Emotional concussions can cause as much damage as physical concussions


With all the news about concussions: the long-term impact, cumulative impact, risk versus reward in letting kids play football and crash into each other versus experiencing teamwork, hard work, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, I believe we, as parents and people who love children, need to think about another type of concussion, one different than the crashing of heads in football helmets, or the smacking of the frontal lobe as a soccer ball is headered by a teenaged Mia Hamm wannabe.

Please consider, if you will, the emotional concussion.

If parents, sporting equipment companies, school systems, pediatricians, neuroscientists, researchers, journalists, and others in this debate would think about the emotional concussions suffered by children in homes run by addiction, abuse, and dysfunction, I believe we could help many more children.

I am talking about the one-in-four school-aged kids who live in homes run by alcohol and drugs. If you add in the children living in homes run by some other type of dysfunction – addictions to food, sex, pornography, spending, gossip, religion, and control, plus those who live in homes where there is physical, emotional, sexual, or spiritual abuse (though addiction, neglect, and other forms of abuse go hand-in-hand) the percentage of children affected goes way up.

The life-in-dysfunction emotional concussion is a day-in-day-out brain bludgeoning by stress-induced hormones of adrenaline and cortisol.  It wires developing brains for flight, fight or freeze. It can set people up to pass on the family legacy of dysfunction.

These ongoing emotional concussions set up a cascade of disasters, from trouble in school to teen pregnancies; from bullying to cutting; from bad choices to multiple divorces and continuous drama and upset. Unfortunately, for these children, there’s no coach or trainer on the sideline holding up three

fingers or checking for dilated pupils before sending the anxious child back into the game. Kids living with constant emotional concussions have to stay in the game. There is no time out. There are no rules forcing them to sit out part of the season. The ongoing stress of emotional concussions is their way of life, wiring their brains for hyper-vigilance, arresting development, stunting emotional growth, and killing the innocence they, as children, deserve.

Like leopards born with their parents’ spots, these children are marked for re-dos of their parents’ lives. Think about it: The family with the single mom whose mother was a single mother, whose granddaughter becomes a single parent. The family with three or four generations of alcoholics. The family with suicides.

I speak for the children when I say that as much, if not MORE, attention needs to be dedicated to the study of emotional concussions, and the prevention of emotional concussions, as the attention paid to the sports-related concussions.

If politicians who support early childhood education (which is a noble endeavor) truly want to make a difference, they need to advocate  to start teaching parenting education to children when they are children. And then teach it all the way through school. And bring the parents in when the kids are young and teach the parents more about how to take care of themselves, so they are more likely to model sane and loving behavior to their children. Perhaps there is a tax credit for businesses offering parenting classes to their employees, or a requirement that parents take classes before their children can be enrolled in school.

Taking these “drain the swamp” measures could truly help solve the $80 billion a year problem.* Helping people KNOW better and supporting them can help them DO better, and help their children do even better.

If a parent saw the brain scans of a child stressed by  family addiction and abuse versus the brain scans of a child living in a relatively peaceful home, it might make a difference. It might help them realize that to care for their children they have to care for themselves. It might help them stop inflicting their own emotional concussions via addiction and other self-destructive behaviors.

This is a much saner fix than having emotionally concussed kids end up in treatment facilities, prisons, or dead.

Hurt people hurt people. To stop the cycle, we’ve got to stop hurting people, especially the most vulnerable among us.

Cost Study Calls for Continued Focus on Innovative Programming Based on Estimates that Child Abuse and Neglect Costs Nation $80 Billion Per Year

Resources that may be a help:

Alcoholics Anonymous


Adult Children of Alcoholics

Prevent Child Abuse America

National Association for Children of Alcoholics

Carey Sipp’s first book, The TurnAround Mom – How an Abuse and Addiction Survivor Stopped the Toxic Cycle for Her Family, and How You Can, Too, guides fellow “children of chaos” to create the kind of sane and loving home life that helps prevent next-generation addiction and abuse. Follow her on Twitter @TurnAroundMom.

This post first appeared on ShareWIK.com


  1. As a special education teacher I have experienced this…. folks said I needed tougher skin but reality is…. the district didn’t have supports in place and still don’t but I don’t operate out of federal guidelines… just a horrific experience and I write this as it is happening to adults as well…


  2. Thank you for this wonderful and very truthful information !! More people need to be aware of the severity and crippling of emotional abuse and neglect!!!


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