Ways Childhood Emotional Neglect Harms Highly Sensitive People

Everyone is affected by their childhood environment, whether it’s good or bad, but for highly sensitive people, this effect is amplified. HSPs suffer more in bad environments but do especially well in good ones. So it’s reasonable to expect childhood emotional neglect to have an outsized effeat on sensitive kids.

While not every HSP child deals with emotional neglect will face all of the situations below, some outcomes may include:

Their high sensitivity becomes a joke, even with their parents. comments that a child is too sensitive or a dreamer may be well- intentioned but inevitably comes across as judgement.

Siblings may pick on the HSP. Brothers and sisters are usually suffering emotional neglect as well, but they take more to the toughen up message than their HSP sibling. And that makes it easy for them to establish themselves higher up on the pecking order.

They think there’s something wrong with them. There is no limit to how many times we’ll say it: Highly sensitive children are normal. But, it’s impossible that if your told over and over that you’re the odd one. Instead it’s impossible to internalize that your emotions aren’t right and don’t matter.

Confidence issues. Given the above, it’s no surprise that a sensitive child starts to doubt and undervalue themselves. But emotionally neglectful parents often see this as a weak spot, too, and pressure the child to be more confident- without the child’s strengths and feelings. My mother never wanted me to be confident, she would rather me quiet and not have any feelings. I was sent to the closet when she didn’t want to have to deal with me, as she put it. I never had a chance at being confident, I was not allowed to socialize with anyone.

Problems dealing with criticism. Highly sensitive people in general react strongly to criticism, and criticism is always hard for a HSP child, emotional neglect means that they never get to see feedback done in a healthy way. And, naturally, they cannot develop healthy ways to deal with criticism themselves if they never see it modeled at home.

Overwhelm, crashes, or panic. All HSPs can become overstimulated by load or busy environments, and overwhelmed by strong emotions at times. But healthy HSPs learn to manage this through self-care. Orate they need a quiet, safe place to retreat to. For highly sensitive kids, that’s only possible if the parent(s) are understanding of this need- and emotionally neglectful parents are not. Instead, they typically see it as the child overreacting. They may even get angry at the child. This can overwhelm a source of panic and fear in the child.

Profound loneliness. When your emotional needs don’t matter, and no one seems to understand you, you quickly become isolated, and feel alone in the world.

Inability to ask for help. Any child who suffers from emotional neglect learns they shouldn’t ask for help, because it won’t be given or because it appears weak. This is especially damaging to an HSP child with outgoing anxiety, fueled by fear that they are always doing things “wrong.”

When you begin to treat yourself as if you do matter, the people in your life begin to respond differently. They start seeing your personality, your emotions, and your needs.

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