Are Abandonment Issues Creating Problems in Your Relationship?

Abandonment issues can develop at any time.  Sometimes it occurs in childhood, others later in life.  It all depends on the onset of the trigger.  Abandonment is an unhealthy, deep fear of being hurt, rejected, abandoned, and neglected, physically and emotionally.  Losing a loved one, ending an intimate relationship, emotional abuse, parental/caregiver neglect, and even job loss can trigger abandonment issues.  These issues appear in any relationship, but most commonly in romantic ones.  The behaviors attributed to abandonment are defense mechanisms driven by anxiety or fear.  Some common signs of abandonment issues are:

Trust issues
Pushing people away or clingy
Extreme jealousy, controlling, manipulative
Overly guarded
The inability to be vulnerable
Anxiety in the relationship
Anger or impulsive
Commitment issues
Emotionally dependent
Emotionally unavailable
Depressive cycles
Abuse and harassment
Unable to accept rejection

These acts make it very difficult to become close to someone to have a healthy relationship.  Often, the relationship will soon become toxic if the individual does not heal from the abandonment feelings.  Various “attachment styles.” show signs of defense mechanisms.

So, what causes abandonment issues?

It stems back to a harrowing experience or a pattern of moments of being deceived, hurt, abandoned, emotionally neglected, or emotionally and physically abused.   It can develop from childhood trauma with a parent or a caregiver and persists through adulthood.  Some childhood experiences cause low self-esteem and low self-worth and manifest into negative attachment styles:

When a caregiver or parent neglects the child’s emotions and needs.
A caregiver who is inconsistent with their actions, loving and attentive at times and cold and inattentive at other times.
A victim of sexual abuse.
An absentee caregiver (death of a parent, incarceration, or an absentee parent.)
A caregiver who is emotionally and physically abusive.
When a loved one dies.
A close friend moving away.
Rejection from someone you love.
Exposed to the parent’s divorce.

Every individual has an attachment style.  Our cognitive development from as early as an infant cultivates our attachment style.  Most times, our attachment style has developed by five years old.  Insecure attachment styles affect our capability to create healthy relationships, trust connections, and bond with others profoundly.  It affects the way we perceive ourselves and others.  Additionally, our attachment style influences our response to conflict and stress.

Each insecure attachment style shows a pattern of defense mechanisms:

Avoidant Attachment Style: Individuals with avoidant attachment style cannot emotionally connect with others, whether their caregiver/parent or romantic partner.  They often appear to be standoffish, withdrawn, distant, and private.  They cannot commit to a relationship because of fear, which drives them to end a relationship, shut down, or leave.


Anxious Attachment Style:  Individuals with anxious attachment styles cope by becoming co-dependent on their partner, overly clingy and smothering, and develop an instantaneously close relationship without allowing time for growth.  They are needy, find it challenging to live separate lives from their partner, and are persistent.


Disorganized Attachment Style: Those with disorganized attachment tend to be uncomfortable with intimacy and relationships and lack empathy and compassion.  There is inconsistency in the behavior and response, simulating characteristics of either anxious or avoidant styles.  Studies show that disorganized attachment styles are associated with narcissism, borderline personality disorder, and antisocial traits.


If you become aware of these signs and symptoms in yourself or others, know that abandonment issues have long-term effects.  Since abandonment issues link to childhood trauma, a widely referenced study shows the long-term adverse impact of childhood experiences.

Studies report those who had traumatic childhood experiences were:

High risk for depression and suicide, anxiety disorder, PTSD, addictions, and other mental health illnesses.
Signs of delayed cognitive development
Heighten risk for chronic health concerns like diabetes, cancer, autoimmune conditions, heart disease, and obesity.


If this blog resonates with you, you or a loved one may need to look deeper at relationships with others and behaviors and reflect on past experiences.  You can do some things independently to help overcome some abandonment issues.

First, define your attachment style.  You can use the Adult Attachment Scale.  It is a preliminary rating if you identify more with secure or insecure attachment.   Then, practice mindfulness and be more aware of your thoughts, behavior, and response.  Be in the now.   You cannot change the past and your experiences, but you can practice more effectual reactions.

While some people tackle these issues independently, other individuals and couples may benefit from working with a mental health professional to begin their healing journey and learn the skills and tools for healthy relationships.  In therapy, a person can have individual psychotherapy, one-on-one, or a couple can begin couples counseling.  Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a module used in psychotherapy that involves cognition (perception, thinking, reasoning, attention, and judgment.)  The approach identifies and changes destructive or disturbing thought patterns, beliefs, mindsets, and attitudes that contribute to the client’s emotional or behavioral conflicts.  The clinician will help the client recognize these thoughts, challenge them, and change the maladaptive behavior to more objective and realistic views during therapy treatment.  According to our Senior Associate Therapist, Antoinette Bonafede, LMSW, DBT, REBT, “CBT has effectively understood how and why we exhibit faulty thinking.  CBT helps to make edits and changes to harsh self-review to make room for a well-rounded and kinder perspective of the self as a complete person.  After all, flaws are just as significant as strengths, and the concept of “perfect” is subjective.”

If you have never been to therapy before and are ready to begin your wellness journey, our clinicians at Gateway to Solutions believe in the power of one, “It takes a person to help a person.” There are five easy steps to start therapy.  Check out our blog, “Five Easy Steps to Start Therapy at Gateway to Solutions.”

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