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Abandonment Issues: Symptoms and Signs

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on November 20, 2020

What Are Abandonment Issues?

Abandonment issues stem from a fear of loneliness, which can be a phobia or a form of anxiety. These issues can affect your relationships and often stem from a childhood loss. Other factors that turn loss into abandonment issues include environmental and medical factors, genetics, and brain chemistry. 

Early childhood experiences are the biggest contributor to developing abandonment issues when you become an adult. The traumatic event might include the loss of a parent by divorce or death or not getting enough physical or emotional care as a child. Emotional abandonment occurs when parents:

  • Do not let their children express themselves emotionally
  • Ridicule their children
  • Put too much pressure on their children to be “perfect”
  • Treat their children like their peers

Abandonment issues happen when a parent or caregiver does not provide the child with consistent warm or attentive interactions, leaving them feeling chronic stress and fear. The experiences that happen during a child’s development will often continue into adulthood. This is why abandonment issues become more prevalent as you get older and can affect your relationships.

Types of Abandonment Issues

Abandonment issues can present themselves in three insecure attachment styles. These are: 

Avoidant Attachment Style

People who follow this style don’t allow anyone to get close to them. You may feel like you can’t open up or trust others, making you appear distant, private, or withdrawn. 

Anxious Attachment Style

People with this type of attachment style cope by developing intensely close and dependent relationships with others. You may feel anxious about separating yourself from your partner and tend to be emotionally reactive. It may be easy to see conflicts as a concern that your partner may leave, which makes you act out of fear. 

Disorganized Attachment Style

People with this attachment style have difficulty remaining intimate and close but can also be inconsistent. You may feel anxious about being in a relationship or want to avoid the closeness. This attachment style may come with other potential disorders. 

Signs of Abandonment Issues

Abandonment issues don’t always come from childhood trauma. They can also develop after losing an intimate partner to divorce or death. Either through adult or childhood abandonment, these issues can negatively impact healthy relationships.

A fear of abandonment presents itself in people who seem like “people pleasers” or need continuous reassurance that they are loved. There is also a consistent anxiety that occurs with abandonment issues. 

Common signs of abandonment issues include:

  • Giving too much or being overly eager to please
  • Jealousy in your relationship or of others
  • Trouble trusting your partner’s intentions
  • Feeling insecure about your relationship
  • Having difficulty in feeling intimate emotionally
  • Needing to control or be controlled by your partner
  • Settling in unsatisfactory relationships

It is not uncommon for you to want your partners to treat you the same way as you were treated as a child. 

Treating Abandonment Issues

When treating abandonment issues, the first step is understanding what triggers you and learning to withdraw when these triggers come up. You should also try to get more comfortable with having conversations about your fears in a calm and respectful manner. It may help to do this with a partner, family member, or close friend. It may be difficult at first, but you will find it gets easier with time.

There are two primary treatments for abandonment issues: 

Therapy

In therapy, you will be able to explore the root cause of your fears and identify negative thought patterns. Your therapist will help you replace them with healthy, more realistic thoughts. Your relationship with your therapist can also give you the sense of having a secure relationship. Working with them, you can learn to establish healthy boundaries in your relationships and help avoid behaviors that hinder healthy relationships. 

Self-care

Practicing self-care can help you make sure your emotional needs are met. This can improve friendships and relationships. Doing self-care like journaling, taking walks, and other things you enjoy can help fulfill you and improve your contributions to your partner, friends, or children.

Support and Resources

Abandonment issues can develop because of many emotional and environmental factors. If you are experiencing fear of abandonment in your relationships, it may be helpful to see a counselor. A counselor will be able to talk to you about how you’re feeling and develop a treatment plan. 

WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

Change Incorporated: “Fear of Abandonment Counselling.”

Choosing Therapy: “Abandonment Issues: Signs, Causes & How to Overcome.”

GoodTherapy: “Abandonment.”

PsychAlive: “Fear of Abandonment.”

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