Childhood Neglect

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I attend a group for adult children of alcoholics. I am almost 60 and worked through the issues surrounded by being an Adult Child of Alcoholic many years ago, and for that -life was much better. I had not been diagnosed with ptsd at that time.Then it spiraled downward about 10 yrs ago. Soon I was diagnosed with ptsd from a current trauma, but now I am trying to understand that I had ptsd from childhood. Even though I attend the group regularly, I must be somewhat disconnected from my past.

Tonight at group, another member was questioning the parts of herself that is a perfectionist and self criticizing and fear of failure. Members shared how much criticism they received as children and even still from family. Then on member started talking about the effects, etc. of the unstable environment. I flashed back to a time (childhood) in which I related or connected with what was being said, a time when it didn't even take a lot of criticism....nor feel unwanted and unloved.

A typical and general scenerio-As a toddler, asking my mother for something, like food, and her being to wrapped up in her life to deal with it, and telling me to go to a sister who was 11 yrs older, who told me to go to another sister, she was busy, then the other sister telling me to go away...The basic message...go away...dont bother me...Im busy...get lost...sure there were some mean words and criticism, but a big sense of not being wanted and being too much trouble...Basic needs often not met.

I also remembered that all my sisters eventually moved out and living alone with my alcoholic mother around age 7 or 8, and my not going out to play in an attempt to control her drinking. I can remember being afraid and some things that could sure be traumatizing yet I feel like I must have had a guardian
angel since more bad things did not happen to me.

Due to events in past 10 yrs, I have lost the confidence and esteem that I had prior, yet it seems that current circumstances ignited past experiences causing full blown ptsd, and over these years has led to serious hopelessness.

The Adult Child of Alcoholic and PTSD issues seem inseparable. I am wondering what others experience is an if and how they separate them? Does neglect cause ptsd? I often feel that my experiences were not bad enough to cause ptsd.


Yep. Neglect is trauma for sure. Rejection over and over and over is like death to a child. And that particular type of trauma is attachment trauma. The caregivers' emotional availability (or unavailability) to their infant to meet needs and mirror emotions will lead the infant to develop either secure or insecure attachment. Insecure attachment comes in several forms: avoidant, anxious/ambivalent and disorganized. This not only colors your experience as a child but also your ability to trust and relate and form connections to others in all settings. This is all based upon incredible research-- look into the "strange situation".
Attachment trauma coupled with neglect and abuse creates complex PTSD. I just earned that badge myself (that is, getting the c-PTSD label from my MD and therapists). I think that questioning whether it really was that bad is part of the multilayered forms of psychic resistance to conscious awareness of the extent of this kind of trauma. That's what my massive text on trauma and treatment of dissociation says.
I think it is hard to see what I've been through as "that bad" partially because I've always believed I created whatever happened through some flawed logic (or rather the developmentally appropriate magical thinking if we accept that part of me is frozen in time as a little child).
Check out Pete Walker's site-- great articles and the book It's Not Your Fault.
Keep up with the peer support groups and maybe look into therapy that addresses attachment if you are interested in exploring this further.


I can't separate the issues because part of my trauma involved being ACOA and it is all connected for me.

I recognize the double-bind message of "I love you-go away" which I believe is pretty common in how one is treated as a child in an alcoholic family........very painful even to remember.

One can have PTSD in connection to being ACOA as this was my initial diagnosis and only later was the sexual child abuse recognized and diagnosed as having also caused trauma related to PTSD. As for neglect I think it is the nature of the beast when alcohol and co-dependence are involved as I sure suffered a lot of it.

Remember that even subtle forms of abuse are still traumatic and can lead to PTSD...I am sorry to say it really is that bad!!!

Sending you healing hugs, if you accept,



Yep, poster child ACOA and CPTSD here. I don't understand the concept of separating them; they are intertwined. Growing up as an ACOA builds core beliefs, thought patterns and behavior patterns that continue to misdirect and upturn a life until the trauma is addressed and worked through. Just even growing up with an alcoholic is traumatic, much less if they have issues on top of this which they take out on their children.

In answer to your question, there is no meter for gauging how "bad" trauma is or if this or that qualifies as "enough" to be considered devastating for someone. There are too many variables with regard to ones personality make-up, history, support system, etc... that determine how impactful an incident or series of incidents might be for an individual. i.e. I hope you are not judging yourself. Neglect is certainly traumatic.

Also, I can relate to the layering effect of present and past trauma interacting and feeling disconnected at the same time. For me, it's been and still often is horribly overwhelming, so I very much understand the feelings of hopelessness. I wish you the best in this regard. I hope you have a therapist available to help you sort through this to find some acceptance and peace.

Glad you are going to meetings and finding them supportive/helpful. I had to stop as the ACOA meetings were too triggering for me at the time. I'm still thinking about going back to an Al Anon meeting though. I used to go to a few that had a great deal of recovery in them. It certainly helped to sort out my "monkey mind" at the time. Best to you. VB


I found the beginning of ptsd very distinct from my life before, but that being said I had no concept of neglect, which was often I guess severe, since I was left int the care of older sibling(s) who disappeared or were unconcerned. Or I was on my own. I responded with required independence, and internalized being unwanted, unloved, unlovable, and non-existent. Which may still be true, as my life suggests so, or untrue, or partly true. It's definitely true for 'family'. It may or may not be my own doing or fault.

It certinly seems to have destroyed any sense of certainty, strength, hopefulness, or ability to have any sense of safety or even competence. Or maybe that's exascerbated by ptsd., or maybe it's just me.

I know one thing, I no longer care. I give up. I'm also going to avoid painful costrasts to other people's families and security. That is unknown to me. And for the most part, unfathomable to them.

Hugs for you @brat17 . :hug: :hug:

She Cat

Policy Enforcement
@brat17 Well, you were neglected as a child, but you have the power now to give yourself all of the care/love/nurturing that the adults in your life failed to do. It's never too late!!!!!!!!!!!


Ocin-indeed, rejection over and over for a child is overwhelming. Thanks for the good resources, I had not heard of the strange situation.
Lionheart-like you, I can't seem to separate it anymore either. That message of "I love you/go away" sure is a double bind. Hugs back at you!

VioletButterfly-growing up with those core beliefs sure does cause some skewed thinking. I know they are intertwined, yet I sure felt more hopeful before the ptsd was present. I also think those core beliefs may put me in a place to create full blown ptsd, or maybe I always had it. I guess the layering effect has got to me. I am trying not to judge and blame myself, but sure feel defective and unlovable.

Junebug-I can understand how you would not recognize the everyday childhood as neglect, its not something we really measure objectively. At age 11, a court put me in orphanage for neglect, so while I knew the word, I didn't understand the damage for a long time. Meanwhile, I too was geared toward independence and proving myself un-needy, and invisible in some ways as well. I steered away from any adult attention, even good. I sure just didn't want adult attention...always ends badly.

I understand why you no longer care and feel like giving up Junebug, but I don't like hearing that you know. I can see how much good is in you, and I also understand it is not what others see that causes this. Its very hard to see security and stability in others families and not understand having that. I have read your posts for many years, and if I could chose a sister, it would be you! (((Hugs)))

SheCat-I know you are so right. I was in my late 20's when I discovered ACA issues and went to treatment, read, did groups, and re-parented myself. Twenty years later, following an accident, it began slipping away and ptsd was added. I really have not been able to do the things to nurture and care for myself and not sure why....maybe it is just too late for me.


I attend a group for adult children of alcoholics. I am almost 60 and worked through the issues surrounde...
I had the same experience of asking mother for something as a 3 year old and being sent to sister who ignored me, so going back to mom, who sent me to sister, who sent me to mom. Never-ending ping pong, but never getting what i needed. This caused me to end up feeling worthless.


I think this really does cause a child to feel that their needs are not important and leads to feelings of worthlessness. Learn very young to not ask and not expect anything good. Im sure that it led me to end up in dysfunctional relationships, both abuse and an empty marriage where husband totally unavailable and there is no sense of connection. I did this on the heels of learning about ACA and being drawn to drama and that feeling normal. In attempt to avoid that, married the emotional unavailable person.


@brat17 -

From what you've shared, it seems that you have some keen insights about yourself, so you are aware and are making some connections. Maybe for now you just need to get underneath some of what you've written about worth, being defective, being unlovable... and really start putting core belief puzzle pieces together. It might be helpful if you could work on being mindful of your thoughts and feelings, but not internalize or accept them as facts. Staying present in this mindset and working on your core beliefs might get you farther along the path. Not sure what your experience is with mindfulness, but there are two books that have been suggested that seem to be very helpful to me - The Mindful Way Through Depression and The Mindful Way Through Anxiety. I was working in this mode before the latest set of traumatic situations landed in my lap. I'm still reeling and unsure, but feel that this is the path I need to get back on to find sanity. I do think that even without a "situation" or "occurrence," it is the nature of this disorder to sometimes just go off the rails for a minute now and then. I'm learning that healing certainly isn't a linear path, but also am trying to accept that it's never too late to try.

A proverb - Fall down 7 times, get up 8.
A mantra - Never, ever, ever give up!
A slogan - It works if you work it, so work it you're worth it.
A prayer - The Serenity Prayer.


Neglect is a trauma. My parents/parent were not alcoholics, however my dad was severely depressed my whole life, and my mum withdrawn. "I love you-go away" pretty much sums up my childhood unless I was in trouble.

I was never allowed to leave my room until my parents got up (12pm) and my sister and I were not allowed to eat without asking. Often we would get rejected and from a very young age if I ever had an issue I was told to sort it out myself.

I was also physically abused, but I believe the neglect lead to a large number of my issues. I always feel the need to be reassured in a relationship, and I need to be told I am loved regularly or I will start doubting it. I never really believe people, and I always have to feel I am entirely self sufficient incase I ever get left alone again. I don't trust anyone but myself. I also really struggle to feel safe anywhere. When I moved in with my boyfriend I started crying because i realised for the first time in my life I had a safe place to go. Strange at the age of 21 that was honest to god the first time I had ever had that.
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