17 Minutes

By THE BALANCE
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Children who have experienced abandonment trauma feel uncomfortable, insignificant, and unclear of how their interests will be fulfilled. This can have a long-term impact on a person’s psychological wellness, raising the risk of developing illegal substance abuse disorders, disordered eating, interpersonal problems, and mental health illnesses in adulthood.

Throughout their developing years, healthy people rely on safe and stable partnerships to teach them how to build healthy relationships in adulthood. Early interactions educate youngsters how to recognize danger, form bonds with new people, recognize their own needs, and accept love from others.

Abandonment trauma is caused by traumatic childhood experiences, such as a caregiver who is under the influence of drugs or alcohol or has substantial psychiatric disorders and fails to appropriately safeguard and care for their child. However, there are additional factors that can lead to abandonment PTSD. An elementary school child attempting to comprehend why one parent now lives far away as a result of a divorce, or a teenager with a parent in jail, might both feel abandoned and display signs of abandonment trauma. Since not every kid who suffers through these events will develop long-term issues as a result, they can undoubtedly contribute to issues later in life, especially in combination with other types of trauma or family concerns.

While abandonment trauma seems to be more common in the developing years of childhood and early adulthood, the experiences that cause abandonment trauma can happen at any stage in life. Adults may be traumatized by abandonment as a consequence of an unplanned divorce or the loss of a spouse or partner. The termination of these most essential connections can make a person feel unsafe, unloved, and unprepared to have meaningful future relationships.

The anxiety of loneliness, that could be a deep fear or a kind of distress, lies at the root of abandonment issues. These disorders can have an impact on your relations and are frequently the result of a childhood tragedy. Ecological and physiological circumstances, heredity, and brain biochemical environment are all elements that turn this grief and angst into abandonment issues.

The most important factor in developing abandonment concerns as an adult is initial childhood events. A traumatic experience could be the divorce or death of a parent, or not receiving adequate emotional or physical care as a kid. Abandonment trauma occurs when parents deny their children their right of emotional expression, make fun of their kids, place an excessive amount of stress on their child to perform well, consider their children to be their peers (peer pressure), and are oblivious of their emotional and physical needs.

When a parent or caretaker fails to offer their child with consistent loving and focused interactions, the child experiences chronic anxiety and stress. Oftentimes, the experiences that occur throughout a child’s growth will carry over into adult life. As a result, abandonment concerns grow more widespread as you age and can have a negative impact on your relations.

Abandonment issues do not classify as a distinct psychological disorder like depression, but it can be regarded to as a type of anxiety and, in some ways, it relates to a certain type of phobia. Individuals who have abandonment concerns may have difficulty in relationships because they think the other person will abandon them. Adults with abandonment problems exhibit the following signs and symptoms:

  • Constantly seeking to please people (a “social pleaser”)
  • Excessive generosity in relationships
  • A lack of trust in people
  • Ignoring relationships in order to prevent rejection
  • A sense of insecurity in sexual relationships and social contacts
  • Emotional neediness
  • A constant desire for affirmation that others care about them and will stick with them
  • The desire to exert control over others
  • Continuing to engage in toxic relationships
  • Incapacity to sustain connections
  • Hopping from one to the next damaging partnership
  • Inadequate emotional connection

Individuals who have been abandoned as children may be lured to someone who will treat them terribly and finally leave them. This reaffirms their concerns and mistrust of others. Children frequently express concern about caregivers abandoning them. The anxiety of separation or being left-over is a typical element of newborns’ and infants’ development. It normally peaks between the ages of 10 and 18 months and lasts until the child reaches the age of three years. Abandonment issues and anxiety of separation become problematic when symptoms are intense or persist for an extended period of time. Fear of abandonment can present itself in the following ways in children:

  • Persistent fear of abandonment
  • When a parent or caregiver sets them off at school or daycare, they experience worry or panic.
  • Codependency and clinginess
  • Phobia of being alone, particularly at night 
  • Recurrent illness, which usually has no apparent physical cause
  • Social alienation
  • Self-esteem deficit

In serious conditions, such as those involving the death of a caregiver or parent, a kid may develop maladaptive coping mechanisms, such as the following:

  • Substance abuse 
  • Self-harm
  • Castigating against others, either verbally or physically
  • Hostility and outbursts
  • Withdrawal \ sadness
  • Difficulties with one’s own social image
  • They spend their days wondering and attempting to make sense of their tale and identity.
  • Sleep abnormalities

Forming a mental bond with parents or another caretaker is crucial to a child’s psychological, physical, and emotional development from the moment he or she is born. A compassionate and attentive caretaker offers the nurturing that an infant requires to develop into a healthy adult. A well-cared-for youngster gains self-esteem, feels safe exploring the world around him or her, and has a good foundation for eventually learning to form healthy relations.

However, if those early ties fail, the child may be subjected to neglect or abandonment trauma. Abandonment trauma, often known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) of abandonment, can be exacerbated by mental health concerns, substance addiction, or the actual absence of parents or caretakers due to divorce or death.

Although each person is unique and processes trauma in diverse manners, some signs may suggest that someone is suffering from abandonment PTSD:

  • The anxiety of someone being deserted or left behind.
  • The struggle to build good connections during adolescence or adulthood.
  • Perceptions of self-worth and low self-esteem
  • Panic and uncertainty
  • Despair
  • Emptiness, incompetence, and a sense of “not being enough.”
  • Feeling disconnected or emotionally distant to connect, or “checking out” of friendships or relationships
  • Keeping a relationship going, even if it’s toxic or unpleasant, to avoid thoughts of loneliness or rejection
  • Self-destructive behavioral episodes.
  • Within a relationship, there is either a fear of confrontation or a desire to avoid conflict at all costs.
  • Avoiding all friendships and interactions.
  • The extreme and apparent need for control, whether over one’s surroundings, other persons, or situations.
  • Perfectionist tendencies, self-judgment, and establishing unreasonable expectations.
  • Responding to situations in extremes, such as overreacting or not reacting at all in stressful situations.
  • Emotional memories can cause panic or a great deal of emotional suffering.

Abandonment disorder, also known as abandonment syndrome, is a psychological condition caused by a traumatic experience or series of traumatic experiences that leave an individual feeling insecure, scared, and all alone. Extreme emotional distress can have a lifelong effect on a person’s health. Adoption-related PTSD is a result of early childhood damages and disconnections, such as:

  • Unavailable parents on an emotional level.
  • Neglect of children as a result of substance use, such as alcohol addiction or illegal drug abuse.
  • A parent or caretaker has a mental illness, as with depression.
  • A severe physical disorder that prevents a parent or guardian from meeting a child’s basic needs for attention and love.
  • The unexpected death of a caretaker or parent on whom the child relied for security and love.
  • Major family unrest, such as parents primarily concerned with a complicated divorce or a parent who engages with the kid only on an occasional basis.

As is the case with other types of anxiety, various additional factors may play a role, including the following:

  • Environmental variables
  • Hereditary factors
  • Physiological determinants
  • Biochemical homeostasis of the brain

Take ownership of your story. Begin by identifying and naming what happened to you: ‘I was abandoned: I was taken into care.’ I was deceived.’ This enables you to take ownership of the situation and reclaim some of your power.”  Make certain that you try to define how you are starting to feel about what occurred while you are doing this. ” I’m abandoned, and this is awful. My beloved has died, and I am heartbroken. Stop ruminating on the damaging thoughts and begin drawing inferences about what this incident signifies to you, particularly if your conclusions are negative. If you find yourself saying stuff like ‘I never feel entitled to achieve anything great,’ place some boundaries around these assertions. This is the type of thinking that spirals you downhill and intensifies your sense of abandonment.’

Recognize and realize your emotions. According to Heidi McBain, a licensed  family and marriage therapist, it is critical for a person dealing with abandonment problems to then “acknowledge that they are hurting and in pain and that this situation will be hard, but they are strong and will get through it.” Additionally, they should allow ample time for mourning the loss of the life they had intended with the person leaving and reassure themselves that they are undergoing a significant transformation in their lives—that things will get easier, but they must take stuff gradually, little by little, slowly but surely.

Discover a healthy outlet for your emotions. Additionally, it will assist in harnessing those emotions into something constructive. Caleb Backe, a health and wellness expert, describes that one of the most crucial elements of conquering your fear of abandonment is finding a healthy outlet that will allow you to address your fears and emotions in a safe and secure manner.  At times, this may involve speaking with a family member or close friend; at other times, it may involve something as simple as creating art or keeping a journal.

Understand that you are not the cause of the problems. Another essential stop on your path to recovery from abandonment is recognizing and accepting that you are not the cause. When a person is abandoned, they develop an unlikeable view of themselves. When we learn to perceive ourselves as a whole individual and recognize that it had nothing to do with us, but rather with the incapability of the individual who left, we can achieve freedom.

Be open to accepting assistance. Finally, do not be afraid to seek assistance, including that of an expert. If the desertion you experienced in the past is preventing you from going forward, recognize that you may require some additional help. Take into account speaking with someone who is trained to assist people in overcoming adversity, such as a professional counselor or pastor.  A specialist can assist you in examining your scars more closely in a secure environment. You do not have to feel the burden of your abrupt loss or suffer in continual fear that someone you care about would abandon you. Counseling can help you regain your confidence and gradually develop your confidence in the world surrounding you.

What not to do:

  1. Holding lofty expectations of your relationship, wanting a certain response from your partner unduly and prematurely. You over-need and overreact, which lowers your sense of self-worth and dents your partner’s view about you.
  2. Striving to conceal one’s emotions. You’re aware that your anxiety is driving your companion away, but you’re unable to locate the magical dial that would hold back the fear.
  3. Tending to coerce your partner into acting in ways that will make you feel safer. This raises the relationship’s pressure and decreases its reciprocity.
  4. Striving to conceal your mental suction cups such as rage or coyness. Your suction cups are always aimed directly at your partner, and they are recognized by your spouse’s special radar.
  5. Trying to twist oneself into a pretzel in order to conceal the fear. You lose your authenticity in the process of attempting to save the relationship.
  6. Creating an emotional bond between you and your companion. This produces a horrible scenario in which you rely on them more than they rely on you. As the chasm grows wider, your desperation grows stronger, perpetuating a terrible cycle.
  7. Self-loathing when you realize your anxiety is driving your lover away. However, do not panic! You can reverse it!

What to do:

  1. Put an end to your self-condemnation. Fear of abandonment is an irrational fear. You were not the cause of it. This is not anything you agreed to. It discovered you.
  2. Acknowledge this dread as a natural component of being human. Instead of judging yourself as “insufficient,” show yourself genuine self-love and kindness.
  3. Make the decision to quit blaming your insecurities on your partner (or anybody else).
  4. This entails accepting complete responsibility for when your anxiety manifests, rather than relying on your spouse to “cure it”.
  5. Make a commitment to utilizing abandonment anxiety as a catalyst for self-reliance and empathy.
  6. Greet your spouse with a sense of self-assurance that stems from self-responsibility.
  7. This occurs not through osmosis, but through active participation in abandonment rehabilitation. The techniques assist you in administering your own emotional support in a systematic manner so that you are not dependent on your partner.
  8. Accept the truth that it is only your job to maintain your sense of security. The moment you look to your companion for a solution, you lose your control.
  9. Take the emotional self-reliance plunge, but be supportive of yourself along the way. We do not achieve this fully or completely. The path to emotional self-reliance is gradual, steady, and intermittent.
  10. If you find yourself going to your companion for reassurance again, simply refocus! Restore your equilibrium! Assume complete responsibility for your personal well-being.
  11. Converting desertion fear into emotional self-reliance necessitates a profound appreciation of your individuality. This enables you to stop blaming your partner for your insecurities and begin taking any responsibility for your own emotional responses. The hands-on activities are designed to help you gain confidence and boost your love factor.

Abandonment therapy can assist individuals in developing self-compassion. Individuals may develop the ability to care for many aspects of themselves. These areas may include memories or emotions associated with abandonment trauma. This process frequently devolves into a form of self-discovery.

Among the types of therapy that may be beneficial for abandonment concerns are the following:

Eye movements desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). EMDR has been shown to be effective in the treatment of a variety of types of trauma. A person who has previously been abandoned may be carrying trauma. EMDR may aid in the reduction of symptoms associated with this event. It accomplishes this by reprocessing previous memories associated with trauma.

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). DBT is frequently a combination of individual therapy and social skills training. Included among these abilities are mindfulness and psychological management. Individuals who have experienced abandonment may learn how to manage their emotions with DBT. They may also learn to discuss these difficulties with their partner.

Behavioral cognitive therapy (CBT). CBT assists in increasing awareness of one’s feelings in response to certain life situations. It may assist someone struggling with abandonment concerns in shifting their perception of fear-inducing circumstances. They may then remodel their thinking in response to these experiences. This adjustment is made in order to reflect a more recent version of reality.

Psychodynamic therapy. This may assist individuals in determining which emotions and thoughts motivate their actions. It can be beneficial in assisting individuals in recognizing their relationships with others. It could disclose protective mechanisms developed in response to desertion. Adults benefit from therapy when they can discern between their fragile former selves and their robust present selves. Treatment with a receptive therapist may help alleviate fears of abandonment.

Couples therapy for fear of abandonment. One individual in a relationship may cause abandonment problems. That individual’s partner may be unaware of the impact of past abandonment on the person they are currently in a relationship. They may simply observe the current relationship’s impacts. Couples counseling can assist both spouses to have a deeper understanding of one another. The partner experiencing abandonment concerns may improve his or her ability to engage with others. This ability can assist them in communicating their issues in a healthy manner. Communication can assist in toning down behaviors that could be detrimental to the relationship. The individual’s partner may gain knowledge about how to maintain a positive connection. They can reassure their partner that abandonment in the past does not have to happen again.

Couples therapy for emotional desertion. In their current relationship, several couples cope with abandonment. One partner, for instance, maybe emotionally estranged from the other. Couples counseling may aid in the healing process of emotional abandonment. This may be recognized by one or both spouses. They may pursue couples counseling to rekindle their relationship. One partner may be more detached than the other. In other instances, both couples experience difficulties with emotional intimacy.

Fears of abandonment may be a significant problem among children. Speaking with them and seeing a child therapist may be beneficial. It’s possible that abandonment anxiety is only transient. This is most likely for kids who have never been abandoned before. These sensations may be more prevalent in children with anxiety. A counselor can assist you in determining whether your child suffers from anxiety. They might be capable of teaching you and your child how to cope with anxiety. This could help worried children cope with their dread of being abandoned.

Symptoms of Childhood Trauma in Adults

Whilst being abandoned, some children experience distress. A therapist may be able to assist them in reducing the trauma’s effects. Therapists can assist by employing age-appropriate techniques. These methods can assist youngsters in dealing with bad emotions. They assist children in expressing their emotions in a non-overwhelming manner. For young children, a child therapist may use art therapy, play therapy or sand tray therapy. CBT may be beneficial for older children who have experienced abandonment.

Attachment difficulties may be treated by therapists to aid children with abandonment fear. They may aid in the development of secure caregiver attachments in youngsters. Caregivers are frequently enlisted by therapists to assist in this process.

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