The fear of abandonment is one of the fears that are the most psychologically and emotionally damaging fears one can have. It is a never-ceasing touch of fear, and the constant feeling like you are drowning in a vast and dark ocean without a hint of oxygen to breathe. It is the constant worrying about whether the people you love mutually love you back or whether they will leave you from the simple phrasing of their words.
Many people underestimate this fear as people leaving is such a harmless and innocuous thing yet, it is not that simple for people with this fear.
What is the fear of abandonment?
The fear of abandonment is generally a fear of loneliness: a fear of being unloved, unwanted, and unappreciated. It is the fear of not having the love you think you deserve and the fear of people leaving you.
This fear can cause excessive rumination and intrusive thoughts, as well as an overwhelming sense of dread and fear of intimacy. It can manifest in three specific attachment styles:
- Anxious-attachment (anxiety and fear)
- Avoidant-attachment (avoidance and distance)
- Disorganized attachment (both anxious and avoidance)
Causes of the fear of abandonment
There are many causes of the fear of abandonment, with most causes being related to the abandonment of a figure, physically or emotionally:
- Neglect: People who were abused, neglected, or abandoned and people who had a stressful childhood, such as living with an alcoholic parent or living with a mentally ill parent.
- Death of a loved one: Death, especially unexpected deaths, can be traumatic for some people. This can lead to an overwhelming sense of dread and anxiety.
- End of a relationship: Divorce, breakup, jealousy – the end of an important relationship means a loss of a chapter of your life. It is natural, yet some may be quite hard to process. This can lead to a fear of abandonment, and a feeling people will leave you permanently.
- Trauma: Especially common towards young children and people with separation anxiety, this fear can stem from a traumatic death or experience related to the loss of a person.
Symptoms of the fear of abandonment
Phobias (or fears) is a form of anxiety disorder that can cause severe distress or panic when one is exposed to a trigger. The triggers are apparent in everyday life with abandonment issues, big or small. These are the symptoms of the fear of abandonment:
- Attachment and emotional dependency towards a person.
- People-pleaser and/or attention-seeking.
- Cycling through relationships.
- Moving on too quickly from the loss of a relationship.
- Clinginess, jealousy, and/or possessiveness.
- Staying in healthy relationships because the fear is stronger than leaving the relationship itself.
- Fear of intimacy.
- Insecurity about yourself and your relationship.
- Trust and commitment issues.
- Having feelings of anxiety and/or depression.
- Rumination and intrusive, obsessive thoughts.
- Self-hate and self-blame.
- Overthinking and overanalyzing simple and harmless situations such as having anxiety over a missed text or trying to encode the meaning of the words somebody said.
- Separation anxiety.
- Needing constant reassurance from loved ones.
- Giving too much in relationships.
- Self-sabotage and rejecting others before they leave you.
- Controlling the relationship and loved one.
- Picking people who are physically and/or emotionally unavailable.
Types of abandonment issues
There are three types of abandonment issues that stem from the attachment theory created by John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth:
- Anxious attachment (ambivalent): people with this attachment style are inclined to be clingy, possessive, and jealous. They struggle with intrusive and obsessive thoughts, low-self esteem, and want and beg for intimacy but are also overwhelmed by it. Because of this style of attachment, they become overly dependent and attached to loved ones and worry whether these loved ones like them or not.
- Avoidant attachment: this attachment style is in stark contrast to the anxious attachment style mentioned above. These people often push others away, fear closeness and intimacy, and prefer independence to being close to somebody. This attachment style can prevent meaningful connections with loved ones and cause difficulty forming relationships.
- Disorganized attachment is the most challenging style because it combines both anxious and avoidant attachments. People with this style often have inconsistent and contradictory responses to closeness and long for intimacy, but they also do not wish to be hurt by it.
Treating abandonment issues
The treatment of abandonment issues requires understanding yourself and your situation in the past and the present and confronting these fears head-on. However, you do not have to do this alone: let the people you love help you, whether your significant other, family, or friends.
You can seek treatment for this fear either through therapy, wherein you examine unhealthy thoughts and change your behavior and outlook towards relationships and intimacy, or you can participate in self-care.
Remember, you are not alone in this. You are loved, wanted, and acknowledged. You are amazing, kind, and good. It will get better, I promise you.