Mental Health Tips
February 28, 2024

Abandonment Issues: Signs, Causes, And How To Get Help

Written by
Two Chairs Content Team
Reviewed by
Margaret Anton, PhD
Updated on
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Abandonment issues can be incredibly painful to endure — especially when we don’t have the right tools or resources to understand them or cope with them in everyday life. 

In this blog, we’ll cover everything you need to know about abandonment issues, including causes, signs, and how to come to terms with this kind of emotional challenge.

What are abandonment issues?

Abandonment issues, at their core, are about the profound impact that feeling neglected or unloved can have on our emotional well-being, our relationships, and our sense of self. 

In simpler terms, abandonment issues are like emotional wounds left by experiences of being left behind or feeling unwanted. These experiences often take root in early childhood, when the need for love and security is paramount. 

As adults, these past instances of feeling abandoned create a lens through which we see the world and our relationships. This lens can sometimes distort our perceptions, leading us to fear rejection, struggle with trust, or grapple with a deep-seated belief that we are inherently unworthy of love.

What causes abandonment issues?

There are many things that can cause abandonment issues. However, there are a few common occurrences that can create this type of wound:

Parental neglect or rejection: A child who perceives a lack of attention, emotional warmth, or responsiveness from parents may develop abandonment issues. 

Divorce or separation: The dissolution of a family through divorce or separation can trigger feelings of abandonment, especially if the child perceives the departure of one or both parents as a personal rejection.

Loss of a caregiver: The death or prolonged absence of a primary caregiver can lead to a fear of losing others and a general mistrust in relationships.

Traumatic events: Any traumatic event, such as physical or emotional abuse, can erode a person's sense of safety and trust in relationships.

Emotional unavailability: Growing up in an environment where emotional expression is discouraged or suppressed can lead to difficulties in forming and maintaining intimate relationships.

Inconsistent caregiving: Inconsistency in caregiving, where a child receives love and attention sporadically, can lead to confusion and anxiety about whether their needs will be met reliably.

What are some signs of abandonment issues in adults?

Every person is different, so abandonment issues that one person might display might differ from another.

However, someone who experiences a profound sense of abandonment during childhood — like extreme parental absence and limited emotional availability — and has an abandonment wound, might show signs like:  

  • Constantly seeking external validation and approval from others 
  • Avoiding vulnerability
  • Having difficulty establishing boundaries
  • Displaying people-pleasing behaviors
  • Always looking to overachieve 
  • Having difficulty trusting others
  • Experiencing low self-esteem 
  • Fearing rejection
  • Fearing abandonment
  • Overdependence on relationships
  • Difficulty in expressing needs
  • Jealousy and possessiveness
  • Social isolation
  • Extreme sensitivity to criticism
  • Difficulty in letting go of unhealthy relationships

Can you resolve abandonment issues?

Many people struggle to figure out how to move past abandonment issues. 

While there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to understanding and coping with abandonment issues, there are a few strategies to help you cope and manage:

  • Acknowledge and understand your feelings: Recognize and accept that you are experiencing abandonment issues.

  • Explore the root causes: Reflect on your past experiences to identify the events or relationships that may have contributed to your abandonment issues. Understanding the root causes, preferably with the help of a licensed professional, can provide insights into your patterns of thinking and behavior.

  • Practice self-compassion: Be kind and understanding toward yourself. Avoid self-blame and focus on fostering self-compassion.

  • Seek professional support: Consider working with a therapist or counselor who specializes in attachment and abandonment issues. 

To get matched with a therapist, Book an Appointment with Two Chairs

What therapy is best for abandonment issues?

When seeking support for abandonment issues, the best treatment will depend on your unique needs, preferences, and goals, which is why it's so important to find the right therapist for you.

Every therapy experience will look different, but some common modalities that therapists may use to help with abandonment issues may include:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT is a type of short-term therapy focused on understanding the relationship between our thoughts, feelings, and actions. It involves different techniques like recognizing and changing common thinking patterns, examining the accuracy of your thoughts, and changing behaviors. CBT encompasses some widely known interventions, including Cognitive Therapy, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, and others.

  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT): DBT is a type of cognitive behavior therapy designed for individuals who need help managing and regulating their emotions. It includes skills designed to change their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, while also accepting aspects of their life, experiences, and behaviors. DBT is most helpful for individuals experiencing intense emotions or who have experienced extreme levels of abandonment or neglect.

  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR): EMDR is a type of psychotherapy designed to treat the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Make sure your therapist is certified to use this technique. Done right, it can be incredibly valuable and works well with other types of therapy.

  • Psychodynamic Therapy: Psychodynamic therapy is rooted in psychoanalysis and is another one of the types of psychotherapy. In this model, your therapist will help you explore the connection between your past experiences, including those from childhood, and your current thoughts, feelings, and behavior. 

Learn how to cope with abandonment issues 

Trying to understand and cope with abandonment issues can be extremely difficult if you don’t have the right tools or support system. That’s where Two Chairs comes in.

Using a research-backed matching process, Two Chairs is designed to match you with the right therapist — which research shows is one of the best predictors of successful therapy — from our diverse team of licensed clinicians. With over a 98% success rate for client-therapist matching, Two Chairs can help you connect with the right support system to understand your abandonment issues, cope, and heal.

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Let us find the right therapist for you

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