How To Deal with Abandonment Issues

Understanding Abandonment Issues and Getting Help

Abandonment fears aren’t uncommon and can stem from many different places. It isn’t always easy to heal from abandonment fears, but it is possible, and it’s worth it. I can personally attest to that. Also called abandonment issues, abandonment fears can affect your relationships without you even knowing it. It took me a great deal of time to understand how abandonment issues were affecting my relationships and mental health.

Some people know they have abandonment issues and are ready to face them. Others might be wondering whether or not abandonment fears are what’s affecting their ability to have a healthy relationship in the first place.

So, let’s talk about how to deal with abandonment issues, their effects, and healing – from someone who has gotten to the other side with the help of Emerald Isle Health & Recovery!

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Healthy Relationships Vs Unhealthy Relationships

When I first started working to overcome abandonment fears, one thing I struggled with tremendously was understanding what a healthy relationship looked like. Often, those of us with abandonment issues get stuck in both unhealthy thought patterns and unhealthy patterns in relationships.

I made the same mistakes in relationships multiple times, wondering what I was doing wrong. Now that I’m aware of what a healthy partnership looks like, I can see how my fear of abandonment had an influence on the kinds of relationships I entered.

Signs of a healthy relationship

Knowing what healthy romance looks like means that you can seek green flags in future partnerships. Signs of healthy relationships include:

  • Mutual respect and appreciation
  • The ability to problem-solve together when necessary
  • Working to understand one another and see each other’s point of view
  • Feeling that I can express my needs and being able to receive my partner’s needs
  • Having both individual and shared goals
  • Having both individual and shared experiences

Signs of an unhealthy relationship

While this is by no means an extensive list, there are some classic signs of unhealthy relationships to look out for. Signs of unhealthy relationships include:

  • Possessiveness, including attempts to control your friendships or choices
  • Verbal abuse of any kind, including name-calling and belittling
  • Feeling like you need to walk on eggshells due to a partner’s reactions
  • Misplaced blame (e.g., “If you were different, we wouldn’t have problems”)
  • Intense, constant highs and lows
  • Push-and-pull dynamics 
  • Avoiding relationship problems instead of talking them out
  • Passive-aggressive behavior

Signs Of Abandonment Issues In Adults

Signs Of Abandonment Issues

In addition to understanding the signs of healthy and unhealthy relationships, it’s crucial to understand how to identify signs of abandonment issues in yourself. Most people find that self-awareness is the first step to combatting abandonment issues.

Here are some signs of abandonment issues in adults to look out for:

Sabotaging your own relationship

Some people sabotage their relationships out of fear of engulfment, but those of us with abandonment fears may do the same at times. Usually, this sign is seen in those who attempt to cope with abandonment issues by leaving before the other person can.

Allowing and staying in unhealthy relationships

Sometimes, people with abandonment issues tend toward unhealthy romantic relationships. This is one of the dangers of fear of abandonment, and it is something I have experienced personally. It can be hard to know what a healthy relationship looks like, and you may find yourself putting up with nearly anything in present and future relationships, simply hoping that the other person will stay.

People-pleasing tendencies

It is common for those of us with abandonment issues to exhibit people-pleasing tendencies. I certainly had this experience. Due to abandonment anxiety, I was afraid to assert myself, say no, or take care of myself.

Instead, I found myself people-pleasing, overextending, and silencing my own needs and thoughts.

Scared of commitment

Fear of commitment is common in those of us with abandonment issues. While it may seem strange in the context that we fear being left, a lot of us also feel like everyone is going to leave or there’s a disaster around the corner at any time.

Worries like this can lead people with abandonment issues to exit even the best relationships when things start to get more serious.

Going after people who are emotionally unavailable

Similar to fear of commitment, you may go after people who are emotionally unavailable. Whether consciously or unconsciously, emotionally unavailable people might attract you because you can detect that there’s little chance of commitment.

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Constantly feeling undeserving of love

It’s not uncommon for a person dealing with abandonment issues to experience other mental health concerns. For myself and many others, feeling as though I did not deserve love from others was one of those effects.

In relationships, thoughts of worthlessness and anxiety arise more frequently for me, even if they aren’t so present when I’m single and without a romantic interest.

Unmet emotional needs

If you are like me, you may struggle to express your emotional needs out of fear of abandonment. You may pretend that you don’t have needs so that you are perceived as “easy to love.” We talked about this a little bit under people-pleasing tendencies but not so much the consequences of those tendencies.

I have found that not expressing my needs means that they often go unmet, even when I have a partner who would likely do so willingly. It’s important to remember that people can’t read out minds.

Manipulation or controlling behaviors

Not always, but sometimes, those who develop abandonment issues use manipulative or controlling behaviors to get others to stay. This doesn’t mean that you’re an inherently bad person, and it is possible to overcome patterns of manipulative or controlling behavior.

In many cases, those who fear abandonment and struggle with these behaviors use them without even realizing it.

The need to constantly seek reassurance

Asking a partner for reassurance from time to time isn’t a bad thing and can even be helpful. That said, if you find yourself seeking reassurance constantly, fearing that your partner won’t stay or does not love you without any tangible reason to believe that this is the case, it’s a possible sign of abandonment issues.

How do you cope with abandonment issues?

cope with abandonment issues

Like with many other things in life, awareness is the first step toward change when it comes to fear of abandonment. When you’re aware of the way fear of abandonment manifests for you, you can work on changing maladaptive behaviors and internal thought processes.

Identifying your attachment style can be a beneficial step, as it can give you further insight into the way your fear of abandonment impedes your ability to maintain secure relationships. For example, some people with a fear of abandonment may find themselves thinking, “but I’m so independent,” only to realize that they do fear abandonment. It’s just that they also have an avoidant attachment style!

How To Determine Your Attachment Style

Attachment theory was built on the idea that early childhood experiences with caregivers affect the way we attach to others as we grow older. Many say that other factors, like adult relationships and mental health conditions like anxiety, can play a role, too.

Understanding my attachment style helped me overcome abandonment issues. It might help you, too. Only about half of the population has secure attachment. Outside of that, there are three insecure attachment styles frequently talked about in the field of psychology.

You can determine your attachment style by reviewing the characteristics of different attachment styles and seeing which one you relate to most.

Attachment styles and their characteristics include:

Secure attachment style

Those with secure attachment view themselves as worthy of love and have a positive internal working model of attachment to others that is characterized by the idea that people are typically responsive and accepting. When a partner doesn’t text back quickly or needs space, people with a secure attachment style are more apt to understand rather than worry that their partner will leave.

People with a secure attachment style are able to experience interdependence in relationships easily rather than leaning toward codependency or hyper-independence. Developing a more secure attachment style is ideal, and it is what many people with an insecure attachment style work toward when they seek help for attachment issues.

Anxious attachment style

With an anxious attachment style, people struggle to believe or trust that others will stay. Someone with an anxious attachment style might be most apt to experience abandonment trauma and anxiety in the classic way we think of it.

Clinginess, higher levels of reassurance-seeking, and fear that others will leave in interpersonal relationships are often seen in those with an anxious attachment style.

Avoidant attachment style

People with an avoidant attachment style usually have a fear of abandonment, just like those with an anxious attachment style, but it is expressed differently. Those with an avoidant attachment style are usually highly independent and fun to be around.

However, they often tend toward surface-level relationships and pull away from higher levels of intimacy. It can be hard to trust others to stay, which leads someone with an avoidant attachment style to avoid getting too close to other people.

Disorganized attachment style

With a disorganized attachment style, people experience characteristics of both anxious and avoidant attachment styles. Someone with a disorganized attachment style might find it difficult to trust themselves or others. While they desire interpersonal relationships, they fear abandonment and rejection.

In turn, one may leave relationships prematurely, often with the thought that they must leave before the other person does. They may display clinginess but feel that others will inevitably leave. A person battling abandonment issues may vary well relate to this attachment style.

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Long-Term Effects

The long-term effects of abandonment issues vary but generally include unhealthy relationship patterns and mental health concerns of some kind. Low self-esteem, chronic stress, maladaptive coping mechanisms, and a deep yearning for but avoidance of emotional intimacy are all common.

Many people experience commitment issues, find themselves sabotaging relationships, or, on the opposite side of the coin, notice themselves developing intensely close but unhealthy relationships.

Mental health conditions can pair with attachment issues and may complicate a person’s experiences. Anxiety disorders, borderline personality disorder (BPD), post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and other mental health conditions might all complicate attachment-related concerns.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), too, can affect partnerships and can even come in the form of relationship OCD. Some research has discovered a link between disorganized attachment and personality disorders like BPD.

What else does the research say? Some studies suggest that those with insecure attachment styles are more likely to use a range of mental health care services. Seeking help is a positive thing, and it certainly helped me in my journey.

Overcoming The Fear of Being Abandoned

Overcoming The Fear of Being Abandoned

It’s possible to overcome the fear of being abandoned. First, identify your current struggles and goals. What are some patterns you’ve noticed in past relationships that you don’t want to carry into future relationships? What will help you break those patterns?

Once you reflect on that, consider the following. 

Seek the right partners

Take care to seek emotionally available partners next time you enter a relationship. Consistent warm and trusting relationships matter for people with attachment wounds or fear of abandonment.

Many experts say that those with insecure attachment styles should seek a secure partner, but it is possible for two insecurely attached people two build a healthy relationship with awareness in some circumstances.

Create a consistent self-care plan

Make it a priority to get and stay in touch with your needs. Although certain self-care practices may seem unrelated, they’re actually necessary for showing up in relationships and other parts of life the way they want to.

Eat regular meals, practice positive self-talk, reframe negative thoughts about yourself, and get enough sleep so that you can be your best self. 

Working with a licensed therapist

Sometimes, one-on-one support with a professional is vital. It’s valuable to have a space where you can talk about the way abandonment affects you as a unique person. After all, if you’re like me, multiple factors (including complex traumas) might play a role in your abandonment issues.

Primary treatments for abandonment issues almost always include therapy. Different forms of therapy, including modalities used in individual, group, or couples therapy, can all be worthwhile. 

What Happens In Therapy When You Talk About Abandonment?

Regardless of how they manifest, abandonment issues can severely affect a person’s life. The good news is that treating abandonment issues is possible. Therapy goals you might work on with a mental health professional include:

  • Letting other people in
  • Setting and enforcing healthy boundaries
  • Identifying and expressing your own needs
  • Becoming less emotionally reactive and more mindful
  • Finding healthy ways to self-soothe
  • Creating a sustainable self-care plan

If you have a mental health condition in addition to abandonment fears, you may seek help for or discuss it with your therapist, counselor, social worker, or psychologist, too.

Find Healing from Abandonment With Emerald Isle Health & Recovery

Healing from Abandonment

In many cases, abandonment issues stem from childhood trauma and other painful experiences. It is not your fault if you have a fear of abandonment, and it is possible to find healing. Whether you’ve endured a traumatic event, live with a mental health condition, or otherwise need support, Emerald Isle Health & Recovery is here to help.

Emerald Isle Health & Recovery offers individual therapy in addition to outpatient, inpatient, and partial hospitalization programs. When you contact Emerald Isle Health & Recovery, a treatment specialist will be there to answer your questions and help you find the right level of care.

Make the confidential call now or simply fill out the Contact Us form on the Emerald Isle Health & Recovery website to talk with a treatment specialist within minutes!

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on Abandonment Issues

Do abandonment issues go away?

It is possible to overcome abandonment issues. Triggers and urges may continue to emerge in relationships from time to time. However, many people find that they’re able to acknowledge triggers for what they are and address them accordingly after addressing abandonment fears.

You can learn what a healthy partnership looks like, how to choose the right partners, and work on other goals unique to you with a therapist.

Can you experience separation anxiety as an adult?

In babies, separation anxiety is expected. Most children outgrow separation anxiety at roughly three years old, but some children and adults continue to experience it. In adulthood, a person experiencing separation anxiety may fear separating from a partner instead of a guardian, which can lead to unhealthy relationship patterns.

What causes abandonment issues?

Traumatic events and caregivers who were unable to tend to a child’s needs (emotional or otherwise) can both be a precursor to abandonment issues. That said, the cause differs from person to person. Abandonment issues do not always stem from caregivers or trauma.