Emotional abuse has deadly consequences

Any type of severe non-physical punishment, such as isolation from the rest of the family is emotional abuse. Forcing children to witness or participate in inappropriate behaviour, or corrupting them (e.g. allowing them to use alcohol or drugs, or to watch cruel behaviour towards animals) comes under the umbrella of emotional abuse. It is emotionally abusive if a parent fails to intervene when the child demonstrates antisocial behaviour, and refuses to seek appropriate psychological care when necessary. Indifference to a child’s education, failing to enrol him, allowing her to miss too many days from school, or refusing to demand appropriate services if a child has special needs, is emotional neglect. Emotionally neglected children have poor prospects for achieving their potential later in life.
Witnessing the emotional abuse of one parent by another causes severe psychological damage to the child. It undermines his harmonious development, and teaches him an unsavoury and damaging lesson. If the mother is the victim, the child may blame her, because he sees her anger, weakness, and vulnerability. The child may learn that women do not deserve respect, are weak, do not have power, should have no say in decision making, and should be subject to control. Alternatively, the child may feel powerless and experience great difficulty in claiming his own power in later life.
Emotional abuse has physical, behavioural, emotional, and social consequences for children, because of the unhealthy and stressful atmosphere it creates in a home. It may slow physical development, lead to eating disorders, create speech problems, and lead to self-harm and suicidal behaviour. It may also prevent infants from thriving. It can affect a child’s intelligence, memory, attention, and moral development. It breeds low self-worth, irritability, sadness, withdrawal, and depression. This depression can bring up suicidal thoughts. Child victims may also suffer from alienation, personality disorders, neediness, flashbacks and nightmares.
Most seriously, emotional abuse can freeze the emotions, leading to a pain-filled, restless, and lonely life as adults, when being in a warm intimate relationship proves uncomfortable or impossible. They are ‘burned’ by intimacy, and withdraw in confusion. Emotionally abused children lose their sense of trust in others, when they cannot trust those who are supposed to be caring for them. When a mother is emotionally distant and the father is abusive, the consequences are lethal. The child builds a shell and freezes his feelings. When feelings are frozen the self is punished, and this has been aptly described as soul murder or psychic murder. Emotional abuse brings with it feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness.
Adapted from Jim O’Shea’s book Abuse. Domestic Violence, Workplace and School Bullying published by Cork University Press

Posted in abuse, psychological/emotional abuse
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