There are people who appear clingy, particularly in relationships. They find it hard being alone and may want to be with someone all the time. They can seem too needy which usually turns the other person off. What’s more, even telling them constantly how important and loved they are never satisfies them. This trait may be a sign that they have fear of abandonment. Read on to learn more about abandonment issues and how psychotherapy can help those who have them.
What Are Abandonment Issues?
Fear of abandonment is a form of anxiety in which you feel rejected. You think you’re undesired or cut off from someone you’re greatly attached to. The emotional abandonment you experience actually activates physical pain centers in your brain. This state you’re in may cause a broad range of unhealthy thoughts and behavior (depressive symptoms, relationship avoidance or dependence, etc.) which can interfere with your daily life.
Although not an official phobia, fear of abandonment is one of the most common and damaging fears. Its symptoms may always come out the same regardless of who has it, but may differ in exposure. These are signs that show when someone has abandonment issues:
- Swift Attachment – getting easily involved even with unavailable people; moving from one relationship to another in the blink of an eye.
- Shallow & Temporary Relationships – can’t commit and unable to maintain any relationship.
- Need for Constant Reassurance – always seeking validation from a friend or partner.
- Aiming to Please – may be overly submissive or give too much away.
- Engaging In Unwanted Sex – usually applicable to women (according to research); mistaking mere physical intimacy for love.
- Unhealthy Relationships – would rather stay with someone, regardless of red flags, instead of being alone.
- Difficulty Experiencing Emotional Intimacy – caused by other personal issues and/or past traumatic events (usually from childhood).
- Insecure Feelings – thinking of oneself as unworthy; gets easily jealous ; engages in frequent self-blame.
- Overthinking – pondering every small thing; working hard to figure out possible hidden meanings.
- Repressed Anger and Control Issues – deeply hidden in one’s mind (subconscious); mainly caused by traumatic experiences.
- Inability to Trust – pushing others away even those who really care for them.
- Sabotaging the Relationship – finds a reason to leave before the other person does; afraid of getting hurt even if they are still just assuming;
Children with fear of abandonment overreact and panic a lot when they don’t see their parents. They also can’t sleep without their parents or guardian–they may refuse to let them step out of the room even for a short period of time.
Abandonment issues usually stem from losing a loved one. It can be either physical (death, rejection, divorce, etc.) or emotional (present but emotionally absent). Other causes include environmental factors, genetics, medical history, and brain chemistry. Trauma (from abuse or other mentally scarring events) as well as the level of emotional support a child receives following the loss, also play a significant role.
When To Seek Help
Left untreated, abandonment issues in both adults and children can make forming healthy relationships challenging. If you believe that you or someone you know might have them, get professional advice. Only those qualified can provide the right therapeutic intervention. Abandonment issues should be dealt with before they further harm yourself, your life, and the people around you.
Fear of abandonment is not a medical condition. Mental health professionals can only recognize when someone has it. They also diagnose which psychological disorder is present after carrying out an evaluation and comparing the symptoms to criteria found in DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). For instance, they can diagnose anxiety in children, specifically separation anxiety disorder.
Psychotherapy and self-care are the primary treatment options for abandonment issues. Psychotherapy enables you to understand your fears and learn how they developed. You learn how to identify negative thought patterns and replace them with healthier, more realistic ones. Therapy also helps you grieve for those you’ve lost or got separated from. If your anxiety is severe, the doctor may prescribe medication (anti-anxiety, antidepressant, etc.).
Self-care makes sure that emotional needs, which are important in all kinds of relationships, are met. This is also great in helping you better provide for your loved one, no matter if you’re a friend, parent, or partner. When it comes to children, a child psychologist is needed to address their fear of abandonment. This may be done through specific forms of therapy such as play therapy, art therapy, or family therapy. All in all, establishing healthy boundaries are essential in treatment. Learning how to set emotional boundaries, in particular, involves building a supply of responses for when old thought patterns resurface.
How to Help
It can be hard helping someone who has abandonment issues because they tend to push you away whenever they feel vulnerable. They can even begin to question your loyalty for them. Still, the following techniques may work:
- Know their history – understand where their fears come from.
- Stay calm – don’t let their emotions affect you. When it gets too emotional, allow yourself time to breathe before facing them again.
- Give them space – don’t pressure them. Let them answer when they are ready.
- Be honest – tell them how their behavior makes you and other people feel.
- Support them – express how much you understand their fears, and assure them that others like them feel the same.
- Don’t judge – never take them as someone who’s “a lot of work”. Remember that they are only human just like you. They aren’t any less deserving of your care no matter how difficult they may be.
For children, you need to seek professional help; provide reassurance of love and support; establish a routine (predictability may be reassuring); and encourage them to express their feelings, telling them that it’s normal to feel the way they do.
Abandonment issues need to be resolved in order for someone to lead a more satisfying and healthy life. Complete understanding, proper therapeutic intervention, and strong support are all necessary. No one deserves to suffer from fears they never chose to have. We all possess the right to move on and grow out of our problems. Overcoming the fear of abandonment might not be that easy and might take a while for some, but healing is definitely possible.
Can you relate? Share your thoughts below. We’d love to hear them!