9 Signs You Were Raised by Emotionally Unavailable Parents

Growing up, we all had different experiences with our parents. Some of us were fortunate to have emotionally present parents, while others… not so much.

Being raised by emotionally unavailable parents can have lasting effects on us. It can be difficult to recognize the signs, especially if this is all you know.

Still, recognizing these signals is the first step in understanding our emotional baggage and healing it. In this piece, I’m going to share 9 signs that you were raised by emotionally unavailable parents.

Here’s a word of caution, though. The signs may not be what you’d expect, but that’s the thing about emotional unavailability: it can be subtle yet profound.

1) Difficulty expressing emotions

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, or so they say.

Being raised by emotionally unavailable parents can leave a mark on our own emotional landscape. It is not uncommon for children of such parents to find it challenging to express their feelings.

Why? Because emotions were not openly discussed or acknowledged in their upbringing. This can cause us to suppress our feelings, or worse, feel guilty about them.

So if you often have trouble expressing or controlling your feelings, it could be a sign that you were raised by emotionally unavailable parents.

But remember: recognizing this is a step forward. It is the first step towards understanding and healing.

2) Desire for validation

In retrospect, I can see how my own desire for validation was a sign.

Growing up, my parents were always busy. They were physically present, but emotionally distant. It was like living with strangers who happened to share the same living space.

I remember as a child I would do anything to get an approving nod or a simple “well done.” I craved that kind of emotional involvement and validation from my parents.

And this was carried into adulthood. Whether at work or in personal relationships, I found myself constantly looking for confirmation. It took me some time to realize that this was a childhood hangover – a classic sign of being raised by emotionally unavailable parents.

3) Struggling with intimacy

Children of emotionally unavailable parents often find it challenging to form deep, intimate relationships in their adult lives. This applies not only to romantic relationships, but also to friendships and even professional relationships.

The reason behind this is quite simple. As children, we learn about emotional intimacy from our parents. If they were emotionally distant, we might not have learned how to open up and confide our feelings to others.

Children who grow up with emotionally distant parents are more likely to have relationship problems in adulthood. So if you find it difficult to form and maintain close relationships, it could be a sign of your past.

4) Too independent

Independence is usually a celebrated trait, but there is a fine line between being self-reliant and overly independent.

Children raised by emotionally unavailable parents often grow up to be fiercely independent adults. This is because they had to take care of themselves emotionally from a young age.

The constant need to rely solely on yourself, refusing help from others even when necessary, or always preferring to work alone are all signs of over-independence.

It is a defense mechanism, a way to protect yourself from the emotional disappointment you experience in childhood.

5) Fear of rejection

Another sign that you may have been raised by emotionally unavailable parents is a persistent fear of rejection.

Such fears often stem from early experiences of feeling rejected or ignored by our parents.

If our emotional needs were consistently unmet during our formative years, we could develop a deep-seated fear of rejection or abandonment.

This can manifest itself in different ways in our adult lives. You may avoid relationships or withdraw from commitments for fear of abandonment.

6) Hungry for love

Everyone craves love and affection, but those of us raised by emotionally unavailable parents can feel an insatiable hunger for it.

We spent our childhoods longing for a warmth that was constantly denied, a connection that was always just out of reach.

This can leave us with a deep-seated void, a void that we continue to try to fill with love and affection from others.

You may give too much in relationships, or fall in love too quickly, all in an attempt to find the emotional connection you missed as a child.

7) Difficulty trusting others

I’ve always had a hard time letting people in and trusting them with my feelings. I built walls around myself, not by choice, but because it felt safe.

This reluctance did not come out of nowhere. It was a learned behavior, a survival strategy ingrained in me because of my emotionally unavailable parents.

As a child, the people I had to trust the most were the ones who repeatedly let me down. It became easier to keep everyone at a distance rather than risk getting emotionally hurt.

So if you find it difficult to trust othersor if you always expect the worst from people, this could be a sign that you grew up with emotionally unavailable parents.

It’s not your fault, and it’s something that can be resolved with time and understanding.

8) Oversensitivity to criticism

If you find yourself overly sensitive to criticism, whether it’s constructive or not, it could be a sign that you were raised by emotionally unavailable parents.

This sensitivity often stems from the feeling of not being good enough as a child. If your emotional needs were neglected, you might have felt that you were somehow to blame, leading to self-criticism.

As an adult, this can manifest as an overreaction to criticism. You might interpret them as personal attacks, reinforcing the belief that you are not good enough.

9) You are not alone

Perhaps the most important sign, and something you should always remember, is that you are not alone in this.

There are millions of people around the world who were raised by emotionally unavailable parents. Each of them, like you, is trying to navigate their emotional world and heal from past experiences.

It’s okay to talk about it, to reach out to others, to seek therapy if you think it’s necessary.

You are not alone, and it is never too late to start healing.

The journey of self-discovery

Thinking about the signs that you were raised by emotionally unavailable parents can be a tough pill to swallow. It’s like we’re opening old wounds and reminiscing that we might prefer to keep buried.

But remember, this isn’t about placing blame or dwelling on the past. It’s about understanding, about self-discovery. It’s about recognizing the patterns that have shaped your emotional world so you can begin to reshape it.

Renowned psychotherapist John Bowlby once said, “The tendency to form strong emotional bonds with particular individuals is a fundamental part of human nature.” These bonds, or lack thereof, shape us in profound ways.

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