Recovering from Neglect, Repairing Body Image

Contributor: Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC, Special Projects Coordinator at Eating Disorder Hope/Addiction Hope

Young woman sitting on the floor near wall ,doing yogaNeglect can occur in many forms and in various situations. A person can suffer neglect emotionally, physically, mentally, financially and psychologically, and this can happen regardless of background, culture, gender, or socioeconomic status.

Neglect is something that can be experienced across the ages as well, as both children and adults can be subject to neglect. Some of the most common forms of neglect that may occur are as follows:

Physical Neglect:

This may involve the failure of attending to a person’s most basic needs, including hygiene, food and nutrition, medication management, adequate shelter and clothing, and anything else pertaining to the maintenance of health and well-being.

Financial Neglect:

This form of neglect may involve the disregard of an individual’s financial obligations, such as failure to pay bills, healthcare costs, living expenses, utilities, taxes and more. This can be particularly troublesome when lack of payment results in loss of shelter, medical care, basic needs, and more.

Emotional Neglect:

Buddhist_prayer_beads201This form of neglect may be tied to emotional abuse, in which an individual experiences taunting, threatening or belittling. A person may experience emotional abuse from a caregiver/caretaker or emotional abandonment by those closest to them. If a person becomes emotionally absent or unavailable in a relationship, this can lead to emotional neglect.


If a person is unable to adequately meet and care for their own basic needs, such as psychological, physical, and mental health, to the point that there life and safety is compromised, this can be considered self-neglect. This may be the result of an injury or disability that causes an individual to lose the ability to sufficiently care for themselves.

Whether intentional or unintentional, neglect can be a serious form of trauma inflicted on the sufferer. When basic needs are ignored, dismissed or forgotten, this can have a tremendous impact on a person’s well-being, both physically and emotionally.

The Impact on Self-Esteem and Body Image

Young man having depressionAnother manner in which neglect may effect a person is through their self-esteem and body image. While some individuals may not see the connection, neglect can cause a person to lose confidence in themselves or develop a poor body image and self-worth.

If a person feels neglected, they can internalize these experiences towards themselves and feel as though something wrong with them inflicted the pain they are experiencing. It is common to project fears, doubts, and uncertainties from outside circumstances as body inadequacies or shortcomings when it is difficult to control one’s surroundings.

Seeking Out Help

If you or a loved one has been suffering with any form of neglect as well as poor body image and self-esteem, it is critical that you seek out the help you need to recover. If you have witnessed a life-threatening situation that has involved a child or adult with disabilities, it is important to call 9-1-1 or your local Adult/Child Protective Services agency.

The first step towards healing from neglect is removing oneself from a harmful situation. If you are in a position of being neglected, reach out to someone you trust that you can confide in. By sharing what you are experiencing with another person, you are taking the first step towards intervening and preventing the neglectful situation from occurring.

Healing Is Possible, Even If It May Seem Impossible

Pretty student girl taking a selfie.Once you are able to stop the neglect from reoccurring in your life, it may take some time to heal from the trauma that you have experienced. Ongoing neglect, especially for long periods of time, can cause severe forms of mental illness, which may require professional help for treatment and recovery.

In the process of healing from neglect, you will find that you can also rebuild your body image, confidence and self-esteem, Recovery from neglect can help you be reminded of your self-worth and importance as a human being. Having your basic needs once again is a key step towards healing from the inside out.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

Have you or someone you care for been subject to any form of neglect? If so, how did this correlate with your body image? What enabled you to recover from the neglect you experienced and rebuild your body image?

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on July 7th, 2015
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