How to Deal with Abandonment Issues: Signs & Symptoms

What is a fear of abandonment?
on June 20, 2024
Read time: 10 mins
by Laura Caruso LMHC

No one wants to feel rejected or dismissed by their loved one. 

However, if you have abandonment issues, being rejected by your partner may be your greatest fear. This fear trigger is often overlooked as clinginess or desperation when it’s far deeper than that, rooted in childhood trauma or unhealthy relationship dynamics. 

Abandonment issues are naturally linked to your attachment style, with insecure attachments often displaying the same kind of behaviors. So, how do you know if you have attachment issues? And, if you do, how do you stop them from affecting your romantic relationships? 

In our expert guide, we dive into the causes of attachment issues, how to spot them, and perhaps most importantly, how to heal. 

What are abandonment issues? 

“Abandonment issues are anxious patterns of thought and behavior stemming from past experiences of feeling neglected, rejected, or unloved, and can profoundly impact communication, trust, and intimacy within relationships,” says Laura Caruso, a licensed therapist and relationship expert. 

Abandonment fears can corrupt healthy relationships, as one partner constantly fears rejection, making it difficult to foster trust or open communication. If these abandonment issues are not recognized, they can be dismissed as clinginess or desperation, when this is truly not the case or cause. 

“Abandonment insecurities influence the way we perceive and navigate emotional closeness,” says Caruso. 

People with abandonment issues usually develop an insecure attachment, such as an avoidant attachment style, an anxious attachment, or a disorganized attachment style. This goes on to impact all of their adult relationships, especially if they’re unable to recognize these behaviors. 

What causes abandonment issues? 

Abandonment issues are usually rooted in childhood trauma, where caregivers fail to provide a healthy environment for growth and development. This physical or emotional abandonment can result in an insecure or anxious attachment style, with abandonment trauma dictating their adult attachment behaviors. 

“Abandonment issues are triggered by past traumas, unresolved childhood attachments, or previous dysfunctional relationship dynamics,” says Caruso.  

“Common causes include early childhood experiences of neglect, separation from caregivers, loss or rejection, and unstable relationships.” 

However, not all abandonment issues are developed in early childhood, with divorce or death in later life also triggering abandonment anxiety. While attachment and abandonment issues are usually linked to issues with interpersonal relationships, they are also associated with certain mental health conditions such as borderline personality disorder (BPD). 

“Internal factors that contribute to abandonment insecurities include low self-esteem, anxiety disorders, or a history of depression, which all magnify feelings of insecurity and fear of abandonment,” says Caruso. 

Whether the cause is rooted in traumatic events or other internal factors, these abandonment fears can make it difficult to foster healthy relationships. Even if the person may not realize it, this fear of abandonment can trigger worrying behaviors in a relationship. 

How do people with abandonment issues act?

People with abandonment issues act differently in relationships, displaying emotional responses that are rooted in a deep fear of being left alone. These behaviors can manifest in various ways, depending on the individual's experiences and coping mechanisms.

While some people won’t feel that their abandonment issues affect their daily lives, others will recognize the extent of the impact on their relationships. 

Signs of abandonment issues

  1. Fear of rejection: People with abandonment issues constantly fret about being rejected or left alone. They worry about everyone in their life suddenly turning on them or casting them aside, with their behavior reflecting this fear. “People with abandonment issues often harbor a deep-seated fear of rejection,” says Caruso. “They may constantly seek reassurance of their partner’s love and commitment, or become overly dependent on their partner for validation, emotional support, and a sense of identity.” 

  2. People-pleasing: Spurred on by their abandonment issues, they go out of their way to please people in their lives, putting their own needs and well-being to one side in the process. 

  3. Clinginess: People with abandonment issues are often seen as clingy or needy, as they may need a lot more attention and affection to feel safe. This can manifest as separation anxiety, where they’re constantly worried when they’re not by their partner's side. 

  4. Need for reassurance: People with abandonment issues are often cited as insecure or needy due to their desire for reassurance from their loved ones. While everyone benefits from reassurance, they need it to quiet their fears of abandonment or rejection.

  5. Insecurity: Due to a low sense of self-worth due to their traumatic experiences, they might harbor deep insecurities. This insecurity coupled with intense fear about their abandonment is very easy to spot in often erratic behaviors. “People with a fear of abandonment often experience intense feelings of insecurity in response to minor disagreements or conflicts and struggle with being alone,” says Caruso. 

  6. Trust issues: Due to their insecurities, they might have deep-rooted trust issues, consistently doubting those closest to them. Even though their partner might be reassuring them, they don’t always believe them. 

  7. Push people away: Since they struggle to trust others, they might push people away for their own protection. “Paradoxically, some people with abandonment issues may push their partner away or avoid intimacy as a way to protect themselves from potential rejection,” says Caruso. 

  8. Control issues: Another sign of abandonment issues is the need to control situations, or reversely be controlled. People with abandonment issues might end up in toxic dynamics, or opt for codependency, as they put their emotional needs to one side to not be alone. 

  9. Self-sabotage relationships: Due to their abandonment fears, they might intentionally (or unintentionally) self-sabotage their romantic relationship as a means of self-preservation.  “They may sabotage a relationship or create emotional distance to preemptively guard against getting hurt,” says Caruso. 

  10. Settling: Without a secure attachment style, their abandonment anxiety might spur them to enter a relationship whereby they are not truly happy. Faced with the prospect of being alone, they’d rather settle with someone who doesn’t make them happy than no one at all. 

How do abandonment issues show up in relationships?

Even though all you want is a happy dynamic, due to the impact of these behaviors, people with abandonment issues tend to foster more unhealthy relationship types. However, it doesn’t have to be this way. 

“Addressing abandonment issues is crucial for fostering a healthy and secure bond between partners,” says Caruso. 

“Unresolved issues breed distrust and suspicion, leading to misunderstandings and a lack of emotional intimacy within the relationship. The emotional distance can create a sense of disconnect and loneliness in the relationship despite physical proximity.”

If these behaviors are constantly manifesting in a relationship, without understanding and recognition, it can lead to very unhealthy patterns. For example, if your partner is struggling with abandonment issues without you knowing, you may unknowingly be a contributor to their fears. 

The path to healthier relationships starts with recognizing the symptoms of abandonment issues and molding your behaviors to provide security and space for healing.  

How do you resolve abandonment issues?

Abandonment issues do not have to have a life-long impact on your romantic relationships. 

If these issues have begun to affect your daily life, there are numerous support, healing, and treatment options available. 

It’s about putting your wellness first, with copious quantities of self-care, support, and understanding required to move forward. Once you recognize your fear of abandonment, it’s important to express these feelings to your partner. While this can feel like a very overwhelming and scary move, it’s essential to growth. 

“Addressing these issues requires patience, empathy, and a willingness to explore and heal past wounds together,” says Caruso. 

Can therapy effectively treat abandonment issues?

While your partner can help you on a path to secure attachment, professional help may be necessary to move forward from old wounds. 

“In therapy, clients learn to recognize and challenge negative beliefs about themselves and relationships in general, develop more effective communication skills, and build trust and intimacy with their partners,” says Caruso. 

Modern psychiatry and psychotherapy can be a positive step toward healing, with various therapy options available designed to effectively treat these issues. 

What are some effective therapies for dealing with abandonment issues?

There are numerous therapy options available, including dialectical behavior therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and many more. 

“Therapy and open communication can provide valuable support in navigating these challenges to foster a more secure and fulfilling bond,” says Caruso. 

“Attachment and psychodynamic therapies can help you connect past experiences to underlying causes, patterns, and dynamics in your current relationship.”

When considering getting therapy for your attachment issues, it’s important to approach a licensed mental health professional to ensure you are getting the care and advice you need to move forward. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Why do I have abandonment issues if I was never abandoned?

    The concept of abandonment issues tends to point blame at family members or caregivers for not providing the right kind of support during early childhood. However, this isn’t always the case. Abandonment issues can appear for numerous reasons throughout your life, and it’s important to take the time to identify the cause before you begin your healing journey.
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