What Causes Abandonment Issues?
Our fears may seem irrational sometimes, but they’re a natural response to perceived dangers. Abandonment fears are generally rooted in deep, often-painful personal experiences. Fear of abandonment can impact people in many ways and has a variety of causes.
“Fear of abandonment is the fear or belief that you’ll be left behind by those you love. This can often leave you feeling unloved, insecure, inadequate, and unworthy of love. Fear of abandonment can come in several categories — the fear of being left by a romantic partner or of being deserted by your parents (or children as an older adult). It’s often caused by something traumatic happening in your past such as death of or being deserted by a parent or caregiver; neglect; feeling rejected by your peers; or being left suddenly by a romantic partner.”
Abandonment trauma may be caused in response to a traumatic or distressing event. When a relationship ends suddenly or in an upsetting way, it can cause anxiety in future relationships. Infidelity, divorce, neglect or abuse, and the death of a partner can all cause fear of abandonment.
The bonds we form during childhood shape the way we see relationships as adults. If someone experiences childhood trauma such as emotional neglect, violence, or abuse, it makes sense that it might be difficult for them to feel secure in future relationships. Studies also confirm that children may develop abandonment issues if they’re separated from a parent by divorce, incarceration, or death.
For some, it can be difficult to recognize that a relationship is unhealthy, even in cases of abuse or after the relationship has ended. If a past partner — or even a primary caregiver — engaged in harmful behaviors such as intimidation, dishonesty, manipulation, gaslighting, or emotional neglect, you might expect to see those behaviors in future relationships. Unresolved abandonment issues after an unhealthy relationship can make it challenging for future partners. Dating someone with abandonment issues may be challenging to navigate if not addressed by both partners.
Whether someone has lost a friend, romantic partner, or family member, the death of a loved one can cause deep and lasting grief and pain. After experiencing that kind of loss, it can be common to feel terrified about losing others. The fear of abandonment can be especially intense if the death was sudden.
Unmet emotional needs
We all need the basics — food, sleep, and shelter — to stay healthy, but we also have emotional needs. When these needs are met, we feel happy and content, but when they’re neglected, we may feel stressed, frustrated, or unloved. Someone may develop abandonment issues after a caregiver or romantic partner repeatedly fails to meet their emotional needs.