Fear of abandonment often stems from childhood loss. This loss could be related to a traumatic event, such as the loss of a parent through death or divorce. It can also come from not getting enough physical or emotional care. These early childhood experiences can lead to a fear of being abandoned by others later in life.
How Abandonment Works
Healthy human development requires needs for physical and emotional care to 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 like abuse or poverty can also cause trauma.
Some degree of abandonment fear can be normal. But when fear of abandonment is severe and frequent, it can cause trouble. It may impact how a person’s relationships develop. When this is the case, the support of a therapist or counselor may help.
A pattern of emotional abandonment or neglect can also be traumatic. It can qualify as a form of abandonment. Emotional abandonment can occur when parents:
- Stifle their children’s emotional expression
- Ridicule their children
- Hold their children to standards that are too high
- Rely too heavily on children for their own sense of worth
- Treat their children as peers
People who felt abandoned as children may be more likely to repeat this pattern with their children. But some emotionally abandoned children recognize this pattern. They can go on to nurture their own children and break the cycle of abandonment. Many of these signs of abandonment may also play out between people in a relationship.
Stress or overwhelm can contribute to emotional abandonment. People with unmet needs often have a difficult time meeting the needs of others. Practicing self-care is an important part of making sure one’s own needs are met. The person who practices self-care can then meet the needs of their child or partner in a healthy way.
Long-Term Effects Of Abandonment Issues
A person who has experienced abandonment may be more likely to have long-term mental health issues. These are often based on the fear that abandonment will recur. 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 lack of parental support.
Abandonment fears can impair a person’s ability to trust others. They may make it harder for a person to feel worthy or be intimate. These fears could make a person prone to anxiety, depression, codependence, or other issues. Abandonment issues are also linked to borderline personality (BPD) and attachment anxiety. Someone who lacks self-esteem due to childhood abandonment may seek relationships that reinforce their beliefs.
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