Nobody likes to be alone. Even lone wolves sometimes miss their packs. But it doesn’t mean they cannot be lone wolves. Indeed, people love company – they like being socially accepted. But it shouldn’t mean you can survive even when alone. When you find that you can’t seem to survive alone (you should always have people that love you), then it becomes a problem. That’s what is called fear of abandonment. You don’t like being alone so much that you do anything possible to ensure it does not happen. That’s what we’ll be talking about today. What the abandonment fear is, why it happens, the different ways it presents itself, the adverse side effects, and how to overcome it.
Fear of Abandonment
Before going deep into the definition of phobia, you should know that this fear happens to everyone. It’s why people cry when they’ve lost a dear one. It’s also why people get sad when they break up. But there is a thin line between the pain of loss and the fear of abandonment. See these two statements, and observe the difference:
- “I miss him. We used to eat ice cream together during this time of the year. I wish we never ended our relationship.”
- “I miss him. I can’t imagine my life without him. Now, I can’t eat ice cream again. I do everything alone. My life is worthless now. Why did he leave me? Was I not good enough?”
The first statement is that of a heartbroken woman who misses the relationship. But the second statement is that of a heartbroken woman who fears abandonment. Fear of abandonment sabotages a relationship, self-esteem, and the public perception of a person. You can’t do what you want to do because you live based on the decisions of others to stay. It’s not about the love of another person. It’s about the love of yourself, not wanting to be alone. So what is the fear of abandonment all about?
What is Fear of Abandonment?
Also referred to as abandonment issues, fear of abandonment is the overpowering yet unfounded fear that the people you love will abandon you, either physically or emotionally. Note this: “The unfounded fear…” It means that the person hasn’t even left. It’s not that the man has broken up with you or you have lost the job. It’s that you worry too much it will happen, even when no basis shows it will. People who suffer from abandonment fear often find themselves engaging in behaviors and thinking patterns that can be damaging to their relationships. The worst part is that their coping mechanisms often lead to the very abandonment they dread. This process follows a series of stages, and though it happens differently for everyone, it usually has the same ending.
Stages of Abandonment Fear
At the start, both individuals feel secure with each other. They commit to each other, overlooking potential issues and spending much time together. Then, real-life challenges arise after a while (which seems like the honeymoon phase). These challenges could include health problems, work stress, or financial concerns. Though they seem normal, someone fearing abandonment can start to see these issues as signs of their partner pulling away. Instead of talking about it, most people with this fear would prefer to keep the worry to themselves. Then along the line, there’s something called the slight — a minor incident like an unanswered text or phone call or a request for alone time. The person with abandonment issues interprets this incident as a sign that their partner no longer loves them. It may have been due to a mundane reason, like being busy or unavailable.
Some people become clingy and demanding, seeking constant reassurance. Others may withdraw and reject their partner before they can be rejected themselves. Some may internalize the slight, blaming themselves and attempting to transform into a “perfect partner” to prevent a breakup. Now this is where this can either go well or go south. In a healthy relationship, both partners will recognize that the incident is normal. They may calmly discuss or have a brief argument, but in the end, it does not dominate one partner’s feelings. A person with abandonment issues may confuse the sudden change in behavior with a change in feelings. Then the person starts to cling even more, push away further, or continue to request reassurance. If the person’s behavior patterns and inconsolable reactions persist, it could eventually drive others away and lead to the outcome they feared the most.
Types of Fear of Abandonment
There are three core ways the fear of abandonment can present itself. Since we have been talking about relationships, we can start there.
Fear of Abandonment in Relationship
This is when you hesitate to open out to someone for a romantic relationship. You struggle with trust, and when you finally give in, you worry about your partner too much and start to cling. Recall the stages of the fear. That vicious cycle begins again.
Fear of Abandonment in Children
This is the most common of all three types of fear of abandonment. Most children cry when their parents leave because they don’t know if the parent will return. Even when there’s no proof of this and the parent’s bag is still with the child. However, most children outgrow this fear when they are about age three.
Fear of Emotional Abandonment
Emotional abandonment can be as traumatic as physical abandonment, even if it’s not as obvious. We all have emotional needs to be met to feel loved, appreciated, and connected. When those needs are not fulfilled, it can leave us feeling isolated and alone, even in a relationship with someone physically present. If you have experienced emotional abandonment in the past, especially during childhood, it can lead to a fear of it happening again.
Fear of Abandonment Signs
How can you tell if you have a fear of abandonment? Here are some symptoms of fear of abandonment to look out for:
- You experience intense feelings of separation anxiety
- You are reluctant to trust or commit fully
- You aim to please
- You quickly attach even to unavailable partners and then quickly move on.
- You face difficulty achieving emotional intimacy.
- You feel insecure and unworthy of love
- You are hypersensitive to criticism.
- You remain in a relationship, even if it is unhealthy (so much that it becomes a pattern).
- You blame yourself when things don’t work out.
- You do everything, even take extreme measures to avoid separation or rejection.
Symptoms of Fear of Abandonment
While these signs don’t just occur all at a time, the most common signs are the blame game, the people-pleaser character, and the problem of trust issues. You can either try too hard to blame the person for, sometimes, nothing, or you could blame yourself for not being good enough (again, nothing). You could also find it hard to trust yourself or to trust others. In the same way, you could start to do everything in your power to please others or yourself, like people don’t matter.
Causes of Fear of Abandonment
Now it is time for the causes that can lead to the fear of abandonment in a person. The following are the four causes of fear of abandonment:
Past experiences with relationships.
If you were physically or emotionally abandoned in the past, it might trigger a chain of fear to develop even as you develop. These experiences could include peer rejection, parental neglect, or having a romantic partner leave suddenly without a goodbye.
Fear resultant from social inadequacy
If you are naturally socially inhibited, you may suffer from abandonment fear. Some ways to know if you are socially inadequate include a feeling of nervousness around people, discomfort in social events, avoiding groups or conversations, poor self-esteem, or the constant worry that you’ll be judged.
You have an anxiety disorder.
Anxiety plays a vital role in excessive worry. The fear of abandonment can become very obvious if you have a separation anxiety disorder.
How to Overcome Fear of Abandonment?
So how can you overcome this fear? What can you do to reach the full fear of abandonment healing? Below is a list of possible things that can help. But you should know that it is not easy to overcome this fear; neither does it vanish in a day. Yet here are the things you can start doing, to venture into fear of abandonment healing.
- Begin the journey of self-love: At the end of the day, people are comfortable being alone because they are their own company. You need to feel that you are enough; to feel that, you must start loving yourself as much as you want people to love you. Shift the focus.
- Don’t beat yourself up: Though this is still part of the first point, you must note this. Saying negative things to yourself is highly self-damaging and should be avoided.
- Don’t act based on your fears or your feelings alone: Surely, our guts tell us things — but they are not always right. Just because he didn’t pick up your call does not mean he doesn’t like you. Talk about what bothers you from an understanding point of view, not like you want to attack or find a fault.
While it is recommended to do all these things, it is also crucial to visit a counselor. The medical health practitioner will go over what is causing you to have this excessive worry. They will also check to ensure you don’t suffer from PTSD, anxiety, or other mental health issues. After this is done, you can begin the therapy towards better health and a sound mind.