Abandonment issues often stem from youth experiences, according to Chrystal Dunkers, LPC, a counselor who is licensed at Point and Pivot Counseling in New Jersey. This strong feeling of being left behind, rejected, or excluded might have been obtained due to prolonged exposure to an unreliable, abusive, or absent guardian.
“Abandonment issues can largely be created based on childhood trauma and schemas developed because of this,” she describes. But while the fear of abandonment could be easily dismissed as “mommy issues” or “daddy issues,” both Dunkers and double board-certified physician Anandhi Narasimhan, M.D., note that any relationship can also be the main cause of abandonment issues.
Dunkers claims the loss of a family member at any point in our lifetime can lend itself to also the development of abandonment issues. “In addition, if a partner or romantic partner decides to finish a relationship, this, too, can lead to abandonment conditions that could potentially affect future relationships,” she adds.
What Are Abandonment Issues?
Abandonment issues are fears that mean the unhealthy people, places, and things to which you are connected will reject you sooner or later. Although not a formal diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the term is generally used to express incessant thoughts or behaviors motivated by anxiety or fear that someone or something important to you is inevitably abandoned.
In response to these thoughts, which may or may not be based on a particular truth, a person facing this fear of abandonment may become clingy, insecure, jealous, emotionally manipulative, and even disciplined. Typically, this is just a learned response.
Maybe they saw adults react this way when they were children, or maybe their close friends reacted this way to rejection in early adulthood. The normalization of unhealthy tendencies may take some time. How abandonment issues show up in relationships.
Driven by desperation, abandonment issues can cause people to act in ways that hurt others and, over time, make it difficult to build healthy, trusting relationships. Dunkers says that unshakable feelings or thoughts that important people from all walks of life plan to hold and sustain can be the root of attempts to control a lover’s behavior, relationships, and thoughts.
When these reactions and fears no longer serve a person with abandonment issues, it’s most often because a person who wants to build a healthier relationship realizes and doesn’t like being the target.
This could mean a romantic partner rejecting the bullying behavior of someone with abandonment issues, a child demanding that their parent with abandonment issues prevent their privacy from being violated, or a subordinate employee holding back against a micromanager with an unspeakable fear of his financial stability.
The wake-up call is often an emotional break that could reduce the chances of a deep connection with someone who really matters. Over time, it becomes clear why these thoughts and beliefs no longer perform their intended function. Recognizing and repairing the damage done is often vital to ensuring that abandonment problems do not turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Conversely, some people with abandonment problems can avoid attachments altogether to minimize the dissatisfaction that could arise if those relationships end badly or prematurely. This response corresponds to an avoidant attachment style, a pattern of habits that reflects a problem that forms or maintains close bonds with others. Those with an avoidant style appear to be very independent and driven, while those with an anxious attachment style may need external validation.
Some might be labeled too busy for relationships, kind but unstable, and/or emotionally unavailable. You might suddenly withdraw from relationships that need vulnerability. You may fear rejection so much that you may engage in counter-intuitive behaviors to suppress positive emotions toward others (which you cannot control) and instead focus on your own needs and directing creature comforts (things).
Outside romantic relationships, someone struggling with abandonment issues may find it difficult to recognize the need for a strong support system. They may struggle to get help or love, or they may be too dependent on others to have positive self-esteem.
Common Signs of Abandonment Problems
1. Fear in relationships
More acutely, someone with abandonment issues often faces adamant feelings or thoughts that important people will inevitably leave by dying or rejecting you. Projecting a sense of anticipated betrayal onto new romantic relationships and friendships is often a sign of unresolved abandonment issues.
Insecurity and feelings of unworthiness are normal in people with abandonment problems. They are more likely to lack self-confidence and seek external confirmation. They may feel generally unprotected and susceptible, even with individuals and situations that have been positive and uplifting. Worrying about abandonment makes it difficult to trust other people as well as your own judgment of people.
3. Excessive thinking and constant suspicion
The practice of obsessing over the possibility of abandonment or rejection can lead to plotting or planning to prevent it even before it has even begun. “A person becomes anxious if he does not hear his partner, worries about the definitions of the statements, calls or texts his partner repeatedly when he has no news, suspects infidelity, becomes irritable or overreacts to certain changes in plans,” explains Narasimhan. “Some drive repeatedly with a partner’s residence or show up at their partner’s workplace.”
4. Anger and volatility in relationships
Issues of abandonment are usually caused by a traumatic situation that has deprived a person of the power to manage the results for themselves or others of the harm they truly wanted. This included the inability to prevent death, prevent a spouse from leaving, or protect. If ignored, the underlying situations will still cause anger much later.
People can be easily activated in situations that remind them of that time. Physical violence and anger could now be used to try to control others, in ways that were not possible in the first incident. Anger or outbursts can be directed towards a loved one, towards oneself, or channeled into certain physical or behavioral manifestations, such as hitting a wall when it is largely caused by the idea that someone is rejecting them.
5. Trust issues
The issues of abandonment often boil down to a lack of trust in others. These trust issues can manifest as unhealthy emotional bonds that limit the ability to trust or be trusted. An all-or-nothing approach to loyalty can result in unrealistic expectations of others or a sheer detachment from other people in order to avoid future dissatisfaction. Extreme cases can involve hermit behavior.
6. Commitment Issues
Issues with abandonment can mask themselves as commitment issues, which means that a person cannot fully commit to a long-term or emotionally committed relationship. Avoiding engagement may seem like a lot of individual agreements or repeated engagement with one person, but no games or expectations that are clear.
7. Quick fixing
Perhaps unexpectedly, a good way for abandonment issues to arise is to become attached to new people too quickly. A person with attachment issues, often related to abandonment issues, can feel emotionally affected by the attention of others, even if they don’t really understand or know the other person.
Attachment can occur even when you find signs that this person’s commitment is fleeting. Because people with abandonment issues feel like people will abandon them because they don’t trust the continued development of the relationship, they may rush to form a deep bond as soon as possible. It can seem difficult to commit to people you have just met or who have already shown signs of emotional unavailability.
8. Emotional unavailability
Similar to trust issues, someone with emotional unavailability can seem cold or distant on the outside. They might also appear to only be engaging in an intimate physical relationship, but not an emotional one. Communication is severely compromised or dishonest.
9. Staying in a relationship too long
Contrary to intuition, some people don’t leave a falling relationship out of fear of being abandoned or alone. No matter how toxic or unhealthy the relationship is, a person may resign or engage in a “do nothing” or “ride or die” approach.
10. Inability to accept rejection
This behavior can go beyond simple denial. “They may not believe that they are increasingly being rejected and try to hold on to the relationship or go to great lengths to persuade or manipulate the person into staying in the relationship,” Narasimhan explains. Preventing a person from leaving a relationship they no longer want to keep is a kind of punishment.
11. Behavior or depressive episodes
When the fear of abandonment becomes unbearable, it can lead to disruptions in mental health and physical harm. Subsequently, episodes that recall memories or replicate patterns can cause deep sadness and depression if trauma is the cause of the separation problems.
12. Abuse, harassment, or physical violence
In rare cases, says Narasimhan, a working person with abandonment issues may even find themselves in violence, whether psychological, verbal, or physical, in situations where they feel abandoned or are at risk of being abandoned. Handling, stalking, stalking, or abusing an animal, child, parent, spouse, co-worker, or loved one occurs any time a person goes to great lengths to control another person.
Solving urgent issues and recovery
The good thing is that knowing where these feelings are coming from can be the first rung on the ladder to overcoming them. For starters, Dunkers says seeking therapy to understand your accessory schemas brings an understanding of schemas that are behavioral relationships. There are many books on attachment theory, such as Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment by Amir Levine and Rachel Heller, that are good tools to guide self-reflection.
Do you need counseling for abandonment issues?
Although your fears and discomfort may frequently feel unreasonable, professionals can help you rationalize and accept past traumatization in healthy ways. It’s important to remember that abandonment issues may affect one component of a man or woman’s life significantly more than others. Over time, you can learn to form more secure attachments with a counselor’s help.
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