of crap in her world. I spent my life trying to make her love me. My favorite color was hers. My favorite food was hers. My favorite song was hers. I mirrored her in hopes she’d notice me. I didn’t even know I was doing that until my first therapy session when I was 14. It took five years to discover my favorite color was green. I had to dig out of the whole of being her to find myself. It was such a struggle.” — Jessica B. 9. Emotional Neglect or Being Absent Sometimes abusive behavior is less about what a parent does to a child and more about what they don’t do. Scary Mommy contributor Anna Redyns wrote, “The tricky thing about [childhood emotional neglect] is that it’s not an active type of neglect. You can’t see it the way you can a child’s bruised cheek or hear their grumbly belly.” This can be incredibly damaging to a child because they may not realize they were being abused, but still live with the emotional impact of neglect — often struggling with their mental health and self-esteem as a result. “Neglect; absence. My dad was physically abused as a child, so his way of ‘fixing’ it, i.e. not physically abusing, was by ignoring us completely. He never had a job, so he was always home. But never ‘there.’” — Amanda L. 10. Showing Love Conditionally When parents show love unconditionally, children learn they are loved and wanted — even when they make mistakes. When parents give love conditionally, children are taught the opposite and may struggle with perfectionism and trying to “earn” love. “Conditional love. A parent withdrawing their affection when their child has displeased them or done something they disapprove of.” — Steph E. 11. Using a Child to “Get Back” at the Other Parent Putting a child in the middle of an argument between parents is emotionally abusive. This kind of behavior is frequently associated with parents who are divorcing, and an abusive parent may use children to get information about the other parent, “poison” the child against the other parent or make the child choose a side. “Is using your child as a pawn against their other parent! My mother and father both did this. ‘Tell your mum this.’ ‘Tell your dad this.’ ‘Your mum is this, your dad is that.’ The amount of times they’d mentally try and drill into our heads why each other was the worst parent was so damned detrimental to a child!” — Amber L. 12. Accepting Nothing Short of Perfection Expecting perfection from a child can teach children they will only be loved if they perform well. A study done in Singapore found that perfectionistic “helicopter parents” can make children excessively self-critical and undermine their confidence and self-belief. “Demanding absolute perfection from their kids when it comes to grades. ‘Oh you got a 90/100? Let’s make that an even better A!’” — Veronica S. 13. Constant “Guilt-Tripping” Being “guilt-tripped” by an authority figure like a parent can cause real damage, often making it hard for a child to assert healthy boundaries in adulthood. It’s abusive because it uses the power inequality between a parent and child in a way the child often doesn’t realize is unfair and exploitive. “When a parent makes their child feel guilty over the littlest thing. It isn’t bad if it occurs once. It’s abuse when it occurs for years and possibly for their entire life. The child will grow up fearing that he or she will disappoint their parent, and for some, this can prevent them from doing things they want. [They may struggle with] self-expression, have lower self-confidence and will feel like they are failures. I like to call it the ‘guilt-trip card’ when my mom ‘played’ it. She would scold me about how I’m not doing things her way and then proceed to tell me her life stories about how her life is tough. As a child, I didn’t want to talk back to my mother because it was a disrespectful thing to do, but as I got older, I developed anxiety and depression due to the constant fear of getting in trouble. It’s a manipulation tactic my mom uses, and I believe there are many other parents using it too.” — Vy N. 14. Playing the Victim and Always Blaming the Child This kind of behavior is emotionally abusive because it models a failure to take ownership for wrongdoing. It can create problems in adulthood if a child mimics the parent and also plays the victim constantly, or if the child has learned they are always at fault and perpetually blames him or herself. “The [parent] who can do no wrong and is always the victim. The parent will talk ill of their child, playing the victim, to all relatives and friends, and cause people (including teachers, parents of friends, family members etc.) to judge the child and doubt the child without even getting to know them, naming them the ‘problem child’ without even giving the child a chance.” — Nicole A. 15. Never Allowing a Child to Communicate His/Her Own Needs Curbing a child’s ability to speak for him or herself when he/she is able can be abusive. Children should be made to feel safe expressing their needs and emotions — this is necessary for healthy communication in adulthood. “Speaking for them. An abusive parent will interrupt when someone is asking the child a question or the child is speaking to another adult. In order to prevent being outed.” — Charlena J. 16. Verbal Abuse or Ridicule as “Discipline” Though as children we are taught the “sticks and stones” adage, the reality is, words do hurt — particularly when the person inflicting harmful words is a parent or adult in charge of protecting and providing for you. In a study examining whether childhood verbal abuse increased the risk for developing personality disorders (PDs), it was found that childhood verbal abuse may contribute to development of some kinds of PDs and other co-occuring psychiatric disorders. “Verbal abuse as ‘discipline.’ Hearing ‘I work all week and I come home to this?!’ and hearing about how food is provided for the kids and, in turn, the kids feeling guilty for any request made. Like food, a drive somewhere (school, church). Basic parent responsibilities.” — Kyanna S. “Constant ridicule even when I’m doing good things for myself, interrogating me about my sex life, going through my belongings and stealing some after I moved out.” — Brad B. 17. Telling a Child to “Stop Crying” or Calling Them “Too Sensitive” A vital part of growing up is developing a separate identity from your parent, particularly when it comes to expressing emotions. It can be emotionally abusive to shame a child for experiencing “unfavorable” emotions, because emotions aren’t “bad” or “good” — they just are. “Telling your child to stop crying. There are ways to stop the crying without shaming them for displaying emotion. It’s actually something I have to mindfully be aware of with my own children, as they inherited a lot of sensitivity from me. It’s worth it to keep those reactions in check though, because kids cry a lot.” — Elizabeth B. “Being called ‘too sensitive.’ I grew up feeling my feelings weren’t valid and that every reaction was an overreaction.” — Kiandra Q. 18. Violating a Child’s Age-Appropriate Boundaries, Saying It’s a Parental “Right” Not allowing a child to assert his/her own boundaries on the grounds of parental “right” can be abusive. For example, if a child gets to an age when they want to dress and undress privately and aren’t allowed to because a parent says its their “right” to monitor a child at all times, this can teach a child they don’t deserve to assert their needs, and their boundaries won’t be respected if they try. “Parental entitlement to ‘rights’ like treating you however they want to or being included in something or disregarding your boundaries because it’s their ‘right’ as your parent.” — Abbie M. 19. Constantly Invalidating a Child’s Struggles Invalidation is a prime example of emotional abuse — especially when it’s used to justify poor parenting practices on the basis of “it could have been worse.” “Not validating anything. Saying, ‘Back in my day, we had it so much worse’ then giving examples of how things were. Example would be: get spanked for crying too much. ‘Back in my day we got smacked with a switch — at least you’re getting a paddle!’ As if it’s supposed to justify the beating.” — Falina B. 20. Stealing or Taking the Money a Child Earned Parents who feel entitled to the money their children makes because they supported and provided for their children can act abusively. It may teach the child they are not able to protect their own belongings, and that they perpetually “owe” their parents for raising them — an obligation a parent has to a child, not something the child should have to “pay back.” “My mother searched my person and things daily, and took the door off my room. I had to pay to live there, to do laundry, or even eat, from the age of 14 until I left at 18. She also took any money I’d earn from babysitting the kid next door. When I started putting it in a savings account, she found out, forged my signature and took almost 400 dollars — that was all that was in it.” — Amanda P. 21. Making Your Child Who You Want Them to Be vs. Who They Want to Be In an effort to see children “realize their potential,” some parents try to mold their children into who they think they should be. This can be abusive because it often means a child is not allowed to express his or her true identity, and anything that deviates from the parent’s ideal could be rejected — potentially leading to poor self-esteem and perfectionism. “Wanting you to be like them. I had to have the same first car my father had, participate in the same sports, etc.” — Tim K. “Being forced into a life/career that helps reinforce a parent’s wants, regardless of the effect it has on the child. Instead of wanting them to be happy in life and doing what they want, the only approval comes from what they see fit. Even if the child/teen doesn’t want to. Then using it to gloat to others as if the child is some kind of prize possession rather than a child, but showing no approval/respect for what the child/teen actually likes in life. This goes parallel to not just a career, but also life choices and hobbies that are chosen by a child to please their parents. A lot of parents think a child lives to ‘make them proud,’ rather than to be happy. And no child or young adult should he held accountable for their parents’ pride.” — John L.