Abandonment Issues: Signs, Causes, And How To Overcome

Because identifying the signs is the first step to coping with abandonment issues.

Reviewed by Dr. Holly Schiff, Psy.D.
By Harini Natarajan, Certified Emotional Intelligence Practitioner

Abandonment issues can have devastating effects on your mental health. They can lead to interpersonal problems in a relationship. These abandonment issues are deeply rooted in traumatic experiences such as loss of loved ones, childhood neglect, and mental, physical, or verbal abuse (1). The fear of abandonment can leave a person feeling vulnerable, scared, and unwanted. These feelings develop into insecurities that can cause problems in relationships. Keep reading this article to learn more about abandonment issues and how to overcome them.

What Are Abandonment Issues?

Fear of loneliness, which can be a phobia or anxiety, is at the root of abandonment issues. These difficulties, which frequently arise from childhood bereavement, might have a negative impact on your relationships. Environmental and physiological circumstances, genetics, and brain chemistry might convert a loss into a problem of abandonment.

The most important factor in developing a fear of abandonment as an adult is your early childhood experiences. The loss of a parent due to divorce or death or not receiving adequate physical or emotional care as a kid might be considered traumatic. Factors like abuse, mistrust, lack of parent figure, and the feeling of being neglected towards the child carry into their adulthood in the form of insecurity and abandonment.

While fear of abandonment isn’t a medically diagnosed disorder, it can lead to anxiety or depression. Here are a few signs of abandonment issues found in adults and children.

Signs Of Abandonment Issues

  • Wanting to please people at all times
  • Inability to trust others
  • Feelings of insecurity in romantic or personal relationships
  • Avoiding rejection by being the one who rejects others
  • Need for appraisal
  • Wanting to have control over major aspects of a relationship
  • Lack of emotional intimacy
  • Commitment issues for the fear of being cheated on
  • Being extremely clingy towards others in your life
  • Being extremely jealous or possessive
  • Codependency in relationships
  • Being aggressive or volatile
  • Social anxiety
  • Fear of getting too close or attached to someone
  • Settling for a non-satisfactory relationship
  • Needing to control or be controlled by your partner
  • Tendency to get attached too quickly

Risk Factors

1. Trauma

Traumatic events in one’s life are the main cause of fear of abandonment. Children who have experienced the loss of a parent figure due to death or divorce, which caused them trauma are prone to abandonment issues.

2. Stress

Stress due to illness or health issues that take up many of their thoughts is a common cause of abandonment issues in adults. High levels of stress can worsen a person’s abandonment phobia.

3. Personality

Personality plays an important role in anxiety and fear of abandonment. Those with an insecure attachment style are more prone to abandonment issues.

4. Neglect

Neglect from caregivers, parents, parental figures, or peers can play a huge role in the suffering caused by fear of abandonment and other social phobias.

5. A Family History Of Phobia And Anxiety

If a family member has a history of phobia due to anxiety or other mental conditions like depression and avoidant personality disorder, this may also lead to abandonment issues.

It is difficult to diagnose fear of abandonment as a stand-alone issue. However, fear of abandonment has its roots near avoidant personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, and anxiety.


Avoidant personality disorder involves fear of abandonment, which leads to the individual being socially isolated. They feel like they are inadequate to fit into society and avoid social interactions consciously or unconsciously with the fear of being judged and criticized by society.

Borderline personality disorder’s first symptom happens to be the fear of abandonment and extreme mood swings because they do not want to be alone. This leads to them becoming clingy and transitioning into unstable relationships. They can also resort to self-harm behaviors or becoming antisocial.

Anxiety issues are a spectrum of mental health issues, ranging from general anxiety, panic disorder, separation anxiety, and phobias.

Therapists diagnose a person in one of the three conditions after a few psychological tests based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) of Mental Disorders, a tool used by psychologists to diagnose various mental health-related issues. This is followed by treatment in the form of therapy.

Treatment for fear of abandonment consists mainly of therapy. Go through our next section to explore how therapy helps treat this condition.

Treatments Of Abandonment Issues

Fear of abandonment can lead to anxiety, depression, borderline personality disorder, avoidant personality disorder, or separation anxiety. Therefore, therapy and counseling are the most commonly sought-after treatments for abandonment phobias.

A therapist helps the individual understand themself better and what may have caused them to develop this fear. They can help a person deal with their negative thoughts and emotions. A therapist may also identify themes and patterns in individuals that stem from abandonment and pose mental harm. They can help the patient identify their insecure, anxious, avoidant, or disorganized attachment styles.

Apart from therapy, self-care is also a crucial way to treat the fear of abandonment. Practicing self-care enables a person to understand and love themselves. As long as a person can trust, love, and understand themselves, they can overcome most traumas and adversities.

An individual can overcome abandonment trauma in various ways. However, it is important to understand that overcoming abandonment trauma or helping someone else overcome their fears takes time and patience. It requires you to understand the other and help them without losing your cool. Read on to find ways you can help someone or yourself overcome the fear of abandonment.

How To Overcome Abandonment Issues

For Yourself

  • Make sure you know the attachment style you are dealing with.
  • Take time to understand your attachment style.
  • Practice self-care.
  • Take time and get to know yourself.
  • Allow yourself to open up

For Adults

  • Stay calm while interacting.
  • Allow them to open up by themselves, in their comfortable time.
  • Do not pressurize them in hopes of helping them.
  • Let them know when they start to show negative behavior.
  • Be as honest with them as much as possible.

For Children

  • Provide them as much support as possible.
  • Allow them to meet a professional.
  • Reassure them of you being there for them.
  • Show them love, care, and commitment.
  • Try to establish a deep connection and honest communication.
  • Encourage them to open themselves to others and being confident while doing so.

The risk factors of abandonment issues are similar to those of anxiety.

Key Takeaways

  • Abandonment issues are usually rooted in past traumatic experiences of loss, abuse, and separation.
  • People struggling with abandonment issues may seem to lack emotional intimacy or be overtly clingy and possessive.
  • Self-care and therapy can help people overcome their fear of abandonment and the anxieties or behavioral patterns stemming from the same.

The fear of abandonment can take a heavy toll on mental health and lead to issues like anxiety, depression, and avoidant personality disorder. Its causes can be deep-rooted, like a tough childhood, abuse, and improper upbringing. People with abandonment issues do everything that they can to make sure that they do not come off as problematic/negative individuals with attitudes that scare people away. If you notice any of the signs of abandonment issues in yourself or know someone with such issues, consult a therapist at the earliest and seek counseling to deal with them. Also, people with these issues need to invest in self-care and understand the attachment style they are dealing with. Moreover, people need to be made aware of this mental condition to take the pressure off those dealing with it and make them feel comfortable.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can abandonment cause PTSD?

Yes. Intense abandonment issues may lead to trauma. Such experiences during early childhood can make one feel unsafe and disconnected and lead to post-traumatic stress disorder.

Can abandonment issues look like narcissism?

Yes. Abandonment issues may cause narcissistic behavior. For instance, vulnerable narcissism is caused by fear of abandonment.


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  1. Child abandonment: historical sociological and psychological perspectives
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Dr. Holly Schiff

Dr. Holly Schiff is a clinical psychologist licensed in both CT and NY. She was awarded a Doctorate of Psychology... more