How to Tell If You Have Abandonment Issues

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Abandonment fear is the fear or anxiety of people you are close to leaving you. This fear may be overwhelming, and may be caused by experiencing loss, neglect, or rejection early in life. People struggling with abandonment fear may have difficulty establishing and maintaining healthy relationships. 

The behavior modeled by parents and caregivers during childhood can influence attachment style and future security and safety in relationships. Inconsistent emotional support, attention, and closeness from key figures can lead to chronic stress, anxiety, and fear.

This articles discusses the types, signs, and causes of abandonment issues.

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Types

Attachment styles describe the motivation to form emotionally and physically significant relationships with caregivers. Attachment styles can also impact adult relationships. The nature of the relationships throughout someone's life shapes their beliefs, expectations, and attitudes about connections.

Some attachment styles include:

  • Anxious
  • Avoidant
  • Disorganized

Anxious Attachment

Anxious attachment is characterized by the need for emotional proximity and closeness. Individuals with an anxious attachment style may 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 can struggle with closeness and intimacy. Maintaining independence may be important to them, as there is the risk of getting hurt with proximity.

An avoidant person may view a connection as unattainable or undesirable. Consequently, they may be distant, mistrustful of others, or have difficulty being open and vulnerable.

Disorganized Attachment

When a parent or caregiver behaves in a contradictory manner, it can create anxiety, confusion, and conflict. Inconsistencies in the caretaker's behavior can lead to fear, trouble regulating mood, identity issues, and problems with social functioning. As a result, people with disorganized attachments may exhibit a combination of anxious and avoidant styles.

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

Abandonment in Adults

While abandonment fear often originates in childhood, it can also surface during adulthood. For example, experiences in adult relationships, such as turbulent relationships or loss, can create abandonment issues.

Signs

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 you could experience rejection or separation
  • Staying in a relationship that isn't healthy 
  • Struggling to regulate emotions and distress
  • Panic related to potential loss of essential people 

Sabotaging Relationships

Fear of abandonment can cause someone to sabotage their relationship by constantly responding in an anxious or negative way. In addition, due to issues of mistrust and a desire for autonomy, a person may struggle to be open or intimate with a partner, which can lead to the end of a relationship.

Separation Anxiety

This type of anxiety occurs in the absence of an important figure like a parent, caregiver, or partner. Individuals with separation anxiety may seek out constant reassurance from their partners to increase feelings of security.

Causes

Childhood Trauma

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

  • Abuse
  • Neglect
  • Abandonment
  • Environmental issues, like poverty

In addition, dangerous or harmful situations created by parents or caregivers can influence a child's attachment style.

Death

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

Divorce or Separation

Issues in adult relationships can stem from fear of abandonment. For instance, relationship conflict, marital discord, or infidelity can foster feelings of anxiety.

Unmet Emotional Needs

It's crucial for individuals to feel supported, safe, and have their emotional needs met from a young age. Feeling unheard, unseen, and unappreciated plays a role in problematic attachment styles and abandonment issues.

Stressful or Traumatic Events

Childhood trauma can shape a person's attachment style and vulnerability to fears of abandonment. However, stressful or traumatic events endured throughout the lifespan may also contribute to or intensify abandonment fears.

How to Cope

One of the first steps of managing an issue is acknowledging its existence. Abandonment issues and fears may be deeply rooted. Being honest about your thoughts, emotions, and fears can help you begin to change them.

Other ways to cope with abandonment fear or issues include:

  • Learn and utilize relaxation techniques
  • Establish a support system with trusting relationships
  • Self-reflection on thoughts, feelings, and behaviors related to your fears
  • Engaging in self-care strategies, hobbies, or activities
  • Taking care of yourself through regular sleep, balanced meals, and exercise 
  • Seeking out therapy if abandonment fears are disrupting your psychological health and relationships 

Therapy

While some individuals can tackle abandonment issues independently, others may benefit from working with a mental health professional.

Research shows abandonment fear or trauma can have a long-lasting impact on individuals. As a result, they may struggle with:

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

In therapy, an individual 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 helpful place to learn effective communication strategies, expectation setting, and establishing healthy boundaries.

Additionally, therapy is beneficial for helping people work through traumatic events that may have contributed to the abandonment issues.

Summary

Abandonment trauma involves experiences that make us feel unsafe, insecure, and alone in childhood. This can become overwhelming and lead to symptoms of anxiety and distrust. Therapy and self-care techniques can help people with abandonment issues cope.

A Word From Verywell

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.

  • How does trauma affect the brain?

    Trauma can affect the brain by causing long-lasting changes to brain circuitry and neurochemistry. Additionally, the amygdala and hippocampus are two areas in the brain involved in regulating the stress response. Therefore, acute or chronic changes related to trauma can affect these systems.

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