How to Tell If You Have Abandonment Issues

Abandonment trauma can occur at any stage of life

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Abandonment trauma is the fear or anxiety of people you are close to leaving you. People struggling with abandonment fear may have trouble building healthy relationships. 

While this overwhelming fear is often caused by experiencing loss, neglect, or rejection early in life, abandonment trauma can happen at any point in a person’s life. At its root may be inconsistent emotional support, attention, and closeness from key figures in your life, which can lead to chronic stressanxiety, and fear.

In fact, the behavior modeled by parents and caregivers during childhood can influence attachment style and future security and safety in relationships. 

This article discusses the types, signs, and causes of abandonment trauma in adulthood as well as offers some ways to cope with them. 

Sad woman leaning on bed

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Types of Attachment 

To understand abandonment trauma, you first need to understand how attachment works. 

Attachment styles describe how we form emotionally and physically significant relationships with our caregivers starting when we are children. Attachment styles can also affect adult relationships.

The attachment styles include:

  • Anxious
  • Avoidant
  • Disorganized

The nature of the relationships a person has throughout their life shapes their beliefs, expectations, and attitudes about connections with others.

Is Abandonment an Official Diagnosis?

“Abandonment trauma” is not a formal mental health diagnosis, but it could be something that a provider notes as being a contributor to a person’s challenges with their relationships and their experiences with a mental health diagnosis like anxiety and depression. 

Anxious Attachment

Anxious attachment is characterized by the need for emotional proximity and closeness. 

People with an anxious attachment style can be hypervigilant and worry about their worthiness in a relationship and their partner's desire to be with them. This anxiety can lead to distress and feelings of insecurity.

Avoidant Attachment

People with an avoid attachment style struggle with closeness and intimacy. Maintaining independence is often very important to them, as there is the risk of getting hurt if they allow themselves to get close to other people.

An avoidant person may view a connection with someone else as being unattainable or undesirable. They can be distant, mistrustful of others, or have trouble being open and vulnerable.

Disorganized Attachment

When a parent or caregiver behaves in a contradictory way, it can create anxiety, confusion, and conflict for a child. 

Inconsistencies in a caretaker's behavior can lead a child to live in fear, have trouble regulating mood, have confusion about their identity, and have challenges with social functioning.

As a result, people with disorganized attachments may show a combination of anxious and avoidant styles.

Disorganized attachment styles are sometimes observed in people with personality disorders.

Abandonment in Adults

While abandonment fear often originates in childhood, it can also come up in adulthood. For example, experiences in adult relationships, such as unpredictable relationships or the loss of a relationship, can bring up abandonment feelings.

Signs of Abandonment 

Some signs of abandonment fear include:

  • Anxiety or depression 
  • Difficulty trusting others
  • Developing relationships quickly
  • Codependency
  • Trouble establishing and maintaining healthy relationships
  • Avoiding people or situations where rejection or separation may happen
  • Staying in a relationship that is not supportive and healthy 
  • Struggling to regulate emotions and distress
  • Panic related to the potential loss of important people (e.g., family, friends, partners) 

Sabotaging Relationships

Fear of abandonment can cause a person to “sabotage” their relationship. They may constantly respond to others in an anxious or negative way.

Mistrust and a desire for autonomy can make a person struggle to be open or intimate with a partner, which can lead to the end of the relationship if the challenge cannot be resolved.

Separation Anxiety

This type of anxiety occurs in the absence of an important figure like a parent, caregiver, or partner. 

People with separation anxiety may seek out constant reassurance from their partners to increase their feelings of security.

Causes of Abandonment 

Childhood Trauma

Abuse and neglect, losing a caregiver/parent, and other childhood traumas can lead to feelings of abandonment and cause challenges in forming healthy attachments. 

Things that can cause psychological and physical trauma in childhood include:

  • Abuse
  • Neglect
  • Abandonment (e.g., a parent or caregiver leaves)
  • Environmental and socioeconomic circumstances like poverty
  • Any dangerous or harmful situations created by parents or caregivers


The loss associated with the death of a loved one, especially if it's sudden and unexpected, can trigger feelings of anxiety, stress, and abandonment trauma.

Divorce or Separation

Having trouble with adult relationships can stem from fear of abandonment. For example, relationship conflict, marital discord, or infidelity can foster feelings of anxiety.

Unmet Emotional Needs

All children (and adults) need to feel supported and safe and have their emotional needs met. 

Feeling unheard, unseen, and unappreciated plays a role in attachment styles and abandonment trauma.

Stressful or Traumatic Events

Childhood trauma can shape attachment style and make a child more likely to have fears of abandonment. 

However, stressful or traumatic events endured throughout life can contribute to or intensify abandonment fears.

How to Cope With Abandonment 

Before you can learn to manage abandonment, you have to acknowledge the feelings and accept them. 

Abandonment trauma and fears can be deeply rooted. Being honest about your thoughts, emotions, and fears can help you begin to change them.

Things you can do to cope with abandonment trauma include: 

  • Learn and utilize relaxation techniques
  • Establish a support system of people with whom you have trusting relationships
  • Practice self-reflection on your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that are related to your fears
  • Engage in self-care, hobbies, and activities that you enjoy and that boost your physical and mental wellbeing
  • Take care of yourself by getting regular sleep, nutritious meals, and exercising 
  • Go to therapy if abandonment fears are affecting your health and relationships 


While some may feel confident people face and tackle their abandonment feelings on their own, working with a mental health professional can be very beneficial. 

Research has shown that abandonment fear or trauma can have a long-lasting effect on people and they can struggle with:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Anger
  • Mistrust of others
  • Lack of intimacy
  • Anxiety
  • Panic disorders
  • Depression
  • Codependency

In therapy, a person can work with a mental health professional to identify the origins of abandonment fears and how to cope with feelings of anxiety or distress. 

Therapy can be a safe place to learn effective communication strategies, expectation setting, and establishing healthy boundaries with others. 

Additionally, therapy helps people work through traumatic events that may have contributed to abandonment feelings.


Abandonment trauma stems from experiences that make us feel unsafe, insecure, and alone in childhood. It can become overwhelming and lead to anxiety and distrust of others. 

Therapy and self-care can help people feel prepared to face their abandonment trauma and start addressing how it is affecting their life. 

Processing trauma takes time, but with the right kind of support, it is possible to learn to cope in a healthy and effective way. 

Feeling neglected or abandoned can be traumatizing. However, it's important to know that you are not alone and you are loved. Processing trauma takes time. If you are suffering from abandonment issues, seek the help of a mental health professional or healthcare provider to discuss treatment options.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How should you process trauma?

    Processing trauma with a mental health professional can provide a safe environment for addressing distressing thoughts, feelings, or events.

    A professional may begin by establishing a therapeutic alliance, helping you understand the origins of your vulnerabilities and develop coping skills to manage emotional distress.

    After skills development, you and your healthcare provider may start to work through traumatic events, which may take time.

5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Geralyn Dexter, PhD
Geralyn is passionate about empathetic and evidence-based counseling and developing wellness-related content that empowers and equips others to live authentically and healthily.