12 Signs of an Emotionally Abusive Parent: How to Recognize and Heal from Emotional Abuse

As a psychologist, I have worked with many individuals who have experienced emotional abuse from their parents. Emotional abuse can be difficult to recognize, but it can have serious and lasting effects on a person’s mental health and well-being. In this blog, I will discuss 12 signs of an emotionally abusive parent, including their definitions and potential impact on a child.

In this blog, we’ll explore 12 signs of an emotionally abusive parent, including:

  1. Criticism and Blame
  2. Verbal Aggression
  3. Gaslighting
  4. Ignoring or Withholding Affection
  5. Conditional Love
  6. Overprotection and Control
  7. Emotional Neglect
  8. Manipulation
  9. Comparison and Favoritism
  10. Guilt-Tripping
  11. Emotional Blackmail
  12. Humiliation and Shame

12 Signs of an Emotionally Abusive Parent

Criticism and Blame

Emotionally abusive parents often criticize and blame their children for things that are out of their control. They may belittle their child’s efforts and dismiss their accomplishments, leaving them feeling inadequate and unworthy.

Verbal Aggression

Verbal aggression includes yelling, screaming, and using harsh language. This type of behavior can be frightening and intimidating for children and can cause them to feel anxious, depressed, or helpless.


Gaslighting is a form of emotional manipulation where the abuser denies or distorts reality in order to make the victim doubt their own perceptions and memory. This can leave children feeling confused and unsure of what is real and what isn’t.

Ignoring or Withholding Affection

Emotionally abusive parents may withhold affection or attention as a form of punishment or to manipulate their child’s behavior. This can lead to feelings of rejection and abandonment in the child.

Conditional Love

Conditional love involves placing conditions on a child’s worth and acceptance. Emotionally abusive parents may only show love or affection when their child meets certain expectations or behaviors, leaving the child feeling like they are not truly loved for who they are.

Overprotection and Control

Overprotective parents may limit their child’s freedom and autonomy, preventing them from making their own decisions and exploring their interests. This can lead to feelings of suffocation and a lack of trust in one’s own abilities.

Emotional Neglect

Emotional neglect occurs when a parent fails to provide the emotional support and validation that their child needs. This can leave the child feeling alone, unsupported, and unworthy of love and attention.


Emotionally abusive parents may manipulate their children in order to control their behavior or achieve their own goals. This can leave children feeling like they are being used and exploited for their parent’s benefit.

Comparison and Favoritism

Comparing siblings or playing favorites can be damaging to a child’s self-esteem and sense of self-worth. Emotionally abusive parents may create competition between siblings or show favoritism towards one child, leaving the other feeling inferior and unimportant.


Guilt-tripping involves using guilt as a means of control or manipulation. Emotionally abusive parents may make their children feel guilty for not meeting their expectations or for simply being themselves.

Emotional Blackmail

Emotional blackmail is a form of manipulation where the abuser threatens to withdraw love, approval, or affection if the victim doesn’t comply with their wishes. This can leave children feeling trapped and helpless.

Humiliation and Shame

Emotionally abusive parents may humiliate or shame their children in public or in private. This can be damaging to a child’s self-esteem and can leave them feeling embarrassed and worthless.

It is important to recognize these signs of emotional abuse in order to seek help and support. Children who experience emotional abuse may struggle with a variety of mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). If you or someone you know is experiencing emotional abuse from a parent, it is important to seek help from a qualified mental health professional.

Serin Center experts have been utilizing applied neuroscience to enhance the lives of children, adolescents, adults, families, and executives with effective and innovative therapy.

Experience the power of innovative and effective applied neuroscience therapy for mental and emotional wellness. Visit Serin Center in Phoenix, Arizona. With offices in Peoria and Scottsdale, our experts provide cutting-edge approaches for faster, long-lasting results. Upgrade your life today and contact us to see how we can help your child, teen, or yourself.