Abandonment issues are created out of chaos and heartbreak. When you spend a long time with someone and share your deepest truth with them, and they leave you one day to move on, it leaves you confused, scared, and angry. You may never feel like trusting another person because you think every person you come across would abandon you.
In this post, let us dig into the signs of abandonment issues and understand how to deal with them.
What Are Abandonment Issues?
Abandonment issues stem from your life experiences when you felt alone and could not rely on your loved ones to support you or take care of you. Abandonment leads to major trust issuesiXBeing unable to open up to someone fearing their betrayal and commitment phobiaiXThe inability to commit to a person due to some unaddressed fears or clinginess, depending on other factors (1).
Abandonment can be either physical or emotional. Physical abandonment occurs if you went through physical neglect, lack of supervision, inadequate provision, or sexual/physical trauma. Emotional abandonment is when you felt neglected emotionally, or you had to hide your feelings to feel accepted.
To know the fear of abandonment better, it is essential to understand why it develops.
Why Do Abandonment Issues Arise?
Abandonment kicks in due to several reasons. Attachment styles begin to develop during childhood. Your attachment style is a high indication that determines if you have abandonment issues in your adulthood. Here are a few primary reasons why it can stem in some people.
- Childhood neglect: Most of these issues develop when a person suffers from neglect as a child. The absence of care and affection reinforces the feelings of loneliness and low self-esteem in the person. If you don’t get the attention you need as a child, issues with abandonment can arise (2).
- Rejection: Getting rejected by a loved one or rejection of romantic advances can also spur abandonment issues. The person feels unworthy of being loved and tends to overanalyze the reasons for the dismissal (3).
- Death of a loved one: Overcoming the death of somebody we love can be excruciating. In some cases, it can be linked to abandonment issues. The person develops a lifelong fear of letting somebody in thinking of their impending demise and subsequent pain, especially if the death is of a parent or if it was untimely.
- Emotional or sexual abuse by a former partner: If your ex-partner was abusive, that would leave some unfilled scars. If one of your parents was abusive, that can lead to suppressed pain. Abusive relationships leave the victim incapable of trusting anyone and leads to significant trust issues. They also add to low self-esteem in the victim.
- Physical and emotional abuse as a child: Physical abuse can scar a child and create a negative impression of the concept of family. The child can grow up thinking that corporal punishment might be a regular thing and can internalize the pain and anger. Emotional abuseiXSubjecting a person to psychological control and manipulation creates a negative impression on parents and family for the child and reinforces instability and low self-esteem.
Drew Paige opens up about her childhood and how she developed abandonment issues. She explains, “My father was physically in my life when I was growing up as a child. I was emotionally neglected; he did not connect with me on the level of feeling connected and cared for. He distanced himself when I was very young; I felt it. My father did not have the capacity. To realize that he was presenting emotionally neglectful behavior.
“As I grew older, the abuse escalated, verbal abuse, and moments of physical abuse added to the feeling of being abandoned. The neglect had an effect on my developing brain. The emotional abandonment that was occurring in my home environment was deeply interfering with my school work (i).”
- Divorce or separation in the family: Children from broken families or separated couples are susceptible to the development of abandonment issues. They feel bereft of the affection of the other parent and often lose trust in the institutions of family and marriage.
Abandonment, either physical or emotional, leads to a plethora of negative emotions that develop over time, resulting in severe psychological issues. Next, we tell you about the significant signs of abandonment.
Signs You Have Abandonment Issues
Some signs might be evident while some might be too subtle to notice. The following are the major recognizable signs of abandonment issues. Note that these need not necessarily indicate abandonment issues but surely raise a red flag in your relationship (1).
- Quick and easy attachment: You probably remember Ted Mosby from “How I Met Your Mother,” who used to move too fast in relationships. If you are the one who gets attached too soon to your partner or commit to them only after a few meet-ups, the chances are that you have abandonment issues.
That hastiness might be because you feel that your current relationship is all that you have and you are afraid of losing the person if you don’t act fast. This prevents you from assessing the actual state of affairs and whether or not you are genuinely compatible with the person.
- Quickly moving on after a relationship: You just had a breakup recently, and instead of allowing yourself time, you move on to seek a new partner. It could mean that you are shielding yourself from the pain and hurt of the breakup by jumping into something ‘new and exciting’. Though appealing for the short term, this pattern is profoundly unhealthy in the long run because you don’t give enough time to yourself for healing before jumping into a new relationship.
- Self-sacrificing to please your partner: If you end up sacrificing your needs for your partner to stay in the relationship, there’s a high possibility you have abandonment issues. The psychology behind this is: if you don’t fulfill your partner’s needs, they will look for fulfillment someplace else.
- Staying put in toxic relationships: You feel neglected in your relationship, you are taken for granted, and your partner abuses or ignores you on a regular basis; in spite of that, you stay put in the relationship. If you have suffered from abandonment before, you would do anything to make the relationship work, even if it becomes toxic. This probably happens as you fear being alone so much that being in a bad relationship looks like a better option for you. It could also mean that you find value in fulfilling others’ needs.
- Criticizing your partner: Rather than focusing on the positives, you look for the negative aspects of your partner and the relationship. Your abandonment issues make you dwell on what’s wrong rather than what’s right. If your relationship does end, you console yourself by telling yourself that the relationship was not right in the first place. This habit would probably affect your other relationships as well.
- Avoiding emotional intimacy: People with abandonment issues feel vulnerable to hurt and they think that keeping an emotional distance is the only way to avoid getting hurt. Your emotional guards are up all the time and people can rarely breach those high walls. You might come off as distant or emotionally unavailable and show signs of emotional detachment.
Paige adds, “The effect it (childhood abandonment issues) had on me in my adult relationships was very clear. I was constantly guarded, and I had an insecure attachment style. I never allowed boys I was in relationships with to get close to me emotionally. I was never vulnerable.”
- Low self-esteem: When you have abandonment issues, you feel you are the real reason behind people leaving you. You constantly think “what am I doing wrong”. This results in your self-esteem going for a toss. You doubt every action you take or every decision you make. You feel your partner cannot possibly love you, leading you to withdraw from the relationship. You struggle to believe good things that your partner says about you and rebut them most times, which then distances them from you.
- Jealousy and possessiveness: When you doubt that you are unworthy of your partner, you see the people around them with suspicion. This makes it difficult for you to trust your partner. You become jealous of the people close to them, especially if they are of the opposite sex.
- Sabotaging the relationship: You tend to undermine the relationship either intentionally or unintentionally. The usual logic behind this is “I will leave him before he leaves me” or “I will make her leave me before things progress.” You are trying to get out of the relationship to protect yourself from getting hurt, assuming that the relationship will hurt you.
Sabotaging the relationship is a natural defense mechanism to avoid getting hurt in the future. You tend to push your partner away and are reluctant to reciprocate their love. It is tough to break out of this pattern as you often do it unconsciously.
- Repressing anger: Fear of abandonment can make you suppress your anger and frustrations over small things that can accumulate over time. You feel if you let your dissatisfaction known to your partner, he or she will leave you. This leads to the buildup of resentment over the years making your relationship toxic.
- Repeated visualizations of the partner leaving: You are convinced that your partner would eventually leave you no matter what. Instead of looking for ways to resolve issues, your brain begins preparing you for the fall by conjuring up scenarios of your partner leaving you. Such visualizations end up in bouts of anxiety and depression because you perceive these scenarios as a certainty rather than a possibility.
- Difficulty in trusting the partner: Because your over-active imagination is continuously coming up with images of your partner leaving you or cheating on you, you find it difficult to believe them. The vulnerability lies in trusting them, which you might want to avoid. This constant suspicion and lack of trust erode the basis of your relationship.
- A tendency to choose unavailable partners: You always tend to choose partners who are emotionally unavailable or incompatible with you. This tendency arises from your need to avoid emotional intimacy. You can justify not investing sufficiently in the relationship if your partner is unavailable.
- Excessive controlling: Most of the abandonment issues stem from previous relationships where there was a probable lack of control. Hence you end up trying to control every aspect of your relationship so that it does not go south. However, this can diminish your partner’s self-worth and bring problems in your relationship.
If you recognize seven or more of the signs mentioned in your behavior, you probably have abandonment fears. You should take time to reflect and come up with an action plan to reduce or eliminate them because they can lead to more severe behavioral problems.
Implication Of Abandonment Issues
Abandonment brings a slew of secondary problems. They may differ from case to case but here we share the significant ones (4).
- Mood swings and depression: You cannot control your emotions. You are either super happy when your partner gives you attention or you are in despair when they are not around. Unresolved issues can lead to prolonged and severe depression, which might require medical care.
- Sleeping disorders: When you are worried, and your nerves are stretched to their ends, sleep is the last thing that will come to your mind. Over the years, sleeping disorders stemming from anxiety can result in insomnia. This can have a negative impact on your physical health.
- Low self-esteem: It is both a product and a sign of abandonment issues. The issues can make you underrate and undercut yourself repeatedly. This leads to the loss of confidence, lower self-worth, and reluctance to tackle new challenges.
- Social anxiety: Lower self-esteem can end in social anxietyiXFear of being judged in a social setting . Fear of rejection from other people can make you shy and nervous around crowds and hamper your social life.
- Addictions: Unresolved issues of abandonment can result in pent-up frustrations that crave an outlet. You can end up resorting to unhealthy cravings for drugs, alcohol, or other such stuff. This can alleviate your stress in a shorter duration and can also afford you the luxury of denial but result in catastrophic consequences.
- Borderline personality disease: Borderline personality disease or BPD presents itself as the last stage of unresolved abandonment issues. People with severe abandonment issues over time develop extremely low self-esteem, become defensive to criticism, and are sensitive to negative emotions.
Many adverse effects of abandonment issues can be arrested or reversed if action is taken before it is too late.
How To Overcome Abandonment Issues?
Dealing with abandonment isn’t easy. However, where there’s a will, there is a way! Continue reading to understand how you can overcome abandonment issues.
- Acknowledge your feelings: The first step towards solving any problem is an acknowledgment of the problem. Acknowledge that you have negative feelings in you. Try to categorize how you are feeling; are you feeling low, insecure, jealous of your partners’ friends, etc. Reflect and meditate on what kind of thoughts these feelings bring in your mind.
- Let your partner in: Once you have determined your feelings, talk to your partner about them. If trusting your partner with the more significant issues is a hurdle at first, start with the smaller ones. Eventually, open up about the more complex ones like what makes you insecure and how you would like your partner to phrase their criticisms. Keep doing what you can and make your spouse your confidant. You will be surprised how helpful it can prove to be!
- Make an action plan: Make a step-by-step action plan and checklists. Assign yourself at least one task out of your comfort zone and mark it off the list once done. This will boost the sense of achievement in you, and you will be less likely to fall off the wagon. Besides, it will do wonders for your self-esteem when a task is fulfilled.
- Find an outlet for your anxiety and frustrations: Abandonment issues bring a lot of frustration, jealousy, or insecurity as discussed earlier. The best way to counter these negative emotions would be to do something productive. Pick up a new hobby, a sport, a group activity like soccer, badminton, Zumba, or arts and crafts classes. That way the people with you can become your support group, which reduces your depression and loneliness. It also brings out the creative side of you.
- Maintain a journal: Journaling is an effective method in dealing with frustrations. Chronicling your thoughts and feelings will not only help you in categorizing them but also act as an outlet for the negative energy to flow out. Writing down positive things and small victories will help in reinforcing your self-worth. Your journal can become the shoulder to cry on when you need to vent.
- Rekindle old friendships and form new ones: When you have abandonment issues, you feel nobody would want to be friends with you, and even if they do, they will leave you. Making new friends and going on dates with your partner will make your fears look baseless, thus reducing the fear of abandonment.
- Consider therapy or counseling: If you are unable to make any progress using the above tips, it’s okay to seek help. There are trained psychologists and counselors who will try different therapies to help you let go of your fears. You can also try attending counseling with your partner so they can help you out when you get overwhelmed. The sooner you seek help, the better your outcome will be!
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How do abandonment issues affect relationships?
When people in relationships experience abandonment issues, they tend to frequently exhibit behaviors such as people-pleasing, codependency, insecurity, and repetitive reassurance. These behaviors tend to affect their partners and the bond they share. However, recognizing these behaviors and seeking help can be beneficial to a great extent (7).
2. What kind of therapy is best for abandonment issues?
Treatments for abandonment issues include EMDR treatment, dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), psychodynamic therapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). A medical expert or a qualified professional is the best person to advise on what will work for your condition (8).
It is not unusual to be in isolation and stuck in a dark tunnel when a person you trusted abandons you. Abandonment issues may be seen in people of all age groups. If you feel that you are experiencing signs of abandonment, you may consider seeking professional help. Untreated abandonment issues may cause long-term complications, including anxiety and depression. However, several people across the globe overcome their abandonment issues with the help of friends, family, medical help, or support groups. You may open up and help yourself before any serious issues arise.
Infographic: Identify Abandonment Problems Before It’s Too Late
Abandonment is when a person develops anxiety or fear of losing their close ones, leading to relationship issues. The below infographic lists some of the indications of abandonment issues. When identified early, one can tackle abandonment problems with the help of therapy and management strategies.
- When someone rejects or denies you after sharing a great emotional or physical connection, you may develop abandonment issues.
- It can lead to insecurity, low self-esteem, fear of commitment, and trust issues.
- Individuals with abandonment issues may jump from one relationship to another soon after a breakup or prioritize their partner’s needs over their own.
- Coping may involve communication with partners, finding outlets for frustration, seeking therapy or counseling, or developing strong friendships.
Feeling alone and scared? Struggling to trust others? These may be signs of abandonment issues. Uncover the path to healing and build healthy connections by taking help from this video.
Personal Experience: Source
i. The Effects Of Childhood Abandonment.
- The Long-Term Effects of Abandonment.
- Fear of Abandonment.
- Kelly Lynn Mulvey et al.; (2018); Causes and Consequences of Social Exclusion and Peer Rejection Among Children and Adolescents.
- What are Sleep Disorders?
- The long term effects of abandonment.
- Get help for abandonment issues.