The Fear of Abandonment

The fear of abandonment is essentially one of the many forms of anxiety. It’s technically not a phobia, though many, including myself, strongly disagree with its non-qualification as one.

The closest phobia to the fear of abandonment is autophobia. Autophobia is the dread or fear of being isolated, or alone. It doesn’t entirely cover the fear of abandonment, though, as the primary staple of it is the fear of being abandoned by friends and/or loved ones.

 
 

The facts: What is it, and how does it develop?

The fear of abandonment is, simply put, a fear of being abandoned my someone. It can be a friend, family member, significant other, a combination of these, or all of these.
 

A fear of abandonment can potentially manifest if a person experiences:

  • A loss during childhood, like a long-term separation (divorce) or death of a parent
  • Not receiving enough emotional care or nurturing as a child
  • Experiencing a long-term situation in which your emotional or physical needs were not met
  • Experiencing a threatening situation, such as abuse, poverty, or other trauma
  • Experiencing any type of traumatic loss (usually the death of a loved one)

 

More often than not, the fear of abandonment stems from childhood neglect, abuse, or a situation in which emotional and physical needs were not sufficiently met. This includes situations where a child is not allowed to express themselves emotionally or who are frequently ridiculed, especially within their own family.

This can also happen if someone in a child’s life has unbelievably high standards for that child. Situations like these can be a traumatic experience for a child, especially if it occurs over a period of time as opposed to just once or twice.

These are not the only contributors to the development of a fear of abandonment, but they are some of the most common.
 
 

The relationship trajectory of someone who has a fear of abandonment

Everyone experiences the general discomfort of worrying about being left or abandoned by someone they love. However, when the fear is severe and frequent, it can be detrimental to a person’s mental health and well-being.
 

It will likely have an impact on some, most, or all of the relationships in that person’s life.

 

People who have a fear of abandonment often experience a certain trajectory in their relationships; especially in their relationship with a romantic partner.

They will experience happiness and enjoyment at first, like other couples, but after a period of time, usually after the couple’s regular routine sets in and they start to experience regular, every day life, it’s common for some people who struggle with a fear of abandonment to assume that their partner doesn’t love them anymore or that they are going to leave them.

Life is sometimes unpredictable. Their partner could simply be working late, engaging in one of his or her hobbies, or taking a little longer than normal to reply to a text.

While these are all examples of very simple explanations for separation or short-term distance between couples, the mind of a person who has a fear of abandonment would likely swarm with thoughts that involve their partner not loving them, breaking up with or divorcing them, or even having an affair. And these aren’t thoughts that are easy to get rid of.
 

They are often invasive and very intense.

 

My most recent struggle with my fear of abandonment

There have been days where I have had an intense fear of my husband cheating on me. I really struggled with this one day last week. My husband didn’t have to work that day, but I did. All that was running through my mind was that he would be at home surfing the internet to watch porn, texting another woman, and even physically cheating on me.

Just to give you some context, watching pornography is right up there with cheating in my eyes. I’m sure that there are people who disagree with this, but it’s how I feel about it. I’ll likely write another post about this, specifically, but for now, I don’t want the topic of pornography to be the focus of this post.

That day, the thoughts about my husband cheating on me were so invasive and overwhelming that I cried during my entire drive to work that morning, and I got virtually no work done that day because I was so paranoid and distracted. I also gave in to my compulsive need to check the internet browser history on my phone a couple of times.

My point is, the fear of abandonment can be harmful and even debilitating. It isn’t something to “shrug off” or to not take seriously.
 
 

Reassurance helps, but it isn’t a cure

A person who has a fear of abandonment will always require some level of reassurance from their friends or loved one(s). Coincidentally and unfortunately, the reassurance is often not enough. With that being said, it is still better to receive some reassurance than none at all, because it at least tells us that our partner was thinking about us. In my experience with my own fear of abandonment, at least.

Most abandonment issues are deeply rooted, so it’s no wonder that just reassurance will help the anxiety to its entirety.

I’d like to share a very brief conversation with you. It is a real conversation that I witnessed on Twitter not too long ago. I left out the names of those involved, and I did not edit any part of the conversation.
 

Person A:

I have a question: My ‘male friend’ has abandonment issues. Will he ever feel OK with me? Or, must I spend the rest of my life reassuring him?

He’s wonderful & nice, but constant reassurance is hugely draining.

Do you have any tips so I can nip this in the bud before I leave?

 

Person B:

One thing you need to understand is that it’s not whether or not he’s okay with you, it’s everyone. A lot of people with abandonment issues experienced some type of trauma. He likely feels that, at some point, everyone will leave or abandon him. You can’t “nip it in the bud.”

You leaving (assuming you mean ending the relationship) will only confirm what he already feels and believes. People like your “male friend” need someone who truly cares about him, because someone who does won’t mind giving him the reassurance he needs.

 

Person A:

That’s what I’m thinking.

It’s probably best I let him go sooner rather than later, then maybe he can learn to look within himself for reassurance rather than expecting so much from others.

I’ve got MH probs, he doesn’t, so it’s too much for me to contend with.

#selfcare

 
 

Helping someone who has a fear of abandonment

The only thing I’m going to say about the conversation above is this: Yes, it was a real conversation. That is what is so incredibly horrible about it.

If you know someone who has a fear of abandonment, one of the most important things you can do is be understanding, unlike Person A in the above conversation.

Being fearful of being abandoned is not something that anyone chooses to struggle with. Imagine having intrusive thoughts about your partner abandoning or cheating on you, just because they have to stay late at work one night, you see them texting or browsing on their phone, or they don’t respond to your text in what you feel is a reasonable time frame.

Carrying that anxiety around is so mentally exhausting. And, sometimes it’s hard to start a conversation about it with your partner because you worry that they may feel like you don’t trust them, which could potentially start an argument, and so on, and so forth.

It is extremely important that you try to understand where their feelings of abandonment are coming from, as it’s very possible that it manifested because of something from their past.

A person who struggles with a fear of abandonment is no less worthy of friendship and love than someone who doesn’t. Giving them reassurance, whether it is an “I love you” text, telling them how much they mean to you, or spending some quality time together is a great way to show them how much you love and care about them.

If you care about and love your partner, none of those things will feel “draining.”

An “I love you” text from my husband always makes me smile, and can sometimes turn my whole day around.

I don’t want to say that providing someone with reassurance takes no effort, because it does, but there are some simple things that you can say or do that can have a big impact on someone’s day.
 
 

Do you have a fear of abandonment?

If you have a fear of abandonment, I would love to hear your thoughts and hear about your own experiences with it. It effects everyone differently and I’m always curious how certain things effect different people.

My fear of abandonment is only prominent in my relationship with my husband, but some people struggle with it with friends and family as well.

How does your fear of abandonment effect you? Please let me know in the comments!

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Nicole

My name is Nicole, and I’m very happy that you decided to stop by and visit my blog! I write about mental health, and I post the occasional product review. I’m most passionate about writing, mental health advocacy, and gaming. My husband and I live in the South with our five tabby cats and two parakeets. If you ever want to connect with me, please don’t hesitate to visit my Contact page.

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15 Comments

  1. September 27, 2018 / 11:55 AM

    I hope the person mentioned on Twitter gets the support they need. It’s good that you are raising awareness of all the different aspects of mental health. Thank you for sharing. Hope this comment posts successfully this time!

    • Nicole
      Author
      September 27, 2018 / 1:37 PM

      I hope so too. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to determine who the “male friend” was, but it’s my hope that he gets the help that he needs and deserves.

  2. September 27, 2018 / 9:03 PM

    Great post! Love your blog!

    • Nicole
      Author
      September 28, 2018 / 9:05 AM

      Thank you! On both counts 🙂

  3. Sigrid Chu
    September 28, 2018 / 9:16 AM

    Hello Nicole,

    Thank you for talking about this.

    We are really complex beings and you are right that having such fears, whether of abandonment, or even having separation anxiety, roots from what can be found in our personal histories. It will help us greatly if we have a deep understanding of what makes us who we are.

    On the other hand, we also have to learn to cope. And having our loved ones around, supporting us, would be good for us.

    You post really helped me think about past events in my life that impact how I am now.

    Best,
    Sigrid

    • Nicole
      Author
      September 28, 2018 / 2:57 PM

      Thank you for reading 🙂

      And yes, so many things can contribute to it. Not any one person is different. It took me a while to understand what the root causes of my own abandonment issues were.

  4. October 31, 2018 / 8:26 AM

    This is a major problem with my BPD besides my deppression and psychosis.

    • Nicole
      Author
      October 31, 2018 / 9:02 AM

      I hate it, honestly. How do you cope with it? I don’t mean to give you TMI but my fear of abandonment is what has always lead me to self-harm. It’s such an intense thing and I feel like I can’t even process the feelings associated with having a fear of abandonment sometimes. I’m not officially diagnosed with BPD but I have some strong indicators that it might also be a part of my life.

      • October 31, 2018 / 9:10 AM

        I don’t cope right now. I’ve had four involuntary admissions by police and was recently Diagnosed with BPD, ADHD, and PTSD/ CPTSD. I’m on medication and am doing a full year therapy program called DBT. I wish I had coping strategies for you but I am still learning about myself and my symptoms. I have intense emotions that are very hard to control. I have psychosis and all that. If I’m under stress or don’t get enough sleep I dissociate and start hearing and seeing things, I get very paranoid which leads to OCD. When this happens I don’t just have one symptom at a time, they all come at the same time and I go into psychosism

        • Nicole
          Author
          October 31, 2018 / 9:46 AM

          That sounds terrifying, if I’m being completely honest. And not just in a scary way, but just that you have to deal with all of it all at once. They touched on DBT when I was hospitalized but I was only there for a few days so that’s barely anything.

          I thought about doing a post about DBT and CBT since a lot of people have found it to be helpful.

          • October 31, 2018 / 10:05 AM

            It is terrifying. If I take my meds, get a good sleep, and cope with stress I’ll be ok I hope. DBT is really good. It’s been helping me so much!

          • Nicole
            Author
            October 31, 2018 / 12:40 PM

            I’m glad it’s working for you! I still haven’t found “the one” in terms of a therapist but hopefully I can find one soon and try it.

          • October 31, 2018 / 7:14 PM

            Is there a way I can message you privately?

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