Author: Renée Shen
You are probably here because you want to assess whether you have abandonment issues.
Perhaps your partner or friends have mentioned the idea of abandonment issues in passing, or maybe you read something somewhere about fear of abandonment and you felt like you could relate well.
First things first:
If you fear that you may have abandonment issues, remember that you’re here to learn and heal. You won’t be the first person to have abandonment issues, and you certainly won’t be the last.
In other words: you’re in good company!
In this article, we’ll give you all the proven definitive signs of abandonment issues, and we’ll also help you give meaning to the signs you’re probably experiencing right now.
Signs of abandonment issues in adults are often overlooked and brushed under the carpet. This is because abandonment issues in adults are not categorized as a mental health problem or a standalone mental condition by medical practitioners.
But they’re also brushed under the carpet because most adults have become set in their ways, and our coping mechanisms are so ingrained by adulthood that it’s hard for anyone to face the reality that they may have some deep-seated fear of abandonment and trauma to face.
Table of Contents
Abandonment issues in adults are a group of behavioral patterns that are often associated with fear of loss.
Most of the time, it stems from a traumatic childhood experience that’s unknowingly brought forth during adulthood.
To help yourself understand your own abandonment issues, it’s important to identify which of the signs of abandonment issues in adults you are displaying (and how often you do it).
Below are signs of abandonment issues, and if you discover that you have 3-7 of these signs, then it’s time to rethink and prioritize your emotional and mental health.
Now is always a good time to become a better person for yourself and others.
Have you had plenty of toxic relationships in the past?
Count your relationships with friends and family too, not just romantic ones. If so, put a score on your abandonment issues card because this is a common sign of abandonment issues in adults.
So what does this look like?
If you tend to form relationships that are unhealthy and negative, or you are a subject of physical, mental, emotional and even verbal abuse most of the time, you may have abandonment issues.
So why is this?
It’s because people who grew up with responsive, sensitive and loving parents usually don’t fear abandonment - and if they do, the fear is well calibrated.
In other words, they fear it only when necessary. It’s not an actual chronic problem that stems from constant low level anxiety and stress.
Also, adults who have a secure attachment style - people who rarely (if ever) fear abandonment, are very aware of toxicity.
They also don’t have a reason to put up with it, because their love bucket and attention bucket were well filled from a young age.
They don’t need any approval or security from anyone.
Therefore, they are not only self contained people - they are also very emotionally mature, have plenty of self esteem, and are emotionally calibrated in every relationship they have.
They don’t worry about being abandoned unless it’s obviously necessary, and they are usually able to exert their boundaries.
Those of us who are less fortunate, who were partially or fully neglected in the emotional needs department, are much more needy of reassurance, approval and security.
Because deep down, we were given the message by our caregivers that we are not worthy of their full attention or devotion.
Therefore, we developed the signs of abandonment issues in order to cope and make the best of an unfortunate situation.
If this is you, it’s time to do something about this my friend. Check these 10 Seemingly Harmless Signs Of A Toxic Relationship from The Feminine Woman.
Now, read on and tick off any more signs on your abandonment issues score card.
To be honest, we are all insecure about something at some point.
But if you find that your insecurities are almost constantly triggered, that’s a different story. Especially if it’s layered with other signs of abandonment issues.
Your insecurities are brought about by your childhood trauma where you must have felt alone, scared and left behind.
These feelings made you think you are not worthy enough to warrant caring attention from your parents first and foremost, and secondarily, from your family and friends.
What are the signs of chronic insecurity?
This includes getting close to a new friend or a potential romantic partner.
You can call this being emotionally un-calibrated, jumping the gun, or just approval seeking. Whatever you call it, it’s just an issue of early attachment.
Getting attached early is a normal thing for females, however. We call it the ‘feminine bias for early attachment’.
But some people with abandonment issues take this bias to the extreme, because they don’t only have the feminine bias for early attachment, they also have anxiety, or anxious attachment style.
This can make you try desperately to cling onto people before it’s appropriate and before they feel ready.
As a result, friends and romantic partners may run away from you because you scare them with your desire to take so much value so quickly.
If you would like to manage anxious attachment style, have a read of this article: How To Overcome Anxious Preoccupied Attachment: 7 Proven Steps.
Also, if you find yourself getting attached in romantic relationships too quickly, I recommend you take our ‘High Value Attachment’ course. The promise of this course is to help you to use your innate feminine bias for early attachment to create deeper attraction with men and inspire a deeper commitment from him without you looking needy and low value.
As a child you may have experienced being ignored, left behind or abandoned, you’re scared to trust people because you don’t want to feel abandoned again.
You sometimes reject friendship as well as partners when they get too close or when you feel something special towards them because you have this inner voice telling you that you’ll lose them too.
This manifests as you developing behaviors that push people away.
These behaviors communicate to others that you don’t value people around you as a subconscious reaction to protect yourself from being abandoned again.
If this is you, then this is a clear sign of abandonment issues in adults. It’s time to deal with it and move forward.
Being a people pleaser, you almost always say YES to everything and everyone.
Oftentimes, people pleasers forget to take care of themselves or notice their own feelings, because they care and think too much of others.
But why is this one of the signs of abandonment issues in adults?
Because you are afraid that if you put a foot wrong, or if you have your own boundaries, then you will be abandoned.
Also because when you have abandonment issues, your nervous system is already chronically under the stress of anxiety.
This anxiety leads you to act in ways that ensure your own survival and to help you shield yourself from the pain and shame of not being accepted.
There’s no better revealer of abandonment issues than stress.
When triggered, adults with abandonment issues will react negatively. Meaning, they will tend to get even more stressed, and their behavior creates more separation between themselves and their loved ones, because the added life stressors end up over taxing an already stressed out nervous system.
This ends up making a person with abandonment issues become even more fearful, making them react in flight or fight mode, which then causes rifts and chaos in the relationship.
Triggers for overreaction to stress could include:
These could initiate heightened fear and anger based reactions from you.
This heightened response could also be due to all these bottled up emotions from past betrayal and abandonment that suddenly got triggered and went kaboom because of these added new stressful triggers.
By now you know that people with abandonment issues have a hard time trusting others, so they too are reluctant to commit to an exclusive relationship because they don’t believe in the strength of relationships and connection, and don’t want to get hurt again.
Ironically, the stronger the love toward their partner, the stronger the desire to avoid committing because it will hurt them even more if the partner leaves, right?
If this is so you, then it’s time to notice your deeper feelings and let them surface so that you can process them.
Because if you do, you're going to have a hard time processing feelings - if you are aware of your feelings at all!
But regardless, your feelings are going to be crucial to your progress. Because when you are able to process them, it will reveal the deeper issues that need to be grieved.
When you can grieve, you can then be more receptive to real love.
So, give your potential relationship a chance. It could be the best relationship you’ll ever have and you might be giving up on it.
(Why is this important? It is because your core attachment style largely dictates and influences what happens in your relationship. Thus it’s imperative you understand your core attachment style!)
And yet again, trust is an issue that keeps on popping up as one of the sure signs of abandonment issues in adults.
These trust issues surface in friendships, work relationships, and romantic ones.
How do these trust issues surface?
Usually they manifest as you pulling away from intimacy and being too cynical of people around you to have meaningful relationships with them.
If you are one to have this incessant need to be validated by your partner or peers, then it is one of the signs of abandonment issues in adults that you should reflect on.
Perhaps you’re always seeking approval whether it be when you’re at work or in your personal life.
People with abandonment issues generally rely on approval because it’s the next best thing when you weren’t given real love.
Parents of children with abandonment issues often don’t give their children love and attuned responsiveness, but rather, they make their children conform to what they want in order to be considered worthy in the house or family.
Perhaps your parents didn’t really care for you and love you deeply, and instead they wanted you around as a tool to meet their needs.
When this happens, children learn to chronically seek approval just to stay safe, in their parents good books and even to survive.
If you have abandonment issues, then when it comes to your relationships, you likely tend to find faults in your partner, nitpick pet peeves, or doubt your partner and make assumptions about your partner’s thoughts and actions.
These are behaviors that sabotage your relationship and you unconsciously do it over and over again.
Because you either learned these behaviors from a parent who had abandonment issues themselves, or…
You unconsciously feel unworthy of intimacy, connection and loyalty, so you preemptively get rid of the person all by yourself.
Doesn’t sound very smart, does it?
Well, this is an unfortunate consequence of what your caregivers let you believe:
That you’re not worthy of attention and love.
It’s hard to change this internal script once your parents allow you to adopt it for yourself.
Unfortunately, as humans, once we have the underlying belief that we’re not truly worthy of attention and belonging, then we find it harder to manifest love and belonging in our lives, because our behaviors match our unconscious beliefs about ourselves.
In order to understand low self esteem, first it’s important to understand how and why humans come to have high self esteem.
So, how do humans gain high self esteem?
Well, starting in childhood, we gain self esteem through our parents reliably responding to our needs for attention, care and love.
When we don’t get that from our parents - or we get criticized and punished for asking for it, we develop attachment issues, and we also learn very quickly that we should doubt our worth and even feel bad about our own existence.
At least that’s the meaning we gain through being ignored or punished for having normal needs like every baby and small child.
Then when we move to adulthood, low self esteem that we developed during childhood gets cemented into our psychology.
We can definitely change that - as adults we can do anything we wish if we make the changes necessary to accomplish that goal.
But a lot of people carry that low self esteem with them for the rest of their lives.
You may doubt that your early childhood could cause you to carry low self esteem for the reminder of your life, but consider this:
Human babies cannot survive without attention and love. It is through connection and bonding that we learn that the world is safe and we can reach out to connect - with ourselves and with others.
But many of us learn that our needs will not be listened to, and so we are left to feel sadness, fear, and abandonment alone.
If we’re lucky, we don’t just survive through our mom and dad’s love, we thrive through their round the clock attunement, sensitivity and care.
Anything less than full responsiveness, and we have to develop pathological ways to survive.
Low self esteem develops as a response to emotional abandonment and neglect. With this low self esteem, we end up having to caress and nurture ourselves internally - or as we grow older, it actually serves to make other people give us more attention and love (if they care, that is).
Intense and frequent jealousy even when it’s not warranted is also one of the signs of anxious attachment - or preoccupied attachment style.
You’re always thinking about your partner cheating on you. There’s this nagging voice inside of you that tells you that you can’t possibly be enough for your partner, and that eats away at your core, making you act out and lash out at people around you.
Feeling too much jealousy is one of the signs of abandonment issues because when you’re always grappling with feelings of jealousy, deep down inside you’re actually worried that you’re going to be abandoned, because that’s all you really know.
Having been abandoned in your childhood, you don’t trust people nor relationships - in fact, you trust that no matter what, you will never be fully worthy of loyalty, and nor will any relationship you have ever be free of betrayal.
Let me get one thing straight:
Apprehension is a normal part of human relationships! Even those people who are self confident and who have a secure attachment style will feel unsure and apprehensive at times.
However, those of us with abandonment issues live in this emotion of apprehension and fear - because we have no positive models of relationships to go by, and because we always doubt our worth.
Being away from your partner (regardless of length) causes you to be anxious and it’s making you do and think of crazy things.
You can’t bear not being near your partner and not knowing every last detail about what they’re doing, what they’re feeling and who they’re talking to.
You’re worried about what’s going to happen and your negative train of thoughts will start upsetting your normal daily routine.
Why self blame?
This relates back to low self esteem, but basically you blame yourself because you already doubt your worth so deeply, and because your internal script says:
“You are not worthy of long lasting love (or love in general).”
You also blame yourself because:
Having relationship problems or breaking up is never easy on anyone but blaming yourself for everything that happened is not normal at all.
This also applies to falling out with friends, and you take all the blame for it.
You’ve been hurt in the past and you don’t want to feel the pain again, so you push away everyone that’s getting close to you.
You sabotage relationships that are becoming of value to you because the more you care for them, the more hurt you’ll feel if something goes wrong.
Sadly, this habit often ends in you not wanting people around you - which is the exact opposite of what adults with abandonment issues actually need.
If you find yourself having a few of the signs I mentioned above, you might want to take these 4 steps:
In other words, reach back into your past - be very honest about how you were treated, and grieve that hurt and trauma.
Most children who have abandonment issues due to parental neglect will block of the reality of what has happened to them.
This is because to acknowledge that your parents didn’t love you enough to give you the attention and love you deserved is a harsh reality that no human being wants to face.
But look - perhaps it wasn’t that they didn’t love you enough, perhaps it was because they themselves had unprocessed emotional trauma, or perhaps the didn’t have the right education to give you the full nurturing that you needed as a baby.
It could also be the fact that your parents were so emotionally, financially or physically strained in their life that they couldn’t prioritize your needs.
To lessen your abandonment issues and free up your emotional resources to have better relationships, you actually have to begin with bonding with another human and talking about it with another human - not just with yourself, although processing it yourself definitely helps.
Fear of abandonment is never an easy feeling to have, but know that you are not alone.
There are people in this world with the same fears and trauma. There are people that can help you too.
What does this mean? It means to change your internal script from “I am not worthy of love and loyalty” to:
“I am worthy and valuable. By simply existing, I am eternally worthy, loveable and I have plenty of value to give.”
Make it a daily exercise to tell yourself this.
The promise of this program is to give you the ability to “trade in” your anxiety and insecurities for self esteem, self worth and intrinsic confidence, so that no one will ever take you for granted & high value men will recognise you as an indispensable “keeper”.
Let’s be honest here: self esteem doesn’t grow just through mantras or positive affirmations, although they can help.
Real self esteem gets cemented within your physiology when you get the feedback from others and from the world that you are worthy!
And to get this positive feedback, one thing you need to do is get very good at knowing what the people you love perceive value in, and seek to offer them that value.
Let me be clear:
This is not about pleasing people or seeking their approval. I don’t want you to do this with people who are toxic or who don’t care about you.
I want you to do it with the people whom you already have some level of trust in, the people whom you already know care about you.
To help you learn what value is, here are 6 Traits Of A High Value Woman (& 3 Traits You Must AVOID).
Author & Editor For National Council for Research on Women. Founder of the popular women's dating & relationship advice website, The Feminine Woman.
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