Identifying and Managing Abandonment Issues (2023)

Fear of abandonment is a type of anxiety that some people experience when faced with the idea of losing someone they care about. Everyone deals with death or the end of relationships in their lifetime. Loss is a natural part of life.

However, people with abandonment issues live in fear of these losses. They may also exhibit behaviors that push people to leave so they’re never surprised by the loss.

A fear of abandonment isn’t a recognized condition or mental health disorder, per se. Instead, it’s considered a type of anxiety and is treated as such.

Initial behaviors of abandonment fear are often not purposeful.

Over time, however, the reaction these behaviors get — plus the attention that comes with it — can become self-reinforcing. That can cause someone to repeat the behaviors in order to get the response again.

This behavior can have unhealthy consequences. Over time, it can ruin relationships. It can also prevent the development of healthy bonds.

The key to treating abandonment issues is to find psychological treatment or therapy.

Continue reading to find out how these fears develop and how they can be stopped.

What are the symptoms?

(Video) 7 Signs You Have Abandonment Issues

People with abandonment fears exhibit many of the same behaviors, though some may be more prominent than others. These symptoms include:

  • Cycling through relationships. Some may engage in numerous shallow relationships. They may fear intimacy and find a reason to leave a relationship before the other person can.
  • Sabotaging relationships. Some may act irrationally to get out of relationships. For example, you may knowingly push away a partner so you won’t feel hurt if they leave.
  • Clinging to unhealthy relationships. Some people with abandonment issues may stay in relationships despite a desire to leave. The fear of being alone is more powerful.
  • Needing constant reassurance. Some may constantly seek out a friend or partner and demand emotional guarantees. They may regularly urge friends or partners to make broad statements, such as “I’ll always be here,” and then say they’re lying.

Kids with healthy emotional attachments to their parents often become upset when they’re left, even if only for a short time.

Some level of this reaction is natural. However, it may be a sign of an underlying mental health condition when it leads to:

  • Separation anxiety. If a child becomes anxious about their parents going somewhere in advance, the child may be expressing abandonment fears.
  • Panic. If a child begins to panic when they don’t see their parents, their overreaction may be a sign of an issue.
  • A fear of being alone. Some children won’t sleep without their parents or even let them step out of the room.

Some abandonment issues and fears become invasive. They can prevent someone from leading a normal, healthy life.

A history of any of the following may increase the risk of a type of abandonment fear:

  • Neglect. People who have been neglected, abused, or abandoned, especially during childhood, are more likely to develop this issue. Likewise, adults who were neglected as a child are more likely to repeat the behaviors with their own children.
  • Stress. High levels of stress may make naturally occurring anxiety worse. This can worsen fears and lead to new anxieties.
  • Traumatic events. Those who have experienced an injury or death or been a victim of a crime may be more likely to develop these issues.

What causes abandonment issues?

(Video) Codependency and Abandonment Fears | Tips and Strategies for Enhancing Self-Esteem and Relationships

Healthy human development requires knowing that physical and emotional needs are met. During childhood, this reassurance comes from parents. During adulthood, it can come from personal and romantic relationships.

Events can interrupt this assurance at any age. When this happens, abandonment fears may develop. These events may include:

  • Death. Death is natural, but that doesn’t make it less traumatic. Losing a loved one unexpectedly can create an emotional void that can be filled by fear.
  • Abuse. Physical and sexual abuse, along with other types of abuse, can create lingering mental health issues, including a fear of abandonment.
  • Poverty. If basic needs aren’t met, this can lead to a scarcity mindset. This may lead to fears that emotional resources, such as love, attention, and friendship, are likewise limited.
  • Relationship loss. Divorce, death, infidelity — they all happen. For some individuals, the end of a relationship can be too painful. It may lead to lingering fears.

Treatment for abandonment issues focuses on establishing healthy emotional boundaries. You need to build an arsenal of responses to deploy when you feel old thought patterns emerging again.

Primary treatments for abandonment issues include:

  • Therapy. Seek out the help of a mental health professional, such as a therapist or counselor. They can help you overcome fears of being abandoned. They’ll also work with you to understand where the fear originates and what you can do when you sense the fear rising.
  • Self-care. People with abandonment issues may benefit from self-care. Making sure emotional needs are met is important for friendships and relationships. This way, you’re able to better provide for your partner, friend, or child.

Helping a loved one living with abandonment issues can be difficult. After all, if you bring up your concerns, their instinct may be to challenge you and your loyalty to them.

While people with abandonment fears differ, these techniques may help you care for someone who has a fear of abandonment:

(Video) Abandonment Issues: Signs, Causes & How to Overcome

Pause the conversation

Highly emotional conversations will inevitably become unproductive. When this happens, pause the conversation. Let them know you care but step away for a few hours.

Be supportive of both yourself and the person with abandonment fears. People with abandonment issues may struggle more with this, particularly if their conversation partner leaves without telling them where they’re going.

Let them know:

  • where you’re going
  • how long you’ll be away
  • when you’ll return

When you return, begin the conversation from a less emotional place.

Support and validate their fears

Validation is an important part of trust in a relationship. When supporting a loved one with a fear of abandonment, validation means that you acknowledge their feelings without judgment. Such understanding of their fears is a key to maintaining communication.

Validating a loved one’s fears doesn’t necessarily mean you agree with them. Instead, you’re supporting their feelings to further build on trust and compassion.

Consider this six-level approach Psychology Today identified to help you get started:

  1. Be present. Actively listen to your loved one’s concerns without multitasking.
  2. Reflect. Summarize your loved one’s feelings verbally in an authentic way so you can reach an understanding without judgment.
  3. Mind-reading. Sometimes it can be difficult for loved ones to describe their emotional states as fear. By listening to them, you can help them identify their emotions for deeper understanding. This level takes a lot of practice with being present and reflecting.
  4. Understand their history. This is an even deeper form of acknowledgment. You know your loved one’s fears and openly state that you understand how a certain situation might be triggering due to their past history of abandonment.
  5. “Normalize” their fears. Such normalization is done by acknowledging the fact that others with your loved one’s history could have fears of abandonment, so what they’re feeling is completely understandable.
  6. Radical genuineness. As the deepest level of validation, radical genuineness involves sharing your loved one’s fears as your own.

It’s just as important to prevent saying things that might invalidate your loved one’s fears. Avoid unhelpful phrases, such as:

  • “It’s OK, just let it go.”
  • “Everything happens for a reason.”
  • “That didn’t really happen to you.”
  • “Why are you making such a big deal out of nothing?”
  • “Things could be a lot worse; you’re lucky.”

Don’t take the emotional bait

A person with a fear of abandonment may use facial expressions, ambiguous statements, or vague body language to draw attention. Don’t bite.

When they tell you nothing is wrong, or they don’t want to talk about it, take them at their word. Requesting that they open up can turn into a way to test you.

Tell them how these behaviors make you feel

There’s no harm in honesty. When you’re upset, clearly express what you mean and how their actions are making you feel. The honesty may be disarming enough that you can make progress.

Helping a child with abandonment issues

If you suspect your child has abandonment anxiety, it’s important to get them help as early as possible so they can develop secure relationships. Talk with your child’s doctor about your options.

These strategies may be helpful with children:

(Video) If you have Abandonment Issues, this is THE CURE (WATCH THIS)

  • Seek professional help. For some children, talking to a parent or teacher may be uncomfortable. A professional may be less threatening.
  • Encourage kids to express their feelings. Children sometimes fear their emotions may upset their parents. Be a blank slate to your child’s feelings. Let them bring up everything they feel while you acknowledge it all.
  • Offer validation. Instead of seeking a solution for their worries or fears, offer confirmation of their feelings. Tell them simply that it’s OK to feel how they do.

Treatment for this type of anxiety can be very successful. It requires commitment and self-care to feel more confident in relationships — but it can be done.

For many people with these issues, worries may linger. A therapist can teach you how to cope with these thoughts when they pop up.

They may also encourage you to return to therapy if the thoughts and anxieties become problematic again.

Many individuals with abandonment issues may not recognize how destructive their behaviors are. They may purposefully endanger relationships as a way of avoiding hurt.

These behaviors can lead to long-term relationship problems in personal and professional settings.

Treatment for abandonment issues focuses on helping people understand the underlying factors that lead to the behavior.

Treatment can also teach coping mechanisms to help manage these anxieties in the future. This can lead to normal, healthy relationships.

(Video) 12 Tips for Helping Someone with Abandonment Anxiety | Relationship Skills


How do you identify abandonment issues? ›

Common signs of abandonment issues include:
  1. Giving too much or being overly eager to please.
  2. Jealousy in your relationship or of others.
  3. Trouble trusting your partner's intentions.
  4. Feeling insecure about your relationship.
  5. Having difficulty in feeling intimate emotionally.
  6. Needing to control or be controlled by your partner.
Dec 12, 2022

What triggers people with abandonment issues? ›

Abandonment triggers can be very specific to your particular experiences, but these are a few triggers that are common among many people with abandonment experiences:
  • Rejection.
  • Cheating.
  • Betrayal.
  • Criticism.
  • Interpersonal conflict.
  • Illness.

What are behaviors of abandonment issues? ›

Abandonment issues are a form of anxiety that occurs when an individual has a strong fear of losing loved ones. People with abandonment issues can have difficulties in relationships. They may exhibit symptoms such as codependency, clinginess, or manipulative behavior.

What do abandonment issues look like in adults? ›

“Some of the long-term effects of dealing with abandonment issues might include severe difficulty forming relationships with friends or romantic partners, low self-esteem, issues with anger and jealousy, finding it hard to trust partners, and fear of being alone.”

What not to say to someone with abandonment issues? ›

Abandonment issues can be hard to overcome, even with a supportive partner. Don't take your partner's fears personally, and try to refrain from telling them they're being irrational. Instead, gently encourage them to open up about their fears so that you can both work to build a healthier relationship.

What happens when abandonment issues are triggered? ›

Those with a fear of abandonment may jump into relationships too quickly or stay in unhealthy ones out of a fear of being alone and abandoned once more.

What type of trauma is abandonment? ›

Abandonment trauma, also known as PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) of abandonment, is caused by experiences that make us feel unsafe, insecure, and alone as children. The emotional distress that stems from this type of trauma can persist throughout the lifespan and lead to many health complications.

How do abandonment issues show up in relationships? ›

People who fear abandonment struggle to feel affection. They have trouble identifying and expressing their emotions. They might seem detached from their experiences and relationships. Abandoned individuals may rebuff physical and emotional comfort from their partners, like a hug or compliment.

What does fear of abandonment look like? ›

Symptoms of fear of abandonment

overly sensitive to criticism. difficulty trusting in others. difficulty making friends unless you can be sure they like you. taking extreme measures to avoid rejection or separation.

What does emotional abandonment look like? ›

Emotional abandonment is, “other people not meeting your emotional needs, leaving you feeling rejected, unloved, or painfully lonely,” explains Kibby McMahon, PhD, a clinical psychologist and co-host of the podcast “A Little Help for Our Friends.”

What not to do to someone with abandonment issues? ›

Abandonment issues can be hard to overcome, even with a supportive partner. Don't take your partner's fears personally, and try to refrain from telling them they're being irrational. Instead, gently encourage them to open up about their fears so that you can both work to build a healthier relationship.

Do people with abandonment issues get attached easily? ›

In relationships, people with a fear of abandonment tend to: Attach quickly—even to unavailable partners or relationships. Fail to fully commit and have had very few long-term relationships. Move on quickly just to ensure that you don't get too attached.

Why do people with abandonment issues sabotage relationships? ›

A person who is afraid of abandonment will avoid relationships to protect themselves. They may also let things progress only so far before sabotaging behavior ends the relationship. A person with a fear of abandonment may be controlling and demanding to hang on to their partner.

How to love a woman with abandonment issues? ›

How to Love a Woman with Abandonment Issues
  1. 1 Ask her how she's feeling.
  2. 2 Be patient with her.
  3. 3 Shut down negative self-talk.
  4. 4 State your feelings and intentions clearly.
  5. 5 Practice open body language.
  6. 6 Set boundaries for yourself.
  7. 7 Say "I love you" more often.
  8. 8 Support her without trying to fix her.

What are the stages of abandonment? ›

Going beyond comforting words to promote real change, this healing process will help you work through the five universal stages of abandonment—shattering, withdrawal, internalizing, rage, lifting—by understanding their biochemical and behavioral origins and implications.

What personality disorder is fear of abandonment? ›

With borderline personality disorder, you have an intense fear of abandonment or instability, and you may have difficulty tolerating being alone. Yet inappropriate anger, impulsiveness and frequent mood swings may push others away, even though you want to have loving and lasting relationships.


1. ACES, Trauma, Abandonment, Codependency & Attachment | Addressing Codependency & Abandonment Issues
(Doc Snipes)
2. 9 Strategies for Addressing Abandonment Anxiety: Quickstart Guide
(Doc Snipes)
3. The Science of Adult Attachment Styles: Preventing Abandonment Fears
(Doc Snipes)
4. How a Jezebel Almost Took Me Out! | Dr. Bettina C. Bunton | VLCM | VHOP | March 2
(Victorious Living Christian Ministries)
5. Abandonment Anxiety-- Video corrupted See
(Doc Snipes)
(Crappy Childhood Fairy)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: The Hon. Margery Christiansen

Last Updated: 12/28/2022

Views: 5325

Rating: 5 / 5 (50 voted)

Reviews: 81% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: The Hon. Margery Christiansen

Birthday: 2000-07-07

Address: 5050 Breitenberg Knoll, New Robert, MI 45409

Phone: +2556892639372

Job: Investor Mining Engineer

Hobby: Sketching, Cosplaying, Glassblowing, Genealogy, Crocheting, Archery, Skateboarding

Introduction: My name is The Hon. Margery Christiansen, I am a bright, adorable, precious, inexpensive, gorgeous, comfortable, happy person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.