- What are abandonment issues?
- How to deal with a partner with abandonment issues
- How to heal
- What is attachment?
What are abandonment issues?
Abandonment issues refer to a form of anxiety characterized by an intense fear of being abandoned or rejected by others. This fear often originates from childhood trauma, such as childhood neglect, parental abandonment, or parental separation.1
What causes abandonment issues?
Abandonment issues are caused by early life experiences of separation from caregivers, physically or emotionally, which creates a sense of abandonment. The separation can be due to childhood neglect, inconsistent parenting, an emotionally unavailable parent, parental divorce, or the death of a parent.
As a result, children develop insecure attachment styles, such as anxious, avoidant, or disorganized attachment.2
What are the signs of abandonment issues in an adult?
Here are 7 common signs of childhood trauma in individuals with abandonment issues.3–5
- Clingy behavior – The intense fear of losing a partner can cause the person with abandonment issues to become overly dependent on their partner for reassurance.
- Emotional withdrawal – Abandonment issues may lead a person to shy away from intimacy so they don’t get hurt when their partner leaves them.6
- Insecurity – Ongoing worry about being left or rejected can make it very hard to maintain healthy social connections. These individuals may also struggle with low self-esteem and battle with feelings of insecurity.
- Depression – The development of depression or depressive symptoms can be linked to past abandonment traumas or abandonment in childhood.
- Constant reassurance – Individuals may seek constant reassurance from their partner or become a ‘people pleaser,’ satisfying their partner’s every need to keep them closer. Continuous feelings of anxiety may manifest as possessiveness, jealousy, or overreactions to minor disagreements.
- Patterns of Unhealthy Relationships – People with abandonment issues may have a history of attaching to people who are unavailable or abusive.
- False Sense of Abandonment – A person with abandonment issues may perceive that they are emotionally abandoned by their partner even when it is not true. The false perception can create tension and discord in the relationship.
How to deal with a partner who has a fear of abandonment?
Be sensitive and understanding. Dealing with a partner who has a fear of abandonment necessitates a sensitive and understanding approach. Abandonment fear, often rooted in childhood abandonment or traumatic events, manifests as an anxious attachment style, making interpersonal and romantic relationships challenging for both parties.
Communicate openly. Help ease your partner’s fears of abandonment by having open conversations about fears and feelings of abandonment. Reassure your partner regularly, reinforcing your commitment to the relationship.
Encourage your partner to seek help from a mental health professional. Therapy can be incredibly beneficial in managing abandonment issues, which are often linked to mental health conditions like anxiety disorders or Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). Different types of therapy can teach skills like emotional regulation, coping strategies, and challenging core beliefs related to abandonment.
Be patient and supportive with your partner.
Educate yourself about the condition. Recognize the signs and understand they are traces of your partner’s past experiences, not a commentary on you or the current relationship.
Take care of yourself. Ensure that you also care for your mental health. Supporting a partner with a fear of abandonment can be demanding, so make sure to prioritize self-care and seek help from health professionals when necessary.
How do I know if my abandonment trauma is affecting my relationship?
Your abandonment trauma may be affecting your relationship if you experience the following unhealthy patterns.
- Abandonment Anxiety – Constantly feeling anxious about being abandoned by your romantic partner even when there’s no real risk of abandonment.
- Mood Swings and over-reaction – Difficulty controlling emotions and frequent mood swings can indicate an underlying mental health condition, like Borderline personality disorder, associated with abandonment trauma.
- Tendency to please or tolerate abuse – You are a people pleaser driven by an intense fear of being left behind.
How to heal abandonment issues
Healing from abandonment issues is a gradual process that requires patience, self-care, and professional help. Here are 7 steps you can take to cope:
- Seek therapy – Consult a mental health professional to discuss treatment for abandonment issues.
- Identify false beliefs – Your fear of abandonment can be rooted in core beliefs that were formed due to childhood traumatic events. Identify and work on changing those beliefs, which can also be done with the help of a therapist.
- Learn to self-regulate – Learning to process and express your feelings more healthily is an integral part of healing, reducing the intense fear that comes with abandonment anxiety.
- Meditate and keep a journal – Mindfulness exercises can help you ground yourself in the present and avoid getting carried away by fears of abandonment. Regularly journaling about your feelings can provide great insight into your triggers.
- Join a group or family therapy – Participating in group therapy or family therapy sessions can further your understanding of your abandonment issues and provide you with a supportive community.
- Practice self-care – Taking care of your physical health also benefits your mental well-being. Regular exercise, a healthy diet, and adequate sleep can all make a significant difference.
- Educate yourself and your partner – Learn more about abandonment issues and invite your partner to join you.
What is attachment?
Attachment is the emotional bond that forms between individuals, often between a child and caregiver, which influences one’s sense of security and well-being throughout life.
Attachment theory is a psychological framework that explains how early interactions with primary caregivers shape our attachment style, affecting our behaviors, thoughts, and feelings in future relationships.
According to the attachment theory, how our caregivers respond to our needs as children leads us to develop a specific attachment style that reflects the patterns of behavior we use in our relationships throughout life. The four attachment styles are avoidant, anxious, disorganized, and secure attachment style.
Abandonment issues arise in childhood when a child develops an insecure attachment with their primary caregivers.7,8 This insecure attachment can result from inconsistent emotional support, neglect, or the absence of a stable adult figure. The underlying fear can carry into adulthood, affecting an individual’s interpersonal relationships and overall emotional well-being.
What attachment style has abandonment issues?
People with insecure attachment styles, including anxious, avoidant, and disorganized attachments, often have abandonment issues. These individuals might struggle to form a healthy attachment or positive bond with their partner.9
People with anxious attachment worry about their partner leaving them. These individuals experience an intense fear of being abandoned and often engage in behavior aimed at pleasing others to prevent abandonment.
People with an avoidant attachment style maintain an emotional distance in relationships to sidestep the potential for feeling abandoned.
People with a disorganized attachment style may alternate between seeking closeness and pushing people away: They may desperately want emotional intimacy but find it difficult to trust or rely on others.10
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- 2.Lyons-Ruth K, Dutra L, Schuder MR, Bianchi I. From Infant Attachment Disorganization to Adult Dissociation: Relational Adaptations or Traumatic Experiences? Psychiatric Clinics of North America. Published online March 2006:63-86. doi:10.1016/j.psc.2005.10.011
- 3.JONES JT, CUNNINGHAM JD. Attachment styles and other predictors of relationship satisfaction in dating couples. Personal Relationships. Published online December 1996:387-399. doi:10.1111/j.1475-6811.1996.tb00123.x
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- 6.Conradi HJ, Boertien SD, Cavus H, Verschuere B. Examining psychopathy from an attachment perspective: the role of fear of rejection and abandonment. The Journal of Forensic Psychiatry & Psychology. Published online August 27, 2015:92-109. doi:10.1080/14789949.2015.1077264
- 7.Simpson JA, Rholes WS. Adult attachment, stress, and romantic relationships. Current Opinion in Psychology. Published online February 2017:19-24. doi:10.1016/j.copsyc.2016.04.006
- 8.Levy KN, Ellison WD, Scott LN, Bernecker SL. Attachment style. J Clin Psychol. Published online November 24, 2010:193-203. doi:10.1002/jclp.20756
- 9.Stanton SCE, Campbell L. Psychological and Physiological Predictors of Health in Romantic Relationships: An Attachment Perspective. Journal of Personality. Published online August 8, 2013:528-538. doi:10.1111/jopy.12056
- 10.Feeney JA, Noller P. Attachment style and romantic love: Relationship dissolution. Australian Journal of Psychology. Published online August 1, 1992:69-74. doi:10.1080/00049539208260145