Fear Of Abandonment: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

The fear of abandonment often stems from the loss of childhood. This loss could be related to a traumatic event, such as the loss of a parent through death or divorce.

It can also be because you are not getting enough physical or emotional attention. These early childhood experiences can lead to fear of being abandoned by others later in life.


Although it is not an official phobia, the fear of abandonment is undoubtedly one of the most common and most harmful ” phobias ” of all. People with a fear of abandonment may tend to display compulsive behaviors and thought patterns that sabotage their relationships, ultimately leading to the dreaded abandonment.

This fear can be devastating, but understanding it is the first step to resolving it.

It is a complex phenomenon in psychology. It has been understood from a variety of perspectives. It is even a central symptom of borderline personality disorder .

Here are some helpful theories, models, and scenarios to understand and try to help people struggling with the fear of abandonment.

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Causes, how abandonment works

Healthy human development requires that physical and emotional care needs be met. Unmet needs can result in feelings of abandonment. Experiencing abandonment can become a traumatic life event.

The death of a parent can be a traumatic event for a child. Feeling unsafe due to a threatening situation such as abuse or poverty can also cause trauma.

Some degree of fear of abandonment can be normal . But when the fear of abandonment is severe and frequent , it can cause problems . It can impact the way a person’s relationships develop. When this is the case, the support of a therapist or counselor can help.


Emotional abandonment

A pattern of emotional neglect or neglect can also be traumatic. It can be described as a way in which the person feels abandoned. The emotional can occur when parents:

  • They stifle the emotional expression of their children
  • They ridicule them in front of their friends
  • Requiring your children to follow rules that are too high
  • They trust children too much for their own sense of worth
  • They treat their children as equals

People who felt abandoned as children are more likely to repeat this pattern with their children. But some emotionally neglected children recognize this pattern.

It is very likely that they will continue to raise their own children and break the cycle of abandonment. Many of these signs of abandonment can also manifest between people in a relationship.

The stress or overuse can contribute to the feeling of being abandoned affecting the emotional part. People with unmet needs often have a hard time meeting the needs of others.

Practicing self-care is an important part of making sure your needs are being met. The self-care person can then meet the needs of their child or partner in a healthy way.

Anxiety in relationships

Adults who did not experience abandonment as children may have feelings associated with the issue. This may be due to the loss of an intimate partner through separation, divorce, or death. Abandonment can occur in childhood or in adulthood. Either way, the impact can be generalized. It can negatively affect any other relationship that a person develops, be it intimate, social or professional.

Fear can affect an otherwise healthy relationship. People may worry that their partner is having an affair. This anxiety can come from experience with past issues. It can also stem from previous loss or anxiety issues.

Adults who are afraid of being abandoned can work to prevent their partner from leaving. They can put a lot of work and effort into the relationship. Then, they may worry that their partner will not appreciate or return their efforts.


Signs that abandonment may be affecting a relationship include:

  • One of the partners “gives too much” or is a “complacent person.”
  • Envy of other people’s relationships
  • Trust issues
  • Feelings of insecurity in the relationship
  • Lack of emotional intimacy
  • The need for one partner to control the other

Settling into an unsatisfactory relationship

People who were abandoned as children can also seek partners who treat them similarly. This can lead to a cycle of abandonment. A cycle like that can be difficult to overcome.

Fear of abandonment in children

Children may worry that their parents will abandon them. This can be natural, as children form bonds with their parents from birth. Young children may feel anxious about their parents going on a trip.

They can get anxious when a parent drops them off at daycare or school. Children may not be affected in the long term by these concerns.

This may mean making sure they have a secure bond with the caregiver. This will help them learn social skills and have healthy relationships later in life.

Signs that a child may have dropout problems include:

  • Clinging or separation anxiety
  • Worry or panic
  • Scared of being alone
  • Get sick more often due to stress
  • Difficult to focus

If your child shows these signs, there are things you can do to help. It is possible to address the fear of leaving early. This can help children form a secure bond.

One way to help children with this fear is to reassure them of your love and your role in their lives. Parents may also find it helpful to let their children know what the “plan” is on any given day.

Knowing what to expect can help children feel safe in the presence of their parents. They can start to feel more secure even when their parents or caregivers are not around.

Some children experience what is called “abandoned child syndrome.” This can happen after the loss of a parent or caregiver. It can also develop due to physical or emotional neglect by parents.

Symptoms in children

Symptoms can manifest as isolation, low self-esteem, and unhealthy coping mechanisms such as eating problems or addiction. If not treated in time, the symptoms can become severe and make it difficult to form relationships or lead a healthy life.

Long-term effects

A person who has experienced neglect is more likely to have long-term mental health problems. They are often based on the fear that neglect will be repeated.

A child who was abandoned by a parent or caregiver may have mood swings or anger later in life. These behaviors can alienate potential intimate partners and friends.

A child’s self-esteem can also be affected by a lack of parental support.

These types of fears can impair a person’s ability to trust others. They can make it harder for a person to feel worthy or intimate.

These fears can make a person prone to anxiety, depression, codependency, or other problems. Abandonment problems are also related to borderline personality (BPD) and attachment anxiety.

Someone who lacks self-esteem due to child neglect may seek relationships that reinforce their beliefs.

Constancy of object

In the theory of relations between objects, a branch of Freudian analysis, an object is a person, a part of a person, or something that somehow symbolizes one or the other.

Constancy of objects is the concept that even when we cannot see someone, that person does not fundamentally change. It is about adapting the idea of ​​”permanence of objects” first studied by the developmental psychologist Jean Piaget.

Babies learn that Mom or Dad goes to work and then comes home. He or she does not stop loving the child just because he or she is separated for a few hours. Meanwhile, the child develops an internal object, or a psychological representation of the parent, that satisfies the child’s need for contact during the interval.

Constancy of objects usually develops before the age of three. As children grow and mature, the periods of separation lengthen and are often generated by the child going to school or spending the weekend at a friend’s house.

A child with good object constancy understands that important relationships are not damaged by time apart.

The constancy of objects can be interrupted by traumatic events .

Death or divorce are common causes, but even situations that seem relatively unimportant to the adults involved can affect the development of this critical understanding.

For example, children with parents in the military, those whose parents have little time to spend with them, and those with negligent parents may also be at risk of disrupting the constancy of objects.

Archetypes and mythology

Mythology is full of stories of abandoned or rejected lovers, mainly women, who devoted themselves completely to their partners only to be left behind when the lover goes to conquer the world.

Some psychologists, like Carl Jung, argue that these myths and legends have become part of our collective unconscious. At some primary level, we have all internalized certain archetypes and stories and made them part of our shared vision of the world.

Each of us also has a personal myth, one that is not shared with others, but resides in the depths of our being. This personal myth is made up of our interpretations of the collective unconscious through the filters of our own experiences.

From this perspective, fear of abandonment is a deep-rooted core conflict that varies in severity according to our own personal memories .

Previous experiences

Many phobias are triggered by events in our past. Even if your constancy of objects is intact and unaffected by general myths or archetypes, you may have been abandoned at some point in your life.

By the time we are adults, most of us have already been through the death of a loved one. Friends move. Relationships break down. Transitions happen when high school or college ends, people start to marry, and newborn babies take priority.

Although most of us adapt to changing circumstances, it is not uncommon for us to get stuck somewhere in the grieving process.

If you have been through sudden and traumatic abandonment, such as losing someone to violence or tragedy, you may be at higher risk of developing this fear.

Effects on management relationships

The fear of abandonment is highly personalized. Some people are afraid of losing their romantic partner. Others fear that they are suddenly completely alone. Either way, I’ve found that people with a fear of abandonment often follow one of a few basic patterns.

Before we take a look at the patterns for those with a fear of abandonment, let’s see how I think a typical relationship can evolve. This is especially true for romantic relationships, but there are also many similarities in close friendships.

Get to know each other : At this point, you feel relatively safe. You are not emotionally invested in the other person yet, so you continue to live your life while enjoying time with your chosen person.

The honeymoon phase: This is when you make the decision to get engaged. You are willing to overlook potential red or yellow flags because you get along so well. You start spending a lot of time with the other person, you always have fun, and you start to feel safe.

The real relationship: The honeymoon phase cannot last forever. No matter how well two people get along, real life always intervenes. People get sick, have family problems, start working hard hours, worry about money, and need time to get things done.

Although this is a very normal and positive step in a relationship, it can be scary for those with a fear of abandonment, who may see it as a sign that the other person is pulling away.

If you have this fear, you are probably struggling with yourself and trying very hard not to express your concerns for fear of appearing clingy.

Weaknesses: Human beings have weaknesses and moods and things on our minds. Regardless of how much they care about another person, they cannot and should not be expected to always have that person at the forefront of their minds.

Especially once the honeymoon period is over, an apparent slight occurrence is inevitable. This often takes the form of an unanswered text message or an unanswered phone call or a request for a few days of alone time.

Overcoming the fear of being abandoned

For those who fear being abandoned, this is a turning point. If you have this fear, you are probably completely convinced that the mild is a sign that your partner no longer loves you.

What happens next is almost entirely determined by the fear of abandonment, its severity, and the patient’s preferred coping style.

Some people handle this by becoming clingy and demanding, insisting that their partner prove their love by jumping through the hoops outlined by the fearful partner.

Others run away, rejecting their partners before being rejected. Still, others feel the snub is their fault, and they attempt to transform themselves into the perfect match in a quest to stop the other person from leaving.

Actually, the mild is most likely not a mild. As already mentioned, people are just people, and sometimes they do things that their partners don’t understand.

In a healthy relationship, the snub may or may not be recognized as such. The partner may simply recognize it for what it is, a normal reaction that has little or nothing to do with the relationship.

Or you may feel belittled, but do so with a quiet discussion or a short discussion. Either way, a single slight is not promoted to overriding importance in determining the couple’s feelings.

Georgia Tarrant
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Hello, how are you? My name is Georgia Tarrant, and I am a clinical psychologist. In everyday life, professional obligations seem to predominate over our personal life. It's as if work takes up more and more of the time we'd love to devote to our love life, our family, or even a moment of leisure.