Abandonment Counseling and Treatment
Feelings of abandonment and experiencing abandonment are not uncommon and this fear often stems from childhood. It may stem from the loss of a parent either through death or separation/divorce, parents divorcing or it can be caused by experiencing neglect and not receiving enough attention. Treatment and recovery from fear of abandonment and abandonment is possible! Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Eye Movement Desensitisation and Processing (EMDR) therapy can help you recover.
Online therapy and counseling will support you in your mental health journey through the first steps to coping with feeling abandoned in a way that works for you. 7 Cups is an on-demand emotional support platform and a caring and thriving community of people that support one another. The 7 Cups Community has helped over 60 million people in emotional distress since 2013. The community is available globally in 189 countries and 140 languages. We provide 1:1 free support sessions with a trained listener, personalized growth paths to help you feel better and online therapy with licensed therapists.
What is Abandonment?
Abandonment can mean that you are physically abandoned by someone that you care deeply about. This occurs when the necessary conditions to thrive are not met, for example, lack of appropriate supervision, inadequate provision of nutrition and meals, inadequate clothing, housing, heat, and/or shelter. Emotional abandonment often occurs when an individual has not physically abandoned someone and this could be that perhaps you are experiencing unmet needs leaving you feeling isolated, rejected, and lonely. It is when someone who you can count on isn’t there for you emotionally.
Physical vs. Emotional
There are various forms of abandonment and they include physical and emotional abandonment. Physical abandonment is when physically you are abandoned by a loved one and left feeling like you are unable to meet your basic needs for housing, shelter, warmth, and nutrition. Emotional abandonment is when you feel neglected by someone close to you. When one person shares their emotional state with another it can leave us feeling vulnerable and when the response is dismissive or lacking in some way it may lead to us feeling discarded or unimportant to a significant person in our lives. It is a subjective emotional state where we are feeling emotionally left behind.
Why Do You Feel This Way?
Fear of abandonment is a primal fear and is an evolutionary survival technique to keep us alive. We all have physical and emotional needs. Our physical needs include having a safe environment to live in, a place to feel supported and our physical needs are met such as having nutritious food to eat and water to drink. Our emotional needs include feeling supported and heard, being nurtured and accepted, being valued and appreciated, and feeling like we are understood by those around us. Often when we feel abandoned it can lead to destructive core beliefs about ourselves and others leading to difficulties in forming close relationships.
Fear of abandonment can stem from childhood trauma which is a primal fear to all. We all want to feel accepted and part of something. The caregiver during our childhoods (usually our mother) is our source of food, love, and connection. If these needs are not met, we may end up with a fear of abandonment. Abandonment can happen later too in life and may happen when we are experiencing a critical parenting style or perhaps when we feel humiliated by those we love, we may also have been unfairly treated which can lead to a fear of abandonment.
“Abandonment is an invisible wound that implants a deep emotional drain when not tended to properly”
What are the Causes?
The causes of abandonment vary from person to person and may include poverty, lack of education, and being able to meet basic needs and may also be due to a mental health condition like depression, anxiety, or a mood disorder. All of these causes can have devastating effects on an individual.
What are the Effects?
There are many effects of abandonment and they may include:
- Mood swings
- Low self-esteem
- Trust issues
- Constant approval seeking from others and seeking external validation
- Attachment anxiety including insecure and avoidant attachment styles
- Difficulties in forming relationships and maintaining them
Dealing with Pain and Toxic Shame
Studies have shown that many people feel that abandonment imprisons them behind high walls they’ve psychologically created by themselves. Healing after feeling abandonment or processing your fears of abandonment takes time and is complex but the first step is knowing that things can get better. Dealing with pain and toxic shame takes time but can be done by validating your experiences and what you have gone through and noticing how traumatic it has been for you. Healing is possible and can be found within you, a therapist can help you move forward and understand the pain you have gone through and work towards recovery.
How it Affects Relationships
Individuals who struggle with a fear of abandonment may process their trauma using maladaptive coping skills. They may also withdraw from others and push people away as a defense mechanism to avoid rejecting and further suffering. It may also lead to attachment issues and getting attached to people who are not emotionally available. People-pleasing is also common in relationships with individuals who struggle from a fear of abandonment. An individual may be reluctant to fully commit and struggle to commit fully in relationships. People who struggle with abandonment issues may also stay in unhealthy relationships to avoid being alone which will create a negative cyclical pattern of further trauma. As a consequence, negative emotions such as shame may be experienced causing further disruption to an individual's life.
Breaking the Cycle
Breaking the cycle is complicated and usually professional help is needed from a licensed mental health professional to heal from fear of abandonment. Breaking the cycle may include exploring previous childhood traumatic experiences and the negative impact they have had on your life and the relationships that you have experienced after experiencing fear of abandonment. It may also lead to developing insecure attachment styles which cause difficulties in subsequent romantic relationships. Self-care is vital to feeling better and counseling can be part of your self-care journey to developing healthy relationships with yourself and others.