Highlights
  • Abandonment issues are a coping mechanism that often forms during the course of a stressful or traumatic childhood upbringing.
  • Although abandonment issues are often formed in childhood, the full extent and damage of their long-lasting impact are often not presented until the individual attempts to form interpersonal relationships in adulthood.
  • Though painful, and difficult to recognize subjectively, a skilled therapist and a willing client can easily work through the frustration and emotional damage created by abandonment issues when present in adulthood in childhood.

Few other psychological conditions affect an individual’s ability to function quite like abandonment issues. Often formed in response to a traumatic or neglectful childhood experience, abandonment issues can wreak havoc on the emotional and external lives of both children and adults who struggle to see their own value and to perceive others as trustworthy.

Though painful, and often deeply ingrained, abandonment issues can be worked through, with dedication from the affected individual and a skilled and empathetic counselor or therapist.

Why Do I Have Abandonment Issues?

Many people have experienced abandonment in some way or another, and everybody copes with their fears differently. The following are examples of abandonment in childhood:

  • Growing up with neglectful parents.
  • Growing up with absent parents.
  • A beloved person passing away.
  • A childhood friend moving away.
  • Getting rejected by somebody you love.
  • Witnessing your parents’ divorce.

Abandonment is about feeling disconnected from other people: It can be an experience that leaves an individual with feelings of rejection and as if others were not there for them when they were most needed. Emotional abandonment, specifically, often occurs as a result of parents not providing 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. These individuals often tell themselves:

  • “It is not okay to make mistakes.”
  • “It is not okay to demonstrate feelings.”
  • “Everybody else’s needs are more important.”
  • “My accomplishments mean nothing.”

The following are other types of abandonment in childhood:

  • 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.
  • Children receive disapproval for 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.
  • Parents’ self-esteem is sought through their child’s behavior.
  • Children are treated as peers with no parent/child distinction.

The Effects of Abandonment on Children

Children’s brains register things differently than 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 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 happy.

Symptoms of Abandonment Issues in Adults or Adulthood

People who live through abandonment don’t always develop a fear of being abandoned. However, they may have some of the following common symptoms in adulthood.

  • 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.

How Do I Know If I Have Abandonment Issues?

Still unsure if you have abandonment issues? You might have abandonment issues if you…

1) Look for faults.

When people with abandonment issues 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 you’re quiet.

People with abandonment issues 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) You are always involved with a partner because you’re uncomfortable being alone.

People with abandonment issues love the idea of being in love and give a lot of themselves in a relationship but feel the partner is not appreciative.

4) You find you are attracted to somebody during the chase.

Once in the relationship, people with abandonment issues 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) You want everything to be perfect, so you will not be rejected.

Whether it is how the house is decorated, the clothing they wear, or what their body looks like, people with abandonment issues need everything to be perfect. While they are busy perfecting everything, they are unhappy in the process.

Overcoming Abandonment Issues

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 (like reading this article and better understanding abandonment issues) is a good way to start, but abandonment issues involve deep feelings of being unlovable and unworthy and require the support of a therapist.