“Abandonment issues” is a term thrown around to justify relationship problems on a broad spectrum. What you don’t know is that abandonment issues arise from a deeper behavioral problem that affects a majority of the population.
What exactly are abandonment issues? How is it identified? What can be done when you identify with this type of problem?
Abandonment issues or fear of abandonment issues is a collection of characteristics that developed from a traumatic experience during childhood or early adulthood. It can also develop during adulthood, but on rare occasions only. For it to manifest in adulthood, the traumatic experience would need to be fairly repetitive and may develop other serious behavioral problems as a result.
What is abandonment and why does it turn into an issue?
Abandonment is an unintentional loss or severance of a deep connection that was cultivated during childhood or in the course of a very important relationship. When someone leaves or dies suddenly, those who are left experience something akin to post-traumatic stress disorder.
Abandonment can be intentional or unintentional. Death is one of the biggest unintentional acts of abandonment. Isolation is interpreted as abandonment. Termination from a job, leaving a child at day-care, rejection from a date, a friend whose priorities have changed – anything that causes a person to feel deserted, left out or unworthy can cultivate feelings of abandonment.
It can also develop in a child who constantly experiences loss on different levels. A friend moves away. A close relative passes on. Their parents separate. A nanny leaves the home. A parent travels a lot. The reaction to these kinds of events in a child’s life is imprinted and can manifest in their adulthood.
It becomes an issue because a person may cease to trust new people in their life. They could base their decisions on the assumption that not everything is concrete. This is true for most things, but people with abandonment issues treat every new event in their life as a passing phase. They assume that nothing is consistent, so they develop defense mechanisms in order to counteract what they feel will be the end result – abandonment.
This does not happen to every person who loses a loved one. There is no scientific basis for the prevalence of developing abandonment issues in certain groups of people, but it usually occurs in an unhealthy emotional environment. Once the seed is planted, there is no turning back. All you can do is identify the signs and take the necessary steps to help yourself or another person who is experiencing this phenomenon.
How do you know if you have abandonment issues or feelings of abandonment?
Most people don’t acknowledge that they have abandonment issues. It becomes obvious when the constant patterns in their lives are causing them pain. If not resolved, a person can develop other behavioral disorders like depression, anxiety and other serious mental illnesses.
A psychologist can confirm this through various tests and will then develop a plan of treatment to guide a person into releasing these types of feelings. This does not mean that every time you feel alone, you resort to therapy. You need to identify whether these feelings have become destructive or if they are just products of a day or week gone wrong.
Common signs of fear of abandonment
#1 Difficulty in making new friends. People with abandonment issues struggle with the idea *and the activity* of making new friends because they fear rejection from their peers. They have a hard time holding on to new friendships because their attitude reflects a negative perception of events, people and places.
And that makes it worse for others because it’s not fun to hang out with people who are afraid to live their life and constantly complain about it, which is common for people with abandonment issues.
#2 Envisioning worst-case scenarios. People with abandonment issues do not tackle problems in a calm and reasonable manner. They always think the worst and have resolved themselves to the idea that everything will end badly.
This is especially true for the few relationships they’ve developed. If a friend forgets to call, they will immediately assume that the friendship is over as opposed to any other immediate reason like a busy schedule or a dead battery.
#3 Excessive dependency on close relationships. Simply put, a person with abandonment issues becomes clingy to the point where they could suffocate their relationships. Being left alone leads to depression and anxiety. They rely too much emotionally on their friends, family or partners.
Instead of being interpreted as endearment, the dependency that people with abandonment issues require becomes a job for the people involved. It becomes exhausting and repetitive which in turn causes people to abandon the person again.
#4 Staying in destructive relationships. This is the worst case for people with abandonment issues. Because they feel unworthy of developing new relationships, they tend to stay with abusive partners. They can also refuse to end a relationship that is no longer happy.
#5 Paranoia over people leaving. Every time something out of the ordinary happens in their relationships, they quickly assume that their partner is leaving them. If they get into a fight with their sibling, they will immediately think that their sibling hates them. They don’t trust people to stay. They think that if they do anything negative, they will be cast out.
#6 Defensive behavior in any setting. No matter where they are, people with abandonment issues will immediately put up a guarded front. Whether it’s with a waiter in an unfamiliar restaurant or a new teacher at school, they will be reluctant to engage in any sort of conversation or connection. This makes propagating a career difficult. It also keeps a person from developing interpersonal skills needed to grow into a mature adult.
These are just a few of the usual nuisances that accompany people with abandonment issues. Some people have these traits in minor amounts. They can be developed through their upbringing, environment and experiences. For people with abandonment issues, these issues are greatly exaggerated and rarely acknowledged.
How do abandonment issues affect your relationships?
Having a fear of abandonment makes it difficult for a person to develop lasting relationships. They don’t close their doors to new romantic relationships, but it takes them a long time to find someone that they like enough to get close to.
#1 Impulsive relationship decisions. They could end up not seeing anyone for years and then have a constant meeting streak after. It’s not an unusual pattern. Some jump into new relationships constantly because they always end up breaking up with people.
The pattern is unnoticeable at first, but sooner or later, they will realize that their dependent tendencies led to the relationship’s downfall.
#2 Conflicting emotions. Because of their clinginess, they can irritate their partner to the point of leaving. If they are too guarded, their partner will not feel any emotional connection to them at all and then decide to leave.
#3 Overreaction. When a person sees signs that they are about to be abandoned, they quickly change their tune and become excessively dependent. They become emotional and dramatic. When they do not get what they want, they become depressed. They start questioning their self-worth and resolve themselves to the fact that they are not good enough for their partner.
#4 Fear of rejection. People with fear of abandonment refuse to acknowledge their insecurities for fear of rejection. It’s an unproductive system that rarely resolves the person’s issues with abandonment.
If no one knows what they are really thinking, then no one can help them. People with abandonment issues rarely ask for help and their depressive state prevents them from fixing their problems personally.
If you feel that you are experiencing these signs constantly and are noticing their effects on your relationships, contact a professional. Do some research and see if you can develop your own system to fix your fear of abandonment. Everyone needs help at some point in their lives. It is up to you to decide whether you are ready to face your problems and find a healthy solution.
What can you do to help ease your depression and anxiety?
There are many ways to combat the anxiety and depression that accompanies abandonment issues. You have to deal with the root of the problem and acknowledge your fears.
#1 Acknowledge the cause. Go back to your childhood and recall the family members or other people in your life that you lost. Ask yourself if you have a close relationship with your family or not. Tell yourself that none of it is your fault. Their leaving, intentionally or otherwise, was out of your control.
Once you accept that, you can breathe easy knowing that you never drove anyone away. They either had no choice or were too weak to stay.
#2 Know that you are always good enough. You need to recognize your worth and not depend on other people to validate it. The only person whose approval you need is yours. You need to start loving your appearance, your talent, your traits and your life. Love yourself first so you can realize that others love you just the way you are.
#3 Ask for help. I know it will be difficult, but the benefits outweigh the fears that you have been nursing for a long time. Once the people who love you know that you are struggling, they will be more than willing to help. If not, then don’t fret. The fact that you were brave enough to ask in the first place is the first small step in the right direction.