Signs of Emotional Neglect In Adults

signs of neglect in adults


If you’ve ever been abused or neglected you know that it changed you, and in a lot of ways, not for the better.

Like many, I’ve spent years in individual therapy, group therapy, reading self help books and taking medication all because of it.

Some signs of abuse and emotional neglect in adults are obviously disastrous but many of them are seen as personality traits or even admirable.

It’s important to recognize the subtle signs that point to a history of abuse or emotional neglect in adults.

It’s even more important to find balance after living through abuse and neglect.

Today I’m going to list 10 silver linings of abuse & emotional neglect in adults & I will recognize how some of them can be hard to manage. 


10 Signs of Emotional Neglect In Adults

Signs of Abuse and Emotional Neglect in Adults 


1 | You’re Resourceful

signs of neglect in adults

When the world is your oyster anchor you learn to get shit done without help, without resources, without support, without parents, etc.

When others have tapped out you’re still in the game.

You’re gifted when it comes to the clever ways you’re able to conquer a crisis.

This is one of the signs of abuse or emotional neglect in adults that makes them a good employee, parent, coworker, and friend to have. 

“Fall seven times and stand up eight.”



2| You’re Good at Reading People

signs of neglect in adults

This is one of the signs of neglect in adults that stands out the most to me.

They often become masters at deescalating.

They’ve become so tuned in to potential conflict that it becomes a superpower, often spotting friction that’s developing and curbing it before it’s a “situation”.

This is a balance, because if you’re like me; you’re not a fan of conflict.

At times we pay too much attention to reading a room, so remind yourself, if necessary, that not every environment is the one you grew up in.

Unfortunately neglected and abused kids don’t count on caregivers for security.

You learned how to stay safe; sometimes the hard way.

Maybe you were strung along to different environments to hang around weird crowds. Perhaps strangers strolled in and out of your house. Maybe you were a townie. Either, way, you’re not naïve.

Most people that grew up in an unpredictable environment have a keen sense for others disposition, feelings, and state of mind.

emotional neglect in adults

It’s not necessarily instinctual or even intuition; It’s a skill that you needed to survive, you exercised it & probably mastered it.

Abuse and emotional neglect in adults sometimes leaves us with a tendency to thrive in chaos yet struggle to understand normalcy.

You may not need to use your skills all the time and some of us need to learn when to turn it off, but if you can figure that out, consider it a badge of honor.


3 | You Know No Bounds

signs of neglect in adults

I don’t know about your childhood but we spent our free time playing in the attic, jumping off the roof, and crossing the freeway.

Yes, crossing the freeway.

It wasn’t always that extreme, but you get my point. You may not have had the coolest new toys but you probably lived your childhood on the brink of death.

This is one of the signs of abuse or emotional neglect in adults that can become problematic.

You might tolerate unacceptable behavior, or find yourself in risky environments.

It’s not uncommon for us to have completely normalized dangerous situations, so make a conscious effort to be mindful of it. 

You have guts kid.


4 | You Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

signs of neglect in adults

When others are panicked, you’re right at home. That doesn’t mean you don’t care or even that you’re ‘numb’.

It’s really the opposite.

You’re not emotionally reacting to the chaos because you have the ability to process it, with clarity.

This is one of the signs of abuse or emotional neglect in adults that can be misinterpreted by others.

Sometimes we’re referred to as “cold” or “sociopaths” but for me personally, being able to separate my internal panic was truly essential in survival.

Not only that, but I had siblings to look after and work alongside as a unit to keep the household running as smooth as possible.

If you’re going to be a valuable member of the “team” you have to be level headed.

There is usually enough chaos coming from other aspects of the environment.

Been there, done that.

Being calm allows you to have a greater understanding of the environment.

You can handle it.

“To those who abuse: the sin is yours, the crime is yours, and the shame is yours. To those who protect the perpetrators: blaming the victims only masks the evil within, making you as guilty as those who abuse. Stand up for the innocent or go down with the rest.”
Flora Jessop

quote about neglect in adults



5 | You Don’t Lack Character

signs of neglect in adults

Often times people who were neglected or abused as kids overcompensated to get scraps of conditional love.

We’re usually described as “a pleasure to work with”, or a “wonderful student.”

If you can balance the people pleasing (easier said than done), you’re unstoppable.

This is one of the signs of abuse/emotional neglect in adults that can easily become dysfunctional. Sometimes we end up being the enabler. Sometimes we become victims. We have a yearning to “save” others.

One theory is that as children, our parents needed to be saved. When we grow up sometimes we are attracted to “projects” and solving the puzzle may seem like the piece of your childhood that was always missing, that you wished you could have been.

Some refer to this as “psychological shackles”.

We will sometimes seek out the most negative aspects of our parents and find it in others, without even intentionally doing it.

Be mindful of the choices you make and try to be mindful of why you’re making decisions.

Are they actually helpful?

Are they healthy?

Is it in your best interest?

Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.

Helen Keller


6 | You’re Creative

signs of neglect in adults

Creativity is like a sixth sense. Others reach a dead end, but being out of options is something you’ve mastered.

If you grew up like me, everything was not at your disposal.

You learn to play without toys and make meals with empty cupboards.

Of all the signs of abuse and emotional neglect in adults, this one can easily be the most inspiring.

Art can be healing and is a healthy outlet. We’re able to express ourselves, finally!

Most children are forced to hold their tongues and stuff their emotions until adulthood.

Many people even struggle to express them after being long gone from old environments.

Here is some art that tries to capture the essence of neglect and abuse. Click Here To See

picture, neglect in adults

“Creativity is an act of defiance.”
Twyla Tharp


7 | You Have The Juiciest Stories

signs of neglect in adults

This may be one of the most obvious signs of abuse/emotional neglect in adults, especially if abuse was a factor. 

Talking about your everyday household catastrophes could easily be a major motion picture;

Which iconic movie depicts your childhood?

A. Matilda

B. Rambo

C. Lord of The Flies

D. All of The Above 



8 |  You’re Empathetic

signs of neglect in adults

You’re not only a hero to your own story, but many others too.

Those who experienced abuse have been pretty lost and probably taken some wrong turns.

We’ve been envious, we’ve bled on others, tolerated unacceptable behavior, maybe turned to drugs or alcohol.

You’re able to relate to some of the worst feelings and experiences and that’s invaluable. 

Just be mindful that the huge capacity to empathize with others can sometimes get out of hand.

Some of the signs of abuse or emotional neglect in adults might be a chronic struggle with low self esteem, having a hard time with boundaries, lacking support, and forgetting about self care. Just remember to give yourself just as much empathy.

“The neglected child is an alien;

A detached observer to the world,

wondering why it discarded him.” 

neglect in adults

“The opposite of anger is not calmness, its empathy.”

Mehmet Oz



9 | You Don’t Take Things For Granted

signs of neglect in adults

Remember the days when you prayed for what you have now? 

If you’ve lost a lot you can see that even the little things should be cherished.

One of the most admirable signs of emotional neglect in adults is their mastery of gratitude.


“Gratitude for the present moment and the fullness of life now is the true prosperity.”

Eckhart Tolle



10 | You’re Funny

signs of neglect in adults

A lot of us used humor to get through.

You probably had no control of your environment, but you did have some control of your reaction to it.

Maybe you tried making light of abusive situations to put siblings or others at ease.

If you did, you were onto something.

Laughter relaxes our bodies, boosts immunity, improves mood, decreases pain, releases endorphins, and diffuses tension.

You may have been the class clown or the mascot of the family. 

But, if you’re someone who stuffs your feelings or puts your well being at risk to take the attention off the elephant in the room, you may need to find balance.



Some Final Thoughts

A lot of the signs of emotional neglect in adults are glazed over or even called “good character”, but we all know we paid a price.

If want to learn more about overcoming the impacts of abuse I listed some stuff below.

PTSD Trigger Tracker PDF

Anxiety Journaling

Integrating Grief


Trauma Writing Exercise

downloadable PDF that includes the

 trigger tracker and 22 more pages of trauma writing exercises.

PTSD journaling prompts, trauma writing exercise


Other Content Related to Signs of Emotional Neglect In Adults


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Your Amygdala and Childhood Trauma: 4 Truths You Should Know

5 Advantages and Disadvantages of Antidepressants

Here Is What To Do When You Feel Overwhelmed and Stressed: 9 Effective Strategies





“As long as you keep secrets and suppress information, you are fundamentally at war with yourself…The critical issue is allowing yourself to know what you know. That takes an enormous amount of courage.”
Bessel A. van der Kolk



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The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma

This book explains the impact of abuse and emotional neglect in adults


Hope Recovery

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They have individualized meetings and support groups for

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Don’t be worried if you’re not from a family of alcoholism; there are tons of people that are just as welcome. 

I prefer the in-person groups, but there are tons of virtual groups too.




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