Abandonment issues are best described as the fear of being left alone. It stems from the anxiety of being lonely after the loss of a loved one. This is often the remains of a traumatic loss from childhood.
Have you heard the idiom “Once bitten, twice shy”? It is just human nature to be cautious about something that has hurt us in the past and to be fearful of it.
It is hard for a child to make sense of the loss, irrespective of the reason behind it or whether it could have been avoided or not. And without support and help, it is inconceivable for a child to process the grief associated with the loss and heal the wounds.
The child may even blame themselves for the loss and will firmly believe that others close to them will abandon them as well.
The fear of being abandoned will grow with them as the child turns an adult if nothing is done to make it go away.
In rare instances, an adult may develop abandonment issues later on in life as a result of a highly traumatic experience. Being a mental health issue, this is often not taken seriously or appropriate treatment given. If allowed to continue and fester, it has the power to damage a person’s life by destroying their social skills and capabilities in building relationships.
It is vital to understand the importance and urgency of this mental affliction and get it treated as early as possible. This article offers you information about its causes, symptoms, and treatment choices.
What are abandonment issues?
For someone suffering from the fear of abandonment, the anxiety of losing a loved one is so real even without any cause for such a fear. They fail to accept the universal truth that loss is as much part of our lives as gains.
Everyone goes through the experience of loss in their lives when their loved one dies or a relationship comes to an end. However, those with unresolved traumas of loss from childhood may find this difficult to deal with.
Their fear of loss can get so intense that they stay away from others so as not to develop affinities and relationships. Though loneliness is hard to endure, they find it the lesser of the evils when compared to the heartbreak of abandonment.
The fear of abandonment is so severe in them that they keep pushing away even those people who try to get close to them. All these can make them lonely, unsocial, and friendless with no prospect of a meaningful relationship.
What causes abandonment issues?
Not every child who loses a loved one develops abandonment issues. The factors that turn a loss into a fear of loneliness and feeling abandoned are numerous.
When someone close to a child dies or moves away because of external factors like divorce, it is natural for the child to feel traumatic. Often the child is too young to understand what is happening and why. On these occasions, all an adult has to do is to sit them down and explain the situation.
As many adults do not give sufficient importance to this, the child may form their own ideas about the whats, whys, and hows of the episode. With their limited experience and resources, they may end up forming wrong notions about it. This will obviously lead to fear and anxiety.
Abandonment trauma may also stem from not receiving sufficient emotional and physical care from a parent or a caregiver as a child. When the caregiver doesn’t offer sufficient emotional support nor offer enough attention to the child, it may lead to anxiety. Inconsistency in the attention given to the child is also another trigger for abandonment issues in adults.
Based on the behavior of the caregiver towards the child, the child may develop various insecure attachment personalities as an adult. The most prominent among these personality disorders are avoidant attachment, anxious attachment, and disorganized attachment.
Whether a child overcomes abandonment trauma depends on their genes, the environment in which they grow up, family medical history, and mental health.
Signs of abandonment issues
The most common and visible sign of abandonment issues is the “people pleasing” behavior. They display this behavior to get love in return. They need constant reassurance of love, affection, and attention.
Those with abandonment issues have a hard time dealing with rejections or even perceived rejections. This can heighten their stress and anxiety levels.
Here are some of the common emotional abandonment symptoms.
- Ready to do anything to please others
- Find it difficult to trust others, even the partner
- Reading too much into the intentions of others
- Jealous of others including the partner
- Insecure in relationships
- Pushing people away to save themselves from abandonment
- Having trouble with physical and emotional intimacy
- Extremes in controlling behavior – either they want to control others or be controlled by others
- Settling for unfulfilling relationships
- Demands special treatment; often the same way you would treat a child
- Being in codependent relationships
- Needs constant reassurance that they will be loved and will not be abandoned
- Reluctant to leave abusive and unhealthy relationships
- Shallow relationships
- Find themselves in a string of relationships
- Self-sabotaging relationships
The fear of abandonment is intricately linked to numerous mental health issues. This makes its symptoms wide and varied. It is a kind of phobia and anxiety that can take over the mind and play tricks with it.
It is way too common for people with abandonment issues to experience trouble in finding life partners. Their demanding ways and constant need for reassurance can drive away potential partners.
How to heal abandonment trauma?
As the root cause of this traumatic behavior goes back some years, it is important to trace and resolve it. Another vital factor in the treatment of abandonment issues is identifying the trigger. All these and more make therapy the ideal treatment option for people with the fear of abandonment.
However, in milder cases, this is self-treatable. As long as you can manage to remain calm when exposed to triggers, you might be able to achieve the same results as in therapy. In case you feel overwhelmed by the enormity of the task, you can rope in someone you can trust to help you with this.
There is no doubt that the problem needs to be addressed and a resolution found. The old or new wounds need to be healed to help those suffering from this affliction lead a normal life. The more you delay getting help and getting it treated, the more severe form the problem will develop into. This will make it harder to treat and it will be a long way back to normalcy.
Caregivers on their part can watch out for the obvious signs of abandonment issues. At times, a child may develop this as a result of its overactive imagination. Whether real or imagined, the trauma is very much real.
In their enthusiasm to help their child achieve success, parents and caregivers may inadvertently trigger abandonment issues in the child. Such as encouraging them to reach for the sky when the child doesn’t have the capacity for that.
Pushing them to be perfect by ridiculing them or comparing them with other children who are more successful can leave deep scars on a child’s psyche. Mocking them for expressing their emotions can be devastating for a child. At the other end of the spectrum is treating their children as friends.
Caregivers need to realize that children need constant and consistent support, attention, warmth, and mindful interactions for them to grow up as an adult with a well-rounded personality.