Abandonment is more than being left alone. It can stem from many factors, such as the death of a parent, divorce, and emotional neglect, and trigger fears of being abandoned later in life, which can significantly impact our mental well-being and relationships with others.
Signs of Abandonment Issues
Abandonment issues often arise from a fear of loneliness. They can be a symptom of anxiety or trauma and can consistently affect a person’s life.
Being triggered by abandonment can have many signs, such as:
- Being a people pleaser
- Trust issues
- Feeling insecure in the relationship
- Settling in a subpar relationship
- A lack of emotional intimacy
- Jealousy or envy of other relationships
These signs can appear in romantic or platonic relationships and are characterised by a fear of the other person leaving them. Unfortunately, these issues can make it difficult to form healthy relationships.
Those with a fear of abandonment may jump into relationships too quickly or stay in unhealthy ones out of a fear of being alone and abandoned once more.
Children and Abandonment
Those who have experienced abandonment as children may struggle with their relationships in the future. Research has shown that divorce or parental death could lead to significant depressive symptoms that influence a child’s relationships with caregivers, peers, and romantic partners.
Signs that a child has a fear of abandonment can include:
- Separation anxiety
- Difficulty concentrating
- Being sick due to stress
- Being afraid of being alone
A majority of abandonment issues emerge from childhood experiences. However, this does not necessarily have to be a divorce or death. Fear of abandonment can stem from parents or caregivers who:
- Ridicule their children
- Put too much pressure on children to be perfect
- Treat children as peers
- Do not allow children to express themselves emotionally
By not providing children with positive, attentive interactions, parents or caregivers leave them feeling constantly stressed and fearful about their relationship. This can then translate into their later relationships, as they have no experience of what is healthy and so make poor decisions in relationships.
Although most attachment and abandonment issues arise from childhood, they can also derive from teenage or adulthood experiences, such as trauma, divorce from a partner, or the death of a loved one. It can also originate from mental health conditions, such as:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – Those with PTSD can struggle with abandonment issues due to their trauma. They may develop unhealthy attachment styles to insulate themselves from further trauma and struggle with heightened emotional reactions resulting from a traumatic experience.
- Borderline personality disorder (BPD) – A symptom of BPD can be increased sensitivity to rejection and criticism, as well as the fear of being abandoned. Due to the difficulty people with BPD can have with regulating their emotions, they can react strongly to arguments and breakups and have unhealthy attachment styles.
Attachment and abandonment go hand in hand. For those who have negative experiences with attachment, this could lead to a fear of abandonment. Research into attachment styles began in the mid-1900s and has focused on how and why we form attachments, with emotional bonds beginning to be forged at around nine months old.
There are several types of unhealthy attachment styles. These styles are insecure and can cause problems within relationships as they disrupt communication:
- Avoidant – Those with an avoidant attachment style struggle with letting people get close to them. They may appear distant and withdrawn as they feel that they can’t open up to anyone.
- Anxious – People with anxious attachment styles develop close, dependent relationships in which they may feel anxious to be away from their partner.
- Ambivalent – Those with ambivalent attachment styles can be reluctant to become close with others, yet they may be distraught when relationships end. Research has shown that only around seven to fifteen per cent of those in the United States display this attachment style.
- Disorganised – The disorganised attachment style means that people can be inconsistent in their relationships, varying between closeness and distance. It has been theorised that inconsistent behaviour from parents could contribute to the causes of this style of attachment.
However, there are also healthy attachment styles that can be worked towards. For example, the secure attachment style allows people to have lasting relationships, build trust, cultivate good self-esteem, and seek support when they need it.
People triggered by abandonment can improve their attachment styles by seeking therapy that will allow them to identify the root causes of their negative thoughts and fears. Therapy can help them to set healthy boundaries within their relationships and combat the negative thought patterns that can harm their mental health.
The fear of abandonment is something that can stem from negative relationships and experiences in the past. It can be incredibly damaging to our current relationships and to our mental health. But this doesn’t have to be the case. Seek help and target trauma at its roots today with Khiron Clinics.
If you have a client or know of someone struggling to heal from abandonment, reach out to us at Khiron Clinics. We believe that we can improve therapeutic outcomes and avoid misdiagnosis by providing an effective residential program and outpatient therapies addressing underlying psychological trauma. Allow us to help you find the path to realistic, long-lasting recovery. For more information, call us today. UK: 020 3811 2575 (24 hours). USA: (866) 801 6184 (24 hours).
 Schoenfelder, Erin N. et al. Quality Of Social Relationships And The Development Of Depression In Parentally-Bereaved Youth. 2011.
 Cassidy J, Berlin LJ. The insecure/ambivalent pattern of attachment: theory and research. Child Dev. 1994;65(4):971-91. PMID: 7956474
 Reisz, Samantha et al. “Disorganized Attachment And Defense: Exploring John Bowlby’S Unpublished Reflections”. Attachment & Human Development, vol 20, no. 2, 2017, pp. 107-134. Informa UK Limited, doi:10.1080/14616734.2017.1380055. Accessed 19 Nov 2021.