Emotional availability means being able to express your feelings and needs in a way that…
Abandonment issues is a term used to describe a fear or anxiety surrounding rejection or loneliness. It’s one of the most common and universal fears I see in my clients. When people struggle with fear of abandonment, it can affect their decisions and actions in a negative way. Many of my clients don’t actually realise that this is what’s troubling them. Often it manifests as something else – arguments in relationships, jealousy, low confidence, procrastination, emotional unavailability – these are just a few examples.
The key is understanding this fear within yourself, processing it and overcoming it so that it doesn’t hold you back any longer.
The Psychology Behind Fearing Abandonment
To be with others is a common, although not universal, desire. Loneliness can be difficult and emotionally draining. However, a fear of abandonment is more about fearing the possibility of future loneliness even whilst you are with others. For example, being in a relationship whilst simultaneously being obsessed with the idea that they will leave you.
Fear of abandonment is completely natural. In our evolutionary past, being accepted by our social group was integral to our survival. Humans were much safer and more successful living in groups. Being ostracised by this group could have dire consequences for an individual. This isn’t as true now, but still most humans crave acceptance and company. However, we need to make sure that our minds realise the consequences of being rejected are not what they used to be. In fact, rejection can sometimes be a good thing.
What Causes Abandonment Issues?
Early childhood issues are one of the biggest contributors to adults’ abandonment issues. Traumatic events such as parents’ divorce, death or poor care can all contribute. There’s physical abandonment like death or divorce, but also emotional abandonment which is a bit more complex. This tends to happen when parents discourage emotional expression, ridicule the child, put too much pressure on them or treat them like a peer. When parents fail to provide a child with consistent attention and comfort they can become stressed, anxious and fearful.
Another cause of abandonment issues can be the loss of a partner through death, painful breakup or infidelity.
When talking about abandonment issues many people refer to different types of attachment styles. There are three insecure attachment styles which are relevant. You may recognise one or more in yourself or a partner.
The first is an avoidant attachment style where people simply avoid letting anyone get close to them. These people may be described as emotionally distant, withdrawn or private. Often this is just a defence against putting themselves in a position where they may have to face loss again.
These people tend to develop extremely intense and close relationships with a partner and become anxious at any type of separation. Small conflicts are automatically blown out of proportion and seen as a warning sign that the other person may leave. A partner may feel like they have to constantly reassure the person or ‘tread on eggshells’ all the time.
These people are often inconsistent, wanting closeness but also having problems with intimacy. They may often appear to be on edge and unsure how to act.
What Are You Really Afraid Of?
It’s completely natural to fear being alone. Sometimes we think we don’t want to be alone but we’re actually masking another fear or anxiety. For example, we feel like being alone may cause us to miss out on other activities, damage our friendships or make us vulnerable. Some people are afraid of the conflict associated with rejection rather than the final result.
How Does Abandonment Fear Affect My Relationship?
Being very anxious about a partner leaving usually has a negative effect on the relationship and a person’s behaviour within it. Although it’s good not to become complacent in a partnership, when anxiety becomes consuming or overwhelming we become fixated on it and start to lose perspective.
Anxiety breeds jealousy and mistrust and can make people very demanding of their partner. They might place unrealistically high expectations on the other person and relationship. Some people become very needy and start arguments which can then lead to a self fulfilling prophecy as they push their partner away. Other people internalise the fear and become emotionally unavailable towards potential or existing partners, unable to communicate their fears and vulnerabilities.
Signs of Attachment Issues
There are some relationship patterns which could potentially be signs of attachment issues.
- Numerous shallow relationships or clinging to one long, intense one
- Emotional unavailability
- Willingness to stay in unhealthy relationships
- Eagerness to please others at expense of own well being
- Codependant relationships
- Needy behaviour
- People pleasing
- Distrust and jealousy
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- Feeling insecure
- Exhibiting manipulative and controlling behaviour
- Fearing rejection and being risk averse when it comes to relationships
How to Overcome the Fear of Abandonment
If you believe your partner may have abandonment issues you might want to try and talk to them about it in a gentle way. Avoid too much pressure as this will make them feel guarded. Try to be supportive and reassuring without making the situation too intense. Validate their feelings whilst making it clear how their behaviours affect you. Keep communication open and honest.
Couples therapy or seeing a relationship coach are two extremely effective ways to help someone with abandonment issues overcome them and prevent them from negatively affecting their current relationships.
Alix Needham – London Hypnotherapy, Relationship Coaching and Couples Therapy
Alix Needham has years of experience helping people with these issues. Her therapy clinic is located right in the centre of London or she can provide online sessions at your convenience. Alix is well-known in the industry for her experience, friendliness and effectiveness.
Please do get in touch to learn more about how she could help you.