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Abandonment issues are an unhealthy fear that the people, places, and things you’ve grown attached to will eventually leave or reject you. the term is generally used to describe incessant thoughts or behaviors driven by anxiety or fear that someone or something you care about will, inevitably, leave.
In response to those thoughts, which may or may not be founded in some truth, a person coping with this fear of abandonment may become clingy, insecure, jealous, emotionally manipulative, or even controlling. Typically, this is a learned response. Perhaps they saw adults react this way when they were kids, or maybe their close friends in early adulthood responded to rejection in this way. Fear of abandonment is not a standalone mental health condition, such as depression, but it is a form of anxiety and even a phobia in some senses.
People with abandonment issues may experience problems in relationships because they fear that the other person will leave them.
This strong sense of being left behind, rejected, or excluded may have been acquired due to prolonged exposure to an unreliable, abusive, or absent caregiver. Abandonment issues can largely be created based on childhood trauma and schemas developed as a result of this trauma. The effects of this trauma can usually be abated with therapy.
SIGNS OF ABANDONMENT ISSUES
The following are common signs of abandonment issues:
Insecurity and feelings of unworthiness are common among those with abandonment issues. They may be more likely to lack confidence and seek external validation, or they may feel generally unprotected and vulnerable, even among people and situations that have been positive and uplifting. Fear of abandonment makes it hard to trust both other people and one’s judgment about people.
Overthinking and Constant Suspicion
The habit of obsessing over the possibility of abandonment or rejection may cause a person to plot or plan ways to prevent it, even before it has begun. A person can become anxious if they don’t hear from their partner, ruminate on meanings of statements, repeatedly call or text their partner if they don’t hear from them, suspect infidelity, express irritability or an overreaction to certain changes in plans.
Anger and Volatility in Relationships
Abandonment issues typically are produced by a traumatic situation that stripped a person of their power to control outcomes that they truly wanted, the inability to prevent death, to stop a spouse from leaving, or to protect yourself or others from harm. If ignored, those underlying situations may still ignite anger many years later. People may become easily triggered in situations that remind them of that time. Violence and anger could be used to try to exert control over others now, in ways that weren’t possible in the initial incident. Rage or outbursts may be directed at a loved one, one’s self, or channeled into certain physical or behavioral expressions.
Abandonment issues often come down to a lack of trust in others. These trust issues may manifest as unhealthy emotional bonds that limit the ability to trust or be trusted. An all-or-nothing approach to loyalty may lead to unrealistic expectations from others or a sheer detachment from others, to avoid future disappointment. Extreme cases may involve hermit-like behaviors.
Abandonment issues can present as commitment issues, meaning a person is unable to fully commit to a long-term or emotionally engaged relationship. Avoiding commitment may look like lots of individual hookups or repeated engagement with a person but no titles or clear expectations.
A person with attachment issues (which are often tied to abandonment issues) may truly feel emotionally dependent on the attention of others, even if they don’t know that person very well. Clinginess can happen even if there are signs that this person’s engagement is fleeting. Because people with abandonment issues feel that it is inevitable that people will leave them, they may rush to have deep engagements as soon as possible because they don’t trust the continued evolution of the relationship.
Similar to trust issues, this may appear externally as a person who is distant or cold. It could also look like engaging only in an intimate physical relationship but not an emotional one. Communication is severely impaired or dishonest.
Not Leaving Relationships When You Should
Counterintuitively, some people do not leave a toxic relationship for fear of being abandoned or alone. No matter how toxic or unhealthy the relationship, a person may be resigned, or committed to withstand abuse just to stay in the relationship.
Inability to Accept Rejection
This behavior may go beyond simple denial. They may not believe they are being rejected and try to cling to the relationship or try to convince or manipulate the person into staying in the relationship.
Depressive Behaviors or Episodes
When fear of abandonment becomes unbearable, it can lead to mental health breaks and physical harm. If the root cause of abandonment issues is trauma, then episodes that trigger memories or that replicate those patterns can cause profound sadness and depression.
Abuse, Harassment, or Violence
In rare circumstances, a person dealing with abandonment issues may even result in violence, whether emotional, verbal, or physical, in situations where they feel that they have been abandoned or are likely to be. Manipulation, stalking, harassment, or abuse toward an animal, children, parent, spouse, co-worker, or loved one can occur when a person will go to great lengths to control another person.
HOW TO OVERCOME ABANDONMENT ISSUES
The following are things we can do to overcome abandonment issues:
Get Clear on Emotional Responsibility
If you struggle with abandonment issues, you probably have an intense desire to feel taken care of. This feeling is completely legitimate however, it will distort your paradigm of personal responsibility. The deep emotional chasm you feel inside compels you to look to a relationship to be the answer to your problems. For example, you manage your fear of abandonment by placing the responsibility on someone else to behave a certain way to make you feel secure. You panic if that person doesn’t perform perfectly. Your partner becomes your anxiety reliever, and his reassurance is the basis of your security. Consequently, when your partner is having a bad week, you are an emotional wreck.
To stop this emotional reactivity, you need to assume complete ownership of your feelings. People will trigger your insecurities, but it’s not their job to make you feel better about yourself. It’s your responsibility to cultivate a healthy mind that believes in the best of yourself.
Correct Idealistic Expectations
Subconsciously, people with an abandonment history are continuously looking to compensate for what they lost in childhood. When people are hurt, they feel like they are owed something and thus create unrealistic expectations. The burden to repay the past emotional debt is often placed on the significant other. That person is put on a pedestal and clutched tightly. The relationship becomes addictive because that person possesses something you “need.”
Fear of abandonment and love addiction go hand in hand. Love addicts search for that constant fix. They use people to make them feel whole. They rely on their partner to be their source of well-being. Unfortunately, the relationship high only medicates pain temporarily. For one, this expectation puts an immense amount of pressure on one person.
To break this toxic dependency, you must change the way you primarily get your needs met.
Learn to Self-Validate
Most people who struggle with fear of abandonment are highly reliant on external validation to make them feel confident. They need constant reinforcement to verify that people love them so they can feel good about themselves.
Abandonment wrecks your self-esteem so naturally that there is a huge appeal to look to other people to be your primary source of validation. There is nothing wrong with accepting affirmation, the problem lies when you cannot function without it and continually need people to resuscitate you emotionally.
Abandonment can disrupt the development of a person’s individuality because they believe the lie that says they are not good enough. As a result, they adopt counterfeit identities, and their sense of self becomes fluid. They often adjust themselves to fit the desires of the people around them.
Individuals who struggle with fear of abandonment are afraid to be authentic in relationships because they think their differences will threaten the stability of the connection. They are willing to lose themselves in exchange for approval and attention. Instead of genuineness, they aim for a watered-down, palatable version of themselves to achieve “sameness.” They appease their partner to avoid causing waves. They believe one wrong word or mistake could cause the relationship to end.
People-pleasing will result in a lifetime of walking on eggshells and putting up with bad behavior. Don’t compromise your originality. Abandoning yourself is a toxic preservation strategy. Resilient relationships are created when two differentiated people come together. Hold onto your sense of self in close relationships. Be brave enough to clearly define your identity.
HOW TO HELP SOMEONE WITH ABANDONMENT ISSUES
If you are in a relationship with someone who exhibits some of the signs listed above, it is necessary to follow the following steps to help them grow:
- Be patient with them, and communicate with them.
- Always be honest about your feelings.
- Be prepared to prove yourself.
- Don’t enable their negative self-talk.
- Understand that they aren’t behaving this way on purpose.
- Encourage them to seek medical treatment depending on the severity of the case.