Are You Prone to Depression? This Could Be the Reason

depression e1526187363828

Your emotions are the most deeply personal, biological part of who you are. They are also your greatest resource for coping and strength.

Legions of people walk through decades of their lives completely unaware that they are missing something. They may look around, and they may see others living more fully, or with more color or vitality. They may have a vague sense that something is not quite right.

But they are intelligent and competent and likable, and so they do okay. They put one foot in front of the other, and they take life step by step. Doing what is expected, and providing what is needed, they have no idea that they’re more vulnerable to life’s challenges than other people are.

Until unexpectedly their job changes, or their child has a significant problem, or someone they love moves away or passes away. Maybe it’s a problem in their marriage, or a rejection or a hurtful action directed at them, but something happens to throw them off their game.

Then they struggle mightily, and they sense that their struggle may be going too far, and they find that they are depressed. “Why is this so hard for me?” they wonder. “How did I end up here? Shouldn’t I be more resilient?”

For many of these fine people, the answer is, “Perhaps.”

Perhaps if you had received enough emotional attention in childhood you would now have access to your emotions in a more vibrant and helpful way.

Perhaps if your parents had noticed what you were feeling as a child, you would be noticing that now, yourself. Perhaps if you had been filled with self-knowledge and self-care and self-love as a child, you would have them to rely on now, in your time of need.

Growing up in a household where feelings are not addressed enough (Childhood Emotional Neglect, or CEN) takes a remarkable toll on a developing child. Not the least of which is this: It sets the child up to be more prone to depression throughout her lifetime, and to forever blame it on herself.

If you grew up without enough emotional validation and response from your parents (CEN), you probably did what most good children do: you automatically pushed your emotions away and walled them off. This may have worked fairly well through your childhood, but now, in your adulthood, you need full and healthy access to your emotions.

5 Ways CEN Causes Depression in Adulthood

1. Your emotions are walled off: Since you pushed them away as a child (to cope in your childhood home), you are now living without access to this rich, motivating, stimulating feed back system.

2. You missed the emotion training course that other people got: You grew up in an Emotion-Free Zone. No one taught you how to identify, express, manage or use your emotions.

3. CEN makes you feel alone in the world: When no one notices what you’re feeling enough as a child, and when the response to your emotional needs is tepid or absent, you learn that you cannot (or should not) rely on others emotionally.

4. You are prone to directing your anger inward: Anger can be an empowering, useful emotion when you know how to use it. If your anger was not accepted when you were a child, and if you were not taught how to use it, you are at risk for turning it against yourself.

5. You are inclined to the feel shame: Growing up with CEN, the powerful message that your emotions either don’t matter or are bad can easily make you feel ashamed for having them. Yet your emotions are wired into you. You can’t not have emotions. The result: shame.

And now, after all that bad news, I have some very good news for you. Now that you see and understand the effects of Childhood Emotional Neglect, you can heal it yourself. When you do this, you will not only reduce your susceptibility to depression, you will also improve many other areas of your life as well.

3 Ways to Become Less Vulnerable to Depression

• Start working on your CEN. The best thing about CEN is that it can be healed. You can break through that wall that you built to block off your feelings in childhood. You can begin to feel more varied emotions. You can learn how to use your anger in a healthy, protective way. You can learn the emotion skills that you missed.

• Accept that your feelings are your friend. Your emotions are a source of vitality and richness. Without them, you are living in a gray world, devoid of the color that others experience. Reclaiming your feelings and learning to use them will connect you, relieve you and enrich you.

• Reach out. CEN taught you to circle your wagons, but those wagons are now holding you separate. Learning to let your wagons loosen will open the world to you. With more people on your side of the wall,  you will no longer feel so alone.

Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN) is invisible. Yet it makes you struggle with emotions throughout your adult life, and makes you more prone to depression. To find out if you are affected by CEN, take the Childhood Emotional Neglect Test.

To learn more about Childhood Emotional Neglect, see my first book Running on Empty. 

This article was originally published on and has been republished here with the permission of the author and PsychCentral


Click Here to Leave a Comment Below
Rajit - November 6, 2019 Reply

I have manged to make a habit of breaking the wall but the wall enters when i talk with someone… Its not that i am nervous or anything but i guess that its the emotions attached to the words that is missing .Any good strategies to improve on that ? I feel this is the only prt that i feel is sort of missing.

    Jonice - November 9, 2019 Reply

    The long list of Emotion Words in the back of the Running On Empty book will help. Along with lots of practice.

P - October 15, 2018 Reply

I just ran across this site and your comments. I felt like you were speaking my thoughts and emotions. Everything you said, I have said to myself hundreds, thousands of times. I am 67 and feel that this loneliness and sometimes self-hatred will be with me always. I have suffered with depression for years. I try to keep telling myself that everything will be ok, but the one thing I have always clung to, hope, seems to be getting harder to hold onto. We can only continue to try and keep positive. Reading other people’s comments let us know we are not alone. Thank you for your posting.

Sue F - September 1, 2018 Reply

I have done a lot of work on myself in the past five years and for me it was realising that none of this was my fault. I’m not going to let what others did or didn’t do to me rule the rest of my life. My healing is for me. They can’t see that though. They see somebody who is “too emotional” or “too sensitive”. I just refuse to let them have any more power over me or shame me for how I feel.

    Jonice - September 2, 2018 Reply

    Good for you Sue. It’s so important to take your power back from those who have drained it away by emotionally neglecting you.

Lisa Redding - January 5, 2018 Reply

Suzanne, I hope you are feeling at least somewhat better by now. I’m 57, and still suffering with the effects of this.

Learning to choose joy - August 20, 2017 Reply

You can still find emotional nourishment, connection and validation in yourself, and recovery community. I didn’t marry until my late forties, and while I chose to marry someone more “appropriate” in values and life management than prior boyfriends, my CEN-related blind spots still affected my choice of spouse and the EN continues… It’s easier to insulate and less painful to be single sometimes. I will keep moving forward to heal and be able to give and receive love. 🙂

M - August 11, 2017 Reply

Hi Suzanne,

I’m in the same boat as you – I thought it was just me! I feel like such a loser in love, even though outwardly I’m attractive and get along well with men – but I’ve also come to realize that I’ve had major self-sabotage issues. I’ve been sabotaging all the happy things in my life. To overcome this, I’ve been doing Emotional Freedom Technique and other self-help things as well as talking to therapists to try to work my way out of this bind. I’ve already noticed progress, even though I’m still working on it. I first started reading about mother issues online when one day at work I absent-mindedly typed into google “my mother is jealous of my happiness.” Hang in there!! Hugs, M.

Suzanne - April 17, 2017 Reply

What scares me, as an adult woman in her late 40’s, I still want to HURT the woman who hurt me. (my Mother). I was always told as a child to “Shut Up and go to my room as no one cares what I think/feel”…and I still cannot get over the Hurt (& hatred) I feel for her as she doesn’t think she’s ever done anything wrong to me or anyone… (shes very narcissistic)…
Im now in my late 40’s, very intelligent, successful, attractive, etc BUT STILL SINGLE AND NOT TRULY HAPPY. I see most of my friends in relationships and I’ve NEVER had a good relationship with a man because I always DOUBTED MYSELF (and then unintentionally sabotage the relationship) even before it had time to start…IT STILL KILLS ME AND MAKES ME SO SADDD……


Leave a Comment: