13 Minutes

Edited & clinically reviewed by THE BALANCE Team
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Have you felt like you don’t deserve to be loved or taken care of? Do you walk on eggshells because you feel like your action can put your relationship in danger and you fear being abandoned? Do these situations sound similar to you? Almost relatable? Well, these emotions are not new for individuals dealing with abandonment issues. 

Abandonment issues can hit anyone at any age. It can be in childhood, teenage years, or later in life. Abandonment issues can stem from losing a loved one, friend, partner, or even a job. If you are dealing with abandonment issues then this condition might seem complex to you, robbing you of your self-esteem, however, the good news is that the treatment of abandonment anxiety is quite possible, helping you live an improved life.

We often associate the word ‘abandoned’ with a small, weak baby, crying hysterically, deserted by loved ones, and left at an orphanage. However, there is another aspect to this word; a grown adult when denied the emotional needs can feel abandoned too and it is a terrible feeling as one feels discarded, lonely, and unloveable. The latter condition can more appropriately be referred to as emotional abandonment. 

Abandonment issues give rise to abandonment anxiety which is a state of fear that one would be dismissed from their current relationship since the trauma of the past relationship still lingers in their mind leaving them incapable of seeing beyond that tragic memory. The constant fear of being rejected dominates the life of these individuals and severely affects their everyday life by having a negative influence on their friendship, career, and romantic relationships. 

It is very excruciating to deal with abandonment issues and it can take a toll on an individual’s mental health leaving them severely depressed and anxious and damaging their personality. These individuals live under the fear of what action of theirs might trigger their partner to leave them and due to this deep-rooted fear they often adopt behaviour that is damaging to their relationship. 

If you have experienced extreme pain and hurt due to abandonment, chances are that you will choose one of the two ways to cope with your abandonment issues. One way is to indulge in a relationship and expect your partner to fill the void that has developed in you due to past trauma and this involves constantly seeking validation and affection from your partner which can be exhausting for them. The second way is to detach yourself from friends, family, and intimate relationships, in order to prevent developing a deep bond that might later cause pain upon breaking.

If you are dealing with abandonment issues you may have coexisting behavioural problems such as being clingy, manipulative, obsessive, or rigid. You may have adopted this attitude to subconsciously protect your partner and prevent them from leaving you. While you may find that being heavily dependent on your partner is stabilising you emotionally, it is not actually true, rather this dependency is making you lose your authentic self and making you turn into a different version of yourself that you may at times despise. 

Abandonment issues largely result from childhood experiences that have been nothing less than tragic. For instance, the death of a parent or divorce of parents can leave a permanent mark on one’s personality. When an individual is denied basic emotional needs as a child it can have a detrimental impact on their personality and later in life these individuals develop abandonment issues due to parental neglect. 

Moreover, if someone is living in an environment with high levels of stress such as those with parents having a substance use disorder or having severe depression then these individuals are also prone to have abandonment issues. Individuals who are emotionally and physically abused as children for various reasons such as being ridiculed for not getting good grades, or being put under extreme pressure to be perfect are often seen to have abandonment issues as adults. 

In addition, individuals dealing with a medical condition or a mental health condition can also feel abandoned. Adults who have faced rejection in romantic relationships or at work, or those dealing with financial stresses can also battle with abandonment issues. 

Once you realise what abandonment anxiety looks like, you will be best able to identify it among your loved ones or yourself. It can be considered as the first step towards understanding your abandonment issues which will eventually help you in overcoming the condition. Following are the signs and symptoms of abandonment anxiety:

  • Feeling anxious when your partner is late or does not respond to texts or calls
  • Having a deep-seated fear that others will leave you deserted
  • Being suspicious of others 
  • Feeling insecure about your current relationships
  • Distancing from people and avoiding them to prevent rejection
  • Developing codependency on your partner
  • Feeling the need to control your partner in a relationship
  • Quickly switching from one relationship to another
  • Having difficulty trusting others 
  • Feeling drained of all your energy
  • Thinking obsessively about your partner
  • Becoming annoyed when your partner keeps things from you
  • Being a people pleaser, and feeling terrible when unable to please someone
  • Being jealous when your partner shares his or her time with someone else
  • Finding it difficult to look beyond past trauma
  • Feeling that you are not good enough and facing a hard time accepting compliments
  • Doubting others and yourself
  • Fearing being alone 
  • Inability to leave abusive or unhealthy relationships
  • Considering that it is the end of the world since the end of a past relationship

In order to deal with the abandonment issues you often look up to your partner to fulfil your emotional needs and to fix you. There is no denying that past trauma has fragmented your soul and recovery feels impossible. Even though the path to healing from abandonment anxiety may feel tedious but it is worth it. Once you decide to work on yourself, you can overcome your abandonment issues. Here is how you can do that:

  • Accept that it is Not You

Although it may seem like it was all your fault when you were abandoned in past relationships, however, this is not true and you need to discard this thought from your mind. Whether it was emotional neglect since childhood or heartbreak from a recent romantic relationship realise that it was not you and torturing yourself won’t do you any good. It was the decision of your partner to leave you and you should not feel guilty about it. 

  • Work on Yourself

If you feel like it is because you have some flaws that let the relationship to end then try to list all your flaws and analyse how you deal with them. Ask yourself, ‘was your approach to deal with this shortcoming healthy?’, and if you find that you dealt with the situation in a wrong manner then the lesson is learnt and you won’t repeat the mistake again. 

  • Become emotionally responsible for Yourself

It is likely with a history of emotional abandonment that individuals expect their partner to offer them constant validation and fill in the emotional void that has made them feel incomplete. While this may make you feel better to get all the attention from your partner, the truth is that it can be emotionally draining and mentally taxing on your partner because he or she is a human being after all and cannot always meet your expectations. And when this happens you feel like you have lost all the strength you gathered and you feel like you are at point zero again.

This is because you associated your emotional stability with a person when you yourself should have been responsible to build yourself and fix your emotional needs. You should learn to accept that you are your own responsibility and that you should not look to others to heal you because recovery begins from within. This will help you develop a healthy mindset and you will start feeling emotionally stronger.

  • Stop setting Idealistic Expectations from others 

It is not uncommon for individuals with abandonment anxiety to rely on their partners for emotional support. While there is nothing wrong with partners supporting one another, the problem arises when an individual with abandonment anxiety develops a toxic dependency on their partner. It is not healthy to turn to your partner to emotionally fix you as it is humanly impossible and you will end up becoming disappointed. Therefore, there is no good in setting up idealistic expectations from others when it is you who should stand for yourself at all times. 

  • Start to self-validate

Instead of looking for someone else to validate you, why not start patting your own back? Showing compassion to yourself can be an amazing act of courage and this will make your path to recovery easier. When you let go of others’ validation and start appreciating yourself, acknowledging the battles you have fought and the healing you have gone through, you will feel a sense of contentment swirling around you and it will be a rewarding feeling. 

  • Find your original self

While struggling with emotional abandonment you lose your authentic self. You turn into how others desire you should be in order to adjust and to be accepted, out of fear of rejection. It can be very disturbing to mould yourself to please everyone and still feel miserable. It is because you start to despise yourself for losing your identity. Abandoning your self-worth is a toxic coping mechanism and can even make you stick to abusive and unhealthy relationships. 

In order to overcome your abandonment issues, you need to start the journey to find your true self and only then your recovery is possible.

  • Practise self-care

Knowing that it is only you who can save yourself, doing small activities that will build your self-esteem can be a great start! Start practising self-care like going for a walk early in the morning, preparing a fancy meal for yourself, journaling, and spending time in activities that you enjoy doing. Make a support group for yourself and find people who have your back but first, it should be you to support yourself. 

  • Seek therapy

Getting professional help is one of the surest ways to recover. Abandonment issues can gradually resolve once you start going for therapy because it helps you to learn strategies to cope with your underlying fears and helps you to see things differently. Therapy will instil self-compassion in you. There are different types of therapies including Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR) which is known to be really effective in the setting of past trauma, Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT) which involves emotional regulation and mindfulness, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) which helps to restructure the thought process and helps to focus on the present instead of living in the past. 

Enrolling yourself in a high-end luxury rehabilitation program can also be a life-changing experience. By choosing to seek treatment through a luxury rehabilitation centre you can enjoy the benefits of being in retreat and recovery simultaneously. An in-patient rehab facility offers you holistic treatment facilities in a five-star residence and you are under the supervision of a highly esteemed team of healthcare professionals with a 24/7 live-in therapist. It helps you to overcome your abandonment issues by working on developing skills that can help you regain your true self while helping you deal with triggers in a strategic manner. 

It can be challenging to deal with someone having abandonment issues. When you try to help someone by discussing their abandonment issues with them, their insecurities get the better of them, making them doubt your motives. Therefore, to address abandonment issues in a loved one you can use the following strategies to help them overcome this condition:

  • Take a break from the conversation

The air can become too heavy when you start discussing the problems and fears of your loved ones with abandonment issues. And when the conversation becomes very emotional then there are fewer chances for it being productive. So the best thing to do is to pause the conversation for a bit. Take a breather. While you are away do not forget to tell your partner with abandonment issues about where you plan to go and when you will be back since these individuals fear being left out and the absence of someone on whom they emotionally depend can make them super anxious.

Once you return you can start the conversation from where you left and try to take a turn in the conversation to make it less emotional. 

  • Acknowledge their feelings

Validation is a key element in every relationship and there is nothing wrong with seeking it but individuals with abandonment issues are in constant need of support and validation from their partner’s end. It is how they cope with their fears. Sometimes it can be exhausting for you as a partner to meet up to their expectations. However, you don’t necessarily have to agree with the fears of your loved one but validating their concerns and letting them know that it is okay to feel this way, makes them feel secure in your presence. This makes it easier for them to communicate with you and they develop a sense of trust in you. 

In order to make them comfortable, you need to be compassionate and start by listening to them attentively when they open up to you and do not multitask while engaging in a conversation with them because these individuals require undivided attention. The next thing you can do is to begin to reflect on what they have shared with you by summarising their concerns and sharing it with them in an authentic and concerned way. Another way to listen to them is through mind-reading since there will be times when they won’t be able to put their fear into words and this is when you can read their mind about what is troubling them. 

  • Understand their past and offer empathy

The truth is that individuals with abandonment issues have seen the worst phases of a relationship and have ended up alone and their past trauma haunts them so the greatest support you can offer them is empathy. Knowing their history and learning about the turmoils they have faced will help you in dealing with them in the future as you will be cautious about what not to do in order to prevent triggering their abandonment anxiety. Their fear may seem irrational initially but after learning about their past you can help them understand that it is normal to fear when one has gone through situations like theirs. 

  • Be genuinely concerned

Show your loved ones that you are genuinely concerned about their condition and that you wish to ameliorate the damage caused to their personality due to past trauma. Do not use phrases or comments that can make them doubt your genuineness in this situation. Avoid saying ‘It is not a big deal!’ or, ‘Grow up, you are making a fuss out of nothing!’. Comments like these can shatter them as a person and they will never be able to trust you again.

  • Discuss how their behaviour makes you feel

Honesty is the key to a successful relationship. Although it may feel like being honest might disarm you and make things worse between you and your partner, sometimes it is necessary to let them know how their behaviour is troubling you. Oftentimes it is the only way to make progress. 

Children are most at risk to develop abandonment issues because they perceive the world in a different light. When a child deals with an emotional loss in the form of a parent’s death, divorce or neglect because of their addiction or mental health disorder, the impact of not receiving emotional support leaves a mark on their personality. These failings are ingrained in their brain and mould their personality. 

If as a parent you suspect that your child has developed abandonment issues then it is crucial to take prompt action to help them recover from this condition. You can do the following things to help your child with abandonment anxiety:

  • Consult a therapist: This is the first and foremost thing to do upon finding out that your child is dealing with abandonment issues since a child tends to be more at ease with a therapist than with their parent or teacher while discussing life events that have disturbed them. A therapist develops a bond of trust with your child and through multiple therapies such as art therapy, sand therapy, and play therapy children learn to look past their traumatic experiences. Children also benefit a great deal from Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
  • Let your child express his or her feelings: Allow your child to express their emotions. They should not hide their fears and troubles from you, rather you should be their safe harbour, their confidant with whom they can share almost everything that bothers them or brings them joy. When you give your child the privilege to communicate freely they will eventually open up and start trusting you.
  • Validate their feelings: When your child shares their grief and fears with you, no matter how irrational it seems, offer him or her validation. This will make them realise that you support them and care for them. 

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