Just as emotional abuse exists on a spectrum, so too, do its effects, which can range from mild to severe, depending on how much abuse a child endured.
Taking a look at the research, one paper published in the Pakistan Journal of Medical Sciences2 concluded that psychological abuse is tied to a variety of problems, including but not limited to post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, personality disorders, low self-esteem, aggression, emotional unresponsiveness, and neuroticism.
As Page explains, children with emotionally abusive parents may suppress themselves, or alternatively, act out on their feelings and impulses. He also notes that as humans, we mirror what was done to us if we haven’t processed it. “And that’s why the Buddhists say when you heal a family lineage wound like this, you heal seven generations past and seven generations future,” he says.
And when children replicate these behaviors, either in the form of negative self-talk or lashing out at others in the way their parents lashed out at them, they’re carrying on that family chain. “It keeps the experience of emotional abuse alive in your body, in your heart—because when you talk to yourself that way, your body takes it as truth. And so you are actually replicating the pain of the abuse you experienced in your childhood,” Page explains.
Then, of course, we have to consider that these children grow up into adults with their own relationships to tend to. And if the emotional abuse they endured hasn’t been dealt with, according to Page, this is when we see things like anxious attachment or avoidant attachment styles, problems with trust and intimacy, and so forth. Adults with emotionally abusive parents may even go on to mirror those same patterns with their own children, as well.