What Is Abandonment: Causes, Symptoms, And Treatment

Last Update on November 3, 2023 : Published on February 1, 2021

We all experience fear of being left out at least once in our lifetime. While some of us cope with these strong feelings and thoughts effectively, others may experience anxiety related to it, finding it difficult to get over it.

This anxiety related to losing someone or being left alone is referred to as- Fear of Abandonment! Probably the most common and damaging of all fears!

Don’t confuse it with phobia it is a completely different mental health condition that is related to anxiety. The anxiety of being left behind, discarded, and undesired.

List of Contents

Continue reading to find out more about The Fear of Abandonment and help yourself or those around you who might be stewing over the same.

Fact Check: Fear of abandonment isn’t recognized as a mental health condition. It is recognized as a type of anxiety that an individual experienced.

What is Abandonment

Dictionary meaning:

What is Abandonment
Source: Cambridge Dictionary

Psychological meaning:

Adbondment is an emotional state wherein an individual feels at a loss, being cut off from, withdrawn, and insecure. These feelings are either sudden due to trauma or result of a process of erosion (childhood neglect or abuse). This further gives rise to fear and anxiety that interferes in their relationship with others as they are constantly seeking validation and reassurance.

Also Read: How To Relieve Stress And Anxiety? Top 10 Ways To De-stress!

What are the major symptoms of abandonment issues

Fear of abandonment may display itself in the form of a “people pleaser” needing continuous reassurance of being loved. It is a form of anxiety that displays itself with different signs in the life of adults and children.

Sign of Abandonment issues (Adults)

The fear of others leaving them to show up in the form of different signs for those with abandonment issues. This includes signs and symptoms like:

  • Always wanting to please others.
  • Giving up too much in relationships.
  • The constant need to control others.
  • Developing codependency.
  • A continuous need for reassurance.
  • Knowingly sabotaging a relationship to avoid feeling hurt when they leave.
  • Getting attached quickly even with those who are unavailable.
  • Staying in an unhealthy relationship because of the fear of being lonely.
  • Lack of emotional intimacy.

Sign of Abandonment Issues (Child)

Kids are likely to get a bit upset when they have to spend time apart from their parents but some signs may highlight an underlying mental health condition. This include signs of abandonment like:

  • Being anxious about separation from parents.
  • Difficulty sleeping without a parent by the side, due to fear of being alone.
  • Experiencing panic every time parents are not around.
  • Excessive clinginess toward parents.
  • Developing unhealthy coping habits like addiction, unhealthy eating patterns, and more, as they grow.
  • Issues with self-esteem and self-image.
  • Frequent episodes of anger and aggression.

Fact check: Individuals with childhood abandonment issues are more drawn to unhealthy relationships. This further feeds their fears and distrust of others.

Risk Factors Of Fear Of Abandonment

Anyone at any point can experience fear of abandonment. However, certain risk factors expose an individual to abandonment issues.

  • Traumatic life events: Events that leave a traumatic experience in someone’s life can also trigger abandonment issues. Life events like witnessing a crime or being a victim of the same, a major injury, or loss of someone, can give rise to fear of abandonment.
  • Prolonged stress: Prolonged stress can worsen the anxiety and fears experienced by an individual. Therefore, the signs of being left alone may intensify in the fear of abandonment if the stress continues.
  • Neglect during childhood: This is probably the greatest risk factor of all, that is related to abandonment issues. Children who are neglected or abused during childhood days are likely to develop abandonment issues in later life.

Causes of Fear of Abandonment

  • The causes underlying fear of abandonment varies vastly. For an adult, it can be a loss of a loved one but for a child bullying or neglect from parents can result in the fear of abandonment. Let us understand the key causes of abandonment in detail.
  • Abuse: Any form of abuse be it physical, emotional, or sexual can result in fear of abandonment in an individual. These events are traumatically displaying a loss of emotional support. Thus, triggering abandonment issues.
  • Loss of someone: Generally, abandonment issues arise from the loss of a loved one, such as a parent, a partner, or a caregiver. Loss can end up creating an emotional void in a person’s life on which the abandonment anxiety feeds on. This may result in the fear of abandonment.
  • Poverty: When the basic needs of an individual go unmet, it may give rise to a scarcity mindset. This further forces a person to think that the love, attention, and affection that they are getting is also scared, little, and limited.
  • Others: Apart from these external factors, some internal factors may as well contribute to the rise of abandonment issues. This includes:

Genetics, brain injury, or medical factors.

How to Deal with Abandonment Issues

The fear of abandonment can develop into a serious challenge in the life of an adult or a child if proper treatment is not taken. To deal with abandonment issues healthily here are some professionals recommended way:

Therapy: Seeking professional help is the first course of treatment here. They can help you work through this fear and aid in changing your thoughts and behaviors. A therapist or a counselor is trained to identify the issue underlying the fear of abandonment and further help you develop coping strategies to deal with the same. Therefore, reaching out to offline or online therapy platforms is suggested.

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Self-care: Instead of pleasing others and taking care of others over self, spare some time for yourself! Schedule “me-time” and practice self-care to meet your emotional needs. It is only then that you will be able to provide it to your loved ones.

Other Tips: Apart from seeking help from professionals and practicing self-care here are some other useful tips that will help you in dealing with abandonment issues. This includes:

  • Create Healthy Boundaries: Having healthy emotional boundaries ensures that you are not letting the past patterns show up in your life.
  • Work on Community Building: Instead of investing your energy and emotions in just one relationship focus on building a community. This way you will have multiple close relationships in your life making you feel connected and a part of a “pack.”

How To Help Someone With Abandonment Issues

Dealing with the fear of abandonment alone can be daunting for a person experiencing it. That is why helping someone with abandonment issues is suggested. This will help them identify their self-destructive patterns and further encourage them to work on them. To accomplish this, we are sharing a few methods with you.

Helping an Adult with Abandonment Issues

Helping someone with abandonment issues can be challenging but your efforts can help them get over their fears and become the best version of themselves! Here is what you can do to help an adult with abandonment issues.

  • Stay Calm. On the instances when they are seeking constant reassurance or provoking you for a response that aligns with their thoughts of being rejected, just stay calm. Your calmness alone can pop the false thinking bubbles that they have been carrying with them for so long.
  • Pause it. If you perceive the conversation is going into a highly emotional discussion that will trigger distress, just step back. Give your conversation a pause for both of you to re-think over it and get a clearer vision of the same. Don’t leave them abruptly, inform them, and when you return begin the conversation (with more rationality and less emotional place).
  • To make sure that you both are on the same page and you are comprehending what is communicated to you in the right light, reflect. By providing a summary of the communication in your own words you give them three important messages viz.,
    • You are listening.
    • You are understanding.
    • You are not judging them.

Which when combined together works as a great tool to feel them being attended to and loved (challenging their abandonment anxiety).

  • Normalize it for them. Instead of questioning their fears and making them stronger than ever, normalize them and weaken them. To make this happen you have to understand and acknowledge their past story that gave rise to the fear of abandonment. Only then you will be validating their feelings and thoughts. Thus, helping them in the best way possible!

Helping A Child with Abandonment Issues

For a child who is experiencing the fear of abandonment, it is important to offer them help. If this issue is acknowledged and worked upon during the early stages of life it will decrease its probability to hamper future relationships.

  • Encourage them to express themselves. Instead of hushing your child or questioning him for how s/he feels, encourage them to express. Be open to them and ask how they feel, let them say it all out.
  • Validate it. Confirm their feelings and normalize it for them. Tell them that it is okay to feel how they are feeling. This will challenge their fear and anxiety.
  • Establish a routine with your child where you spare some time to spend with them. This will work two ways, first, you will reassure them that they are being heard and secondly you will be able to explore their inner feelings and thoughts.

Fear of Abandonment and FAQs

Q1. What happens when you have abandonment issues?

The initial behaviors linked to the fear of abandonment are not worrisome. Over time the reaction and attention that this behavior brings reinforce an individual to behave in that manner more often. And with this behavior bringing negative consequences can lead to unhealthy relationship bonds.

Q2. Is my fear of abandonment destroying my relationships?

Often the fear of abandonment impairs a person’s ability to trust others, making it difficult for them to feel intimate and worthy. This in turn tempers one’s relationship with others. Here are some signs of abandonment affecting your relationship:

  • Being envious of another person’s relationship.
  • Having trust issues.
  • One partner is giving too much in the relationship.
  • Lack of emotional intimacy
  • Settling in a less-than-satisfactory relationship.

Q3. What are the long term effects of abandonment issues?

Long term effects of abandonment fears may make a person prone to depression, anxiety, codependency, and more. Not to miss that abandonment issues are also linked with other mental health conditions like attachment anxiety and borderline personality disorder. A child may develop mood swings and anger in the life of

Q4. How will abandonment counseling help my relationships?

Through abandonment counseling, you learn to acknowledge your fears, find their root cause, and work upon them with healthy coping strategies. This helps you challenge your abandonment related anxiety and aids in developing healthy and trusting relationships once again.

Bottom Line:

The fear of abandonment can take a toll on an individual’s well-being and their relationship with others. That is why an individual needs to identify the destructive pattern linked with it and start working on it. The sooner the better phrase definitely seems to work here otherwise abandonment issues may result in other mental health conditions.

If you know someone who has been shown the signs of abandonment issues or you can relate with them, seeking help from professionals is advised. Apart from it, don’t forget to be there with someone who is dealing with abandonment issues to help them cope with the same. Keep reminding yourself that these are mere signs of their mental health condition that do not define them. Be gentle with them and yourself.

P.S. It is never too late to start working on yourself! Good luck.

About The Author

Anjali Singh
Anjali Singh

Anjali Singh is a content curator in the field of Mental Health. She is currently done Ph.D. in Psychology. Her aim is to light up the world with positive vibes through her words, her idea of life is ‘Grow through what you go through’. Apart from this, she is a big-time pet lover.

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