Emotional damage is not always apparent. It’s not a physical wound that you can see and heal.
It lurks beneath the surface, often masked by smiles, laughter, or a seemingly “normal” behavior.
Sometimes, it’s the friend who’s always cheerful, the colleague who seems perfectly composed, or the family member who’s the life of the party.
Yet, beneath the façade, there may be a storm raging, a silent struggle against past traumas, emotional wounds, and deep-seated fears.
The signs are often subtle and easily overlooked. They might appear as simple personality quirks, mood swings, or just eccentric behaviors.
But if you see a cluster of these 7 signs, you might be dealing with someone with emotional damage.
1. Difficulty in Trusting Others
An emotionally damaged person often struggles with trust. Trust, to them, is like a double-edged sword.
They want to believe in people, rely on them. Yet, their past experiences might have taught them that trust often leads to disappointment or heartbreak.
People who have been through emotional trauma may view the world as a hostile place. But it’s not about being pessimistic or negative; it’s just a subconscious self-defense mechanism.
Every time they consider opening up, the pain from the past rears its ugly head. They remember how it felt when that trust was broken, when they were let down.
This difficulty in trusting others extends beyond relationships; it seeps into friendships, work relationships, even casual social interactions.
They may have a guarded demeanor, seldom sharing personal stories or feelings. It’s not that they don’t want to connect with others, it’s just that they are scared. Scared of letting someone in and getting hurt again.
Such a person may need more time to develop faith in you before they can open up. A little patience, a lot of understanding, and unwavering support can go a long way in helping them build trust again.
2. Avoidance of Emotional Intimacy
Emotional intimacy is about sharing your feelings, thoughts, fears, and hopes with someone else. It’s about letting someone else into your world, being vulnerable.
But for an emotionally damaged person, this vulnerability is terrifying. It’s like handing someone the power to hurt them.
So, they avoid it. They avoid conversations that might lead to them revealing more about their inner world.
They can be funny, charming, and sociable, but when the talk becomes personal or emotional, they may change the topic, make a joke, or suddenly become very busy.
It’s not because they’re unfeeling or uncaring. Quite the opposite. They’re just protecting themselves from potential emotional pain.
Maybe every time they’ve opened up in the past, it’s led to a world of hurt. So now, they shield themselves by avoiding emotional intimacy.
Yet, deep inside, they crave that connection. They yearn for someone to understand them, accept them. But they’re caught in this vicious cycle of wanting emotional intimacy and being afraid of it.
3. Emotional Unavailability
People who are emotionally damaged often wall off their emotions. It’s their way of coping and surviving.
To them, the logic is, if they don’t feel, they don’t hurt. Or so they think. You’ll often notice them come across as emotionally unavailable, aloof, distant, or indifferent.
However, this emotional unavailability is just a façade, a protective shield. Beneath it lies a tumult of feelings they’re trying to suppress. Anger, sadness, fear, disappointment — it’s a whirlwind of emotions they’re afraid to confront.
Of course, emotionally damaged people also experience emotions. They do, perhaps more intensely than others. It’s just that they have a hard time expressing them, sharing them.
4. Fear of Abandonment
Isn’t it peculiar how some of us dread being left alone? It’s like an itch that can’t be scratched, a shadow you can’t shake off.
You’ll find this fear deeply ingrained in someone who’s emotionally damaged.
In their heart, they are terrified of being left behind again, so they stick to solitude. It’s safer this way, or so they convince themselves.
The fear manifests differently for different people. Some attach themselves to others like glue, dreading the slightest hint of a growing distance.
On the flip side, some people prefer to sever connections before they get too entangled. These reactions, different as they may seem, spring from the same well of fear.
But let’s remember, they’re not acting this way out of malice. There’s no intent to manipulate or control others.
The reality is much simpler, yet heartbreaking. They’re scared. Scared of the echo of an old pain that abandonment might bring.
5. Overly Critical of Self
Ever meet someone who can’t stop criticizing themselves? It’s as if they have a lens that magnifies their flaws and mistakes while shrinking their strengths and achievements.
This harsh self-evaluation is often a trait found in people who’ve experienced emotional trauma. They firmly believe they’re marred, undeserving of love and happiness.
They aren’t fishing for compliments or sympathy. In their mind, they genuinely think these negative attributes define them. This twisted self-perception is often rooted in their damaging past experiences.
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6. Overwhelmed by Simple Tasks
Sometimes, the smallest tasks feel like climbing Everest. Choosing what to wear or deciding what to have for dinner might feel like monumental challenges.
Here’s the thing: for someone with emotional issues, this overwhelming sensation isn’t due to laziness or indecisiveness. It’s a sign of emotional exhaustion that individuals with past trauma frequently experience.
Their minds are a whirlpool of turmoil and chaos. They’re constantly struggling, which leaves them with little energy to deal with anything extra.
Even ordinary, day-to-day decisions become a burden they’re too tired to bear.
This is where understanding and support make a world of difference. Take some decisions off their plate, assist with tasks, and provide them with the time and space they need to recover. Often, it’s the small gestures that bring the most relief.
7. Difficulty in Letting Go of the Past
Can’t forget the past? The hurtful incidents, the unpleasant memories that play on an endless loop in your head?
People who have suffered emotional damage often struggle to let go of their past. It’s like a ghost that haunts their present, a wound that refuses to heal.
The past isn’t just a chapter in their life story that they can turn the page on. It’s more like a dark cloud that shadows them wherever they go.
It’s not that they enjoy living in this melancholy, it’s that they feel chained to their history.
Breaking free from these chains isn’t as easy as simply advising them to “move on”.
Healing is a process that requires patience, understanding, and professional help like therapy or counseling. Because sometimes, the past holds us captive in ways we can’t escape on our own.
8. Frequent Mood Swings
Happy one moment, sad the next, then a sudden surge of anger. It’s like a stormy weather forecast, unpredictable and tumultuous.
These frequent mood swings aren’t willful or intentional. They’re an outward manifestation of an inner turmoil. A storm is raging inside, and it’s so intense that it spills out, impacting their external demeanor.
Remember, they’re not trying to be difficult. Their emotions are at war, and they’re just caught in the crossfire. They’re trying to navigate through this turmoil the best way they can.
9. Difficulty in Setting Boundaries
Ever met someone who has trouble saying ‘No’? It’s a simple word, but for some, it’s harder to say than supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.
An emotionally damaged individual might struggle with setting boundaries. They often let others walk over them, manipulate them, or take advantage of their inability to refuse.
This struggle isn’t a sign of weakness. Rather, it’s a scar left by past traumas. They fear that setting boundaries will lead to conflict, disappointment, or even abandonment.
In their minds, they’re just trying to maintain peace, to avoid any confrontation. They’re not people-pleasers; they’re just scared of the potential repercussions.
Imagine walking down a dark alley with you every sense heightened and alert to every sound. That’s what life can feel like for someone who’s emotionally damaged.
They’re always on high alert, watching for signs of danger, expecting something bad to happen.
It’s exhausting, living in constant anxiety, always on the lookout. But it’s not a conscious choice. It’s a defense mechanism, a response to past traumas.
They’re not paranoid or overly suspicious by choice. Their experiences have conditioned them to expect the worst, to be prepared for it.
How to Deal With An Emotionally Damaged Person
1. Empathize, Don’t Sympathize
There’s a world of difference between feeling sorry for someone (sympathy) and understanding what they’re going through (empathy).
With an emotionally damaged person, empathy makes all the difference.
Try to understand their perspective, the storm they’re navigating. Put yourself in their position and think about how they must be feeling.
Remember, they’re not looking for pity; they’re looking for someone who understands their struggle.
Sometimes, all they need is someone to vent to, someone who listens without judgment. Be that person for them. Lend an ear, offer a shoulder, let them know they’re not alone.
2. Patience is Key
Healing emotional scars is a slow process, requiring lots of time and patience. There’s no instant fix, no magic wand to make everything better.
Patience is your best friend here. Understand that their mood swings, their self-doubt, their fear of abandonment — these are not going to disappear overnight. It’s going to take time, possibly a lot of it.
Stay patient with them. Don’t rush them or push them to “get over it”. Let them heal at their own pace. Your patience will provide them with a sense of stability, something they may desperately need.
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3. Offer Reassurance
Remember that old friend who always had your back, who always reassured you when you were down? That’s the role you’ve got to play here. Reassure them, remind them that they’re valued, that they’re not alone.
Reassurance can act as a balm for their insecurities, their fears, their doubts. Let them know they’re loved, they’re cherished, that you’re there for them.
Your words of reassurance can be the beacon of light they need in their moments of darkness.
4. Help Them Seek Professional Help
Sometimes, love and support aren’t enough. Emotional trauma can leave deep wounds that require professional treatment. Encourage them to seek help from a mental health professional.
Professional help can guide them through their healing journey. Therapists and counselors are equipped with the right tools and techniques to handle emotional trauma.
They can help them navigate through their past experiences, understand their emotions, and develop coping mechanisms.
Let them know there’s no shame in seeking help. In fact, it’s a brave step towards healing. Offer to accompany them if they’re uncomfortable going alone. Your support could be what they need to take this crucial step.
5. Take Care of Yourself Too
Remember when you’re on a plane, and they tell you to put on your oxygen mask before helping others? The same applies here. You can’t pour from an empty cup.
Helping someone who’s emotionally damaged can be challenging and draining. It’s crucial to take care of your own mental health as well.
Practice self-care, seek support when you need it, and set boundaries when necessary.
It’s okay to take a step back when things get too overwhelming. You can’t help someone else if you’re not okay yourself. Stay strong, stay healthy, and remember, you’re doing the best you can.
How do you love someone who is emotionally damaged?
Loving someone who’s emotionally damaged requires understanding, patience, and a whole lot of empathy. It’s not always going to be easy.
There will be times when their behavior might puzzle you, frustrate you, or even hurt you. Remember, it’s the trauma speaking, not them.
Don’t take their actions personally. Show them, consistently and sincerely, that you care about them. Be there for them, reassure them, and make them feel safe and loved.
Secondly, support them in their healing journey. Encourage them to seek professional help, like therapy or counseling, to address their emotional trauma. Healing is a personal journey, and they need to take the driver’s seat.
Your role is to be there for them, supporting them, cheering for them from the sidelines. Remember, patience is essential. Healing takes time, and there’s no quick fix for emotional damage.
How can you protect your emotional health when dealing with someone who is emotionally damaged?
First and foremost, remember the importance of self-care. While it’s crucial to support and help someone emotionally damaged, you should not neglect your own emotional health.
Establish boundaries for your own mental wellbeing. It’s okay to take time for yourself, to say ‘No’ when you need to. It’s essential to have a support system for yourself, someone you can talk to, vent, or seek advice from.
Secondly, consider seeking professional guidance. Mental health professionals can provide you with effective coping mechanisms and strategies to maintain your emotional health while supporting someone else.
Remember, it’s not selfish to prioritize your wellbeing. In fact, taking care of your emotional health puts you in a better position to help the person you care about. It’s like the old saying, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.”
- All photos from feepik.com