There is the story about a 12-year-old boy who went to school one day and came home to find that his mother and her boyfriend moved without him. A five-year-old boy and his two younger siblings were in and out of foster homes for 10 years before their mother tried to get them back. When a precious three-year-old girl lived with her mother and abusive father, child services said that either the father or the girl had to leave the house—her mother chose the husband. When a six-year-old girl’s parents began fighting, her mother decided to get a divorce and leave the child with her father.
These are the extreme stories of abandonment. Not everybody with abandonment issues was left by his parents as a child, though. Abandonment is about feeling disconnected from other people. It can be any experience that leaves an individual with feelings of rejection and as if others were not there for them when they were most needed.
What is Considered Abandonment?
Many people have experienced abandonment in some way or another, and everybody copes with their fears differently. The following are instances where people have been abandoned.
- Grew up with neglectful parents.
- A beloved person passed away.
- The experience of loneliness when a best childhood friend moved away.
- Rejection by somebody the person loved.
- Absent parent.
- A parent who is too depressed to give the child attention.
- A parent with an addiction that takes all of his energy.
- A parent who is emotionally cold and unavailable.
- A parent who neglects a child’s needs and doesn’t take care of him properly.
- Being a “latchkey” child, where the parents are never home and the child is often left alone or raised by an older sister or brother.
- Parents who go out or away often and leave a child with babysitters and relatives.
- Sexual or physical abuse.
Common Symptoms of Fear of Abandonment
People who live through abandonment don’t always develop a fear of being abandoned. However, they may have some of the following common symptoms.
- Extreme jealousy or clingy behavior in a romantic relationship.
- Pretend they don’t care about a spouse when they do.
- Rejection of a partner before they can be rejected.
- Avoid getting close to others.
- Try to make many friends in order to never be alone.
- Extreme insecurity.
- Underestimate themselves.
- Become complacent and put up with mistreatment in the workplace.
- Anxiety and depression.
Children and Abandonment
Children’s brains register things differently than when they are adults. What may seem like something minimal now as an adult could have been a serious issue to the child we once were and stays in our unconscious as trauma. Children take their experiences as the truth and have a limited perspective on life. These experiences and perspectives lead to “core beliefs.” As adults, people have unconscious beliefs about how the world works. They lead their lives from and base their decisions on these core beliefs. If they do not question their core beliefs, they may live their lives from what they think are facts but are not true at all.
Children who feel abandoned may develop beliefs, such as not deserving to feel safe, that the world is a dangerous place, that they can’t rely on anyone to always be there for them or they don’t deserve to be loved or cared for. With these beliefs, the choices that the adult makes do not lead to feelings of being loved or happiness.
Emotional abandonment happens when parents do not provide the emotional conditions and the environment needed for the child to develop healthily. The result of emotional abandonment is when a child has to hide a part of who he is in order to be accepted or not be rejected. Hiding includes:
- It is not okay to make mistakes.
- It is not okay to demonstrate feelings. Being told the way the child feels is not true.
- It is not okay to have needs. Everybody else’s needs are more important than the child’s needs.
- It is not okay to have success, and accomplishments are not acknowledged.
The following are other types of abandonment.
- Children can’t live up to their parents’ expectations, because they are often unrealistic and not age-appropriate.
- Children are held responsible for other people’s behaviors. They may be blamed for the actions and feelings of their parents.
- Disapproval of children is directed at their entire beings rather than a particular behavior. Examples of this are when a child is told he is worthless when he does not do his homework, or she is never going to be a good dancer because she missed a step in dance class.
- Parents do not view children as separate beings.
- Parents expect children to be extensions of themselves.
- Parents are not willing to take responsibility for their feelings, thoughts and behaviors, but they expect their children to take responsibility for them.
- When parents’ self-esteem is sought through their child’s behavior.
- When children are treated as peers with no parent/child distinction.
Abandonment and Borderline Personality Disorder
Borderline personality disorder (BPD) and abandonment are tied closely together. Individuals with BPD seem to lack the emotionally tougher “skin” that other people have, which means they are very sensitive. When this is combined with the fear of being abandoned, the individual tends to overreact and perceives even the smallest things as signs of abandonment.
People with BPD usually have an abundance of love to offer and crave a loving relationship. However, they are often the individuals who have a lot of drama in their relationships and difficulty in staying long in any one partnership.
What to do for Abandonment Issues
Abandonment issues, unless they are part of a larger personality disorder, are usually reversible. Individuals who suffer from BPD and abandonment issues are able to manage them. A commitment to working through abandonment issues coupled with the willingness to face the way they act and behave from these issues is needed. Self-help is a good way to start, but abandonment issues involve deep feelings of being unlovable and unworthy and require the support of a therapist .
Therapy is ideal for abandonment issues, because it is, in fact, a relationship. Developing a relationship with a therapist can be a tool to experience what it is like to trust somebody fully. Numerous therapies may help the individual to relate to others, such as cognitive analytic therapy and dynamic interpersonal therapy.
How Abandonment Issues Show Up
1) The person with abandonment issues looks for faults.
When they find somebody who might make a great partner, they begin to find faults with them. They look for the things that are wrong instead of what is right. Nobody has the chance to break up with them, because they leave first.
2) People think they are quiet.
They are actually hard to know, because they do not trust people and are afraid to let them get close. The result is that they are lonely.
3) They are always involved with a partner, because they are not sure how to be an individual.
They love the idea of being in love and give a lot of themselves in a relationship, but feel the partner is not appreciative.
4) They find they are attracted to somebody during the chase.
Once in the relationship, they get bored easily. Individuals with abandonment issues withdraw emotionally, giving their partner reason to think they have done something wrong. This is a very common characteristic for men with abandonment issues.
5) People with abandonment issues want everything to be perfect, so they will not be rejected.
Whether it is how the house is decorated, the clothing they wear or what their body looks like, it has to be perfect. While they are busy perfecting everything, they are unhappy in the process.