Abandonment anxiety is fear of being abandoned in a relationship.Abandonment fears typically stem from childhood loss, such as the loss of a parent through death or divorce, but they can also result from inadequate physical or emotional care. It can stem from childhood abuse either physical or emotional. These early-childhood experiences can lead to a fear of being abandoned by the significant people in one’s adult life. People with abandonment anxiety have one of two insecure attachment styles: attachment anxiety and attachment avoidance. Attachment anxiety is characterised by a need for attention from others and fear that a partner or significant other is going to leave. Attachment avoidance is characterised by a persistent need to be self-reliant and fear of dependence.People whose fear of abandonment has resulted in co-dependence and fear that partners will leave may be reluctant to enter a long-term committed relationship, but once they enter one, they become deeply attached to the other person and will be excessively worried that the relationship may end.
I experience severe abandonment anxiety and it manifests itself really badly whenever my Psychotherapist goes away to a Conference or on holidays. I immediately catastrophise the situation. I convince myself that she is not going to come back. She is Indian and often goes to India to visit her family and I firmly believe she will stay there to look after them. Nothing she says can convince me that she is coming back! When she goes on Conferences to America and visits her brother, again I believe she will stay there, work and be with him and we go through the same scenario of me panicking that she won’t come back.
She goes to great lengths to convince me that she is coming back and how we have dealt with it now is she emails me when she gets there to tell me she is coming back and sends me regular texts while she’s away saying she’ll be home soon. The last day she’s there she tells me she’s on her way to the airport. She goes way beyond her duty to convince me of her commitment to the therapeutic alliance. Still, I harbour doubts.
She’s going away for three weeks and I’m already dreading it and believing she won’t be returning. She’s told me the appointments I have with her when she returns already. She’s preparing me for when she’s gone saying I can call her anytime I want and when time allows she will speak to me. I should feel reassured but such was the abandonment as a child it’s done such damage to me as an adult.
I deal with it with my children and husband through texting. It’s very reassuring.
In therapy, we’ve dealt with it through me learning to separate fears of the past from the reality of the present. It may be possible for individuals to achieve cognitive transformation through this process and thus develop more positive reactions and realistic expectations for their lives. When individuals are able to recognise their fears are rooted in the past, they can often begin to develop the ability to minimise the way fear controls their emotional responses to current relationships and events and achieve healing from past experiences. This is what I am working towards.
Many types of therapy, from eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR) to dialectical behavior therapy, can address abandonment issues. Psychotherapy for abandonment often focuses on helping a person address and tend, in a self-compassionate way, to the parts of the self holding on to the memories and feelings associated with abandonment trauma. This form of self-exploration includes distinguishing the vulnerable, helpless child of the past from the stronger, more capable adult. Simply pursuing treatment with an attentive, empathic therapist helps soothe a person’s abandonment fears.
Abandonment issues can be overwhelming, but even though I am challenged by these fears I can learn to manage them in ways that are healthy and productive. Methods of addressing and overcoming abandonment issues include:
- Exploring ways to care for myself
- Developing the ability to access a safe and calm “center” when fears threaten one’s sense of safety or security
- Learning to successfully communicate needs in intimate relationships
- Building a sense of trust in others
I have come a long way since five years ago and am much more trusting in my relationships now but abandonment anxiety rears it’s ugly head now and then and it’s back to strategies to minimising its effects which I’ve learned to do. Now to put them into to practice in three weeks when my therapist goes away again !!! Put my money where my mouth is as they say.