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What is Emotional Violence and How Does it Disrupt Child Development

Think back to when you were a teenager. Chances are there was a time when you were being yelled at by a loved one or authority figure. Maybe it was just a misunderstanding or maybe you did something you knew you weren’t supposed to do. Kids will be kids, right?

But what if the yelling was more violent than a scolding, taking a darker tone with angry statements like, “You’re never going to amount to anything!”. This is emotional violence. And for an adolescent or teenager, this violence can seriously impact their development.

Emotional violence, also known as emotional abuse, can follow you well into adulthood. Unlike physical pain, there’s no scar or bruise that’s obvious to the naked eye. But the damage is definitely there – if you know what to look for.

When emotional violence becomes a cycle, it can cause long lasting mental health and behavioral problems. Let’s take a look at what emotional violence is and how it can disrupt your child’s development, so you can help them live a healthier life.

What is Emotional Violence?

In a broad sense, emotional violence is verbal aggression that undermines a person’s self-worth, dignity or identity. Examples of emotional abuse range from intimidation, humiliation, threats and more.

But the common link between them all is how they make someone feel. And all emotional violence impacts a teen’s sense of themselves, which can change how they develop.

How Emotional Violence Affects Childhood Development

Emotional violence sticks around for a long time, even after the abuse has ended. In fact, according to the American Psychological Association, children who experienced emotional violence are more likely to face mental health problems throughout their life.

Every interaction leaves a lasting impact on the brain. And when a teenager experiences emotional violence, the corresponding stress prevents normal brain development. This can cause mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, low self-esteem and suicidal thoughts. The cognitive impairment caused by emotional violence stops teens from developing normal coping skills, making them more vulnerable to maladaptive coping behaviors to try to ease their pain.

An Example of Emotional Violence

To put things into perspective, take a look at this example of emotional violence that encapsulates the journey your teen may be going through:

Imagine a young teenage boy named Matt who is constantly overshadowed by his older brother. His brother is in all honors classes in school, plays lacrosse and runs track, and has a pretty solid core group of friends. Meanwhile, Matt has struggled with a couple of his classes, doesn’t have the same athletic ability as his brother does and has been an on and off victim of bullying.

When Matt is home, he’s constantly asked why he can’t be more like his brother. His parents have been dismissive of him and his interests and patronize him during dinner discussions. What self-worth Matt had has been replaced with feeling like he isn’t good enough.

Negative thoughts and feelings like this have an insidious way of leading to depression and damaging behaviors like acting out to try to cope.

Of course, this is just one example of how emotional violence can play out. But the point is, emotional abuse caused by bullying, neglect, humiliation and belittling can be detrimental to your child’s health and happiness.

The Dangers of Emotional Abuse

Emotional violence stunts an adolescent’s brain development and makes it almost impossible for their brain to develop in a healthy and normal manner. When this occurs, many teens look for the fastest and most effective way to cope with their suffering – maladaptive coping behaviors.

And even if your teen has experienced emotional violence and has not turned to negative behaviors, this kind of trauma is dangerous when left alone. A recent study conducted by Washington University in St. Louis found that emotional violence increases the likelihood of teens having suicidal ideation.

If your teen has shown signs of emotional violence, there is hope for them to heal and get back to living a healthy, fulfilling life.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment for Your Teen at Red Mountain Colorado

Without a healthy way to cope with emotional violence and the time to heal from it, the trauma will continue to fuel their emotional and behavioral issues. At Red Mountain Colorado, we have the expertise to treat the trauma that underlies your teen’s challenges.

Our dual diagnosis treatment program addresses underlying trauma. This gives your teen the power to get past their issues, regain their self-worth and return to being the vibrant, happy child you remember.

Contact our admissions team today and find out how your teen can get started on the path to healing.