How to Deal With Abandonment Issues

Phi Atratus
  • Mar 25, 2022
  • 5 min read
sad man on the abandoned bridge

Abandonment issues involve a myriad of dilemmas associated with the persistent fear of abandonment that one may experience when imagining the loss of loved ones, whether it’s through death or the end of relationships. Abandonment issues can also go hand and hand with having a deep fear of being hurt or rejected. Having a sense of chronic stress or fear about the idea of loss is considered a form of anxiety

Fear of abandonment is actually considered to be one of the most common phobias. 50% of children experience abuse-related traumas before the age of 18, and those who do are 3–4 times more likely to develop mental health conditions as a result, such as BPD (borderline personality disorder). The maladaptive cycles that may emerge can, fortunately, be brought to an end. 

In order to overcome these self-reinforcing learned fears, one can take a few steps. Life can be very different for an individual with abandonment issues once they identify and learn how to deal with abandonment issues and change the behaviors that are reducing the overall quality of their relationships. 

What Are Abandonment Issues?

The fear of abandonment involved in abandonment issues may result in the need for constant validation from loved ones, clinging onto unhealthy relationships, and sabotaging existing relationships. Some may cycle through several shallow relationships because they fear the intimacy associated with one that's more long-term. 

A few signs of having a fear of abandonment may be remaining excessively guarded and not opening up in relationships. Others may overshare and lean more towards codependent behaviors. Abandonment issues can include having hypersensitivity to criticism, extreme jealousy, feeling unworthy of love, and overthinking things that have happened to “find the hidden meaning.” 

Mother abandonment issues may result when a parent or caregiver doesn’t establish consistent or warm interactions with their child. Abandonment issues may also result when one has experienced traumatic events, such as injury, death, or having been a victim of a crime. They could also emerge from high levels of stress, infidelity, and abuse. 

When the typical forms of assurance one can receive from relationships in one’s life are interrupted, it may be difficult to cultivate a feeling of belonging. There is also an increased risk for depression and anxiety. The most common forms of abuse are neglect, physical abuse, and sexual abuse. With therapy, clients can learn how to overcome abandonment issues. 

Signs of Abandonment Issues in Children

The main signs and symptoms of having abandonment issues as a child are clinging or separation anxiety, difficulty with concentrating, becoming ill more often as a result of high stress levels, worrying or panicking, and fears related to being alone. 

Signs of Abandonment Issues in Adults

Signs of abandonment issues in adults include difficulties trusting in relationships, attempting to “control” one’s partner, and being people-pleasing. Some of these symptoms can result in chronic anxiety levels. One might choose partners who are extremely controlling and emotionally unstable and could choose to change major parts of their lives in order to garner the acceptance of a partner. It could be extremely hard to cope with independence, and any amount of separation and criticism may create anticipation that a partner is going to end the relationship. 

How to Overcome Abandonment Issues

Psychotherapy can be extremely helpful for those learning how to deal with abandonment issues. Talking to a therapist can help an individual with abandonment issues communicate better with their partner and identify and learn about how their problematic behaviors can reduce positive relationship outcomes. 

Both research and personal testimonies have showcased how tremendously helpful therapy is for discovering what the underlying causes of these issues are and allowing for individuals to develop more independence and self-confidence. 

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Some of the abandonment issues people experience may have roots stemming from childhood. Therapy works by helping a client understand the nature of their particular attachment style and realize which of their old defenses that may have been useful in the past are no longer working. Different types of therapeutic approaches can be utilized to accomplish that:

Couples therapy

Couples therapy works to help with abandonment issues by incorporating both individuals involved in a relationship into the therapy setting. It focuses on improving conflict resolution in relationships, helps the couple gain insight into the nature of their relationship, and also may address specific issues that are detrimental to the relationship, such as addictions, intimacy-related problems, and jealousy. 

Couples therapy can be extremely beneficial in just a short period of time and can help with learning how to deal with abandonment issues. According to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, nearly 65.6% of cases are completed in just about 20 sessions. Therapy sessions for couples can also address mental health problems like depression, conduct disorders, and anorexia. They tend to take a holistic approach and may utilize a combination of various treatments. 

Behavioral therapy

Behavioral therapy works by targeting specific problematic behaviors directly. Working with the therapist, the client can identify habits, such as having issues with directly expressing needs in a relationship. They will also identify the actions that bring on these behaviors and help cultivate new responses to triggering stimuli. 

Underlying triggers can be eliminated, controlled, and addressed straightforwardly. Research has shown that overall, 67% of clients have experienced some form of positive improvement as a result of behavioral therapy. 

Behavioral therapy is an extraordinarily focused form of therapy and produces results quickly. However, it must be noted that other forms of therapy should be used in conjunction with behavioral therapy to create the best outcomes for dealing with abandonment-related issues. 

Part of behavioral therapy is behavior modeling, which facilitates new skill development by helping clients model the behavior of others. By observing others, new techniques can be learned to cope with specific situations that may trigger abandonment issues. Behaviors are demonstrated by models who are about the same age as the client. It is usually conducted in tandem with behavioral reinforcement and role-playing. 

Cognitive therapy

Cognitive therapy assists by helping individuals identify differences between their current internalized reality and the reality around them. It can be very helpful for those coping with abandonment issues. It's centralized around the idea that by changing thought patterns, new behaviors will develop. 

It may involve testing assumptions related to distortions in how one conceptualizes their role in the world. A few of these assumptions include overgeneralization, selective abstraction, magnification of negatives, and minimization of positives. One notable assumption is the “Heaven’s Reward Fallacy”, in which an individual expects their self-denial and sacrifice to pay off and feels bitter when the expected doesn’t play out as imagined.

Those who address these issues with a cognitive therapist may soon realize that their previous maladaptive behaviors related to abandonment issues were simply just a result of certain assumptions that were holding them back. By testing the fortitude of their beliefs, clients can learn which ones will help them achieve their goals. As a client gains more clarity, they’ll be able to establish new ways to deal with challenges in their lives.

Here are a couple of discovery techniques that a therapist may use:

  • Socratic questioning in relation to targeting abandonment issues, which may involve organizing a dialogue around challenging assumptions. Some questions might be: What may be another way to view this situation? What other reasons might have caused a situation to turn out this way?
  • Guided discovery, in which therapists may structure the therapy session around simulating experiences that lead to the acquisition of new beliefs and skills.

Holistic therapy

Holistic therapy exists in a multitude of formats. It often draws from many different types of therapeutic practices, such as breathwork, reiki, brief dynamic psychotherapy (a form of Freudian-based therapy), and mindfulness practice. It is typically used in addition to other, more traditional forms of therapy that have been empirically proven to show results. 

Many proponents of this form of therapy have stated that it has been beneficial for dealing with stress and trauma and other issues stemming from the fear of abandonment. A customized therapeutic approach is designed tailored to a client’s specific issues, and because of the flexibility inherent to this form of therapy, it can be very useful for those with adult attachment issues. 

Online therapy

Online counseling is an excellent way to find support when it comes to healing from abandonment issues. A therapist and client can start communicating quickly and efficiently with the assistance of scheduled sessions, emails, and other forms of messaging. It’s more easily adapted to specific needs, such as healing from abandonment issues, because there is a wider base of therapists to choose from. 

Online therapy makes it easy to receive help and can produce excellent results, just like other, more traditional forms of therapy. Due to the flexibility of sessions, it may be more frequent. Online therapy may utilize many of the same techniques found in in-person therapy sessions, and even though it’s conducted remotely, clients develop trusting relationships with their therapists. 

The Final Word

You may consider reaching out to a therapist for help with healing from abandonment issues. Often, fear of abandonment may result in a complex assortment of problematic behaviors, but thankfully there are many resources that will help individuals develop new coping mechanisms and cultivate healthy relationships in the future. 

Abandonment issues are very common, and as a result, there are many treatments available for learning better coping skills. Improvements in your mental health can be vital for making progress in all aspects of life, and DoMental is here to help! Finding an experienced and licensed therapist will facilitate personal development immensely, making it easier to develop healthy relationships with others. 

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