Have you or someone you know ever feared losing people in your life? This is a normal fear for most people, but it becomes overwhelming for people with abandonment wounds.
Medical News Today explains that the overwhelm is due to the abandonment issue being a form of anxiety.
“It often begins in childhood when a child experiences a traumatic loss”, said Medical News Today in an article. Another way people can develop abandonment issues is in adulthood.
WebMD states that divorce or death can cause adults to develop abandonment issues or anxiety.
“Abandonment issues stem from a fear of loneliness, which can be a phobia or a form of anxiety”, WebMD said in an article, “Other factors that turn a loss into abandonment issues include environmental and medical factors, genetics, and brain chemistry.”
As mentioned above, most abandonment issues begin in childhood. While a loss of a family member may be one reason that the child develops abandonment anxiety or phobia, the predominant reason for developing abandonment issues is due to parental emotional neglect.
“Abandonment issues happen when a parent or caregiver does not provide the child with consistent warm or attentive interactions, leaving them feeling chronic stress and fear”, said WebMD in its article, “The experiences that happen during a child’s development will often continue into adulthood. This is why abandonment issues become more prevalent as you get older and can affect your relationships”, WebMD states.
Abandonment issues can and will appear in your relationships as an adult, often damaging them or pushing others away. So, how do you heal from this and have a healthy life?
The first thing to do is to identify whether or not you do have an abandonment wound. We at Psych2Go have compiled a list of signs to look out for.
Before we begin, remember that this article is for information and educational purposes only. It does not substitute professional council or help. If you feel that you need advice, help, or guidance please contact a mental health professional near you.
Although the list below is not comprehensive, we hope that it will help you in your journey to mental wellness. And now, 5+ signs of abandonment wounds and how to heal them.
1- Trust Issues
- Being afraid to open up (getting new friends or talking in existing relationships)
- Expecting people to leave you hanging
- Latching on to others
- Jealousy in your relationship or of others
- Feeling insecure in your relationships
- Trouble trusting your partner’s intentions
Do you often feel the need to always keep to yourself even around family or people you feel you can trust? Or do you feel like you can’t truly trust anyone around you? One of the ways that the abandonment wound manifests is by making us afraid to open up to others and making us wary of people in general.
We feel like if we open up to others we are opening the doors for them to break our hearts again by leaving or betraying us. This results in us not developing deep and meaningful relationships. Which makes us feel lonely, and sometimes makes the anxiety worse.
It is an endless cycle that can only be stopped by opening our hearts to ourselves first. One of the reasons we don’t let others is because we don’t trust them. Trust comes from inside of us. That first time that our trust in others was broken so was the trust in ourselves when we started blaming ourselves for not seeing the betrayal sooner.
To start opening up our hearts again, we need to begin cultivating trust in ourselves first. We can start doing this by creating a routine and making sure we do what we told ourselves we would do.
Doing this will slowly make us understand that we can be there for ourselves, that we can trust ourselves to overcome and be alright in any type of situation. Once we begin to trust ourselves we can open our hearts to others, slowly letting them in and getting to trust them as well.
We can approach others with a child-like curiosity, not automatically thinking that they will let us down but giving them the space to slowly develop in our eyes.
2- Giving too much or overly eager to please
Do you tend to put your entire being into helping others without much thought to yourself? Tell me, why? Your first thought might be because you like helping others and that someone has to do it. Now tell me, why are you the one who has to do it? Why are you eager to please?
With abandonment wounds, the need to give too much or please stems from thinking that if you give all you have that person will not leave. In a sense, now they owe you and have no choice but to stay until they pay the debt. Which will be never-ending because you will just keep giving.
This is a form of manipulation that will not work in the long run. For one, maybe your current partner or friend has already seen through your over-attachment and giving and decided that they will take advantage of it. Stringing you along for the rest of the relationship until they get tired of you.
Another thing that could happen is that the other person will get overwhelmed with your people-pleasing or find it very uncomfortable to the point that they want to end the relationship because they know it is not healthy.
People-pleasing or giving too much will also take a toll on you in the sense that you will most likely always be exhausted, anxious, depressed, and resentful. You might lose your sense of self due to catering to and meshing with the other person.
To break away from this people-pleasing habit, VeryWell Mind suggests the following:
- Establish boundaries
- Learn how to say no
- Start small
- Prioritize yourself
- Only help if you want to help not because you feel like you have to
- Before saying yes to anything ask and figure out if it conflicts with your schedule or boundaries
- Avoid making excuses, you do not have to explain yourself
- Remember that relationships require to give and take from both sides, not just one side
- See a therapist if you need help
3- Difficulty in being emotionally intimate or Fear of Intimacy
Having fear of intimacy is being afraid to be closer to other people in general. This intimacy that you are afraid of forming can be with a partner, a coworker, a friend, a family member, a classmate, etc.
There are four types of intimacy that you can have and that Healthline describes in an article:
- Experiential. You share common activities, interests, or experiences that bring you together.
- Intellectual. You bond through an exchange of ideas or deep, meaningful discussions.
- Emotional. You share innermost feelings or form a spiritual connection.
- Sexual. You have a close sensual relationship.
“If you have a fear of intimacy, you may be deliberately avoiding intimacy or you may not realize you’re doing it”, stated Healthline, “Fear of intimacy doesn’t necessarily mean that you don’t want intimate relationships. You may long for intimacy, though you can’t seem to allow yourself that vulnerability”.
Vulnerability is what allows us to draw closer to people, what helps others see that we are both human, that we need each other, and that we are open to connection. Without this vulnerability, it is difficult to create any kind of relationship. Having no close relationships will leave us feeling isolated, and lonely, and probably lead to some mental health issues like depression.
To overcome the fear of intimacy Healthline wrote four suggestions and actions that you can work on. The first one is to become aware of your fear of intimacy. By realizing we have this fear, we can now start working on healing it.
The next action is to value yourself. Relationships can be scary but whatever happens in that relationship, it has nothing to do with your value as a person.
The third action is to communicate. Many times we hold things inside of us and cause ourselves resentment and anger when the other person doesn’t read our minds. I’m here to remind you that they can’t read your mind. You need to communicate.
Most of the time, people are accommodating and understanding if you communicate kindly and explain things to them.
The fourth suggestion is to seek professional help. Looking into ourselves can be scary but having someone who is trained in helping people work through their problems can be a big help.
4- Needing control (to control or be controlled)
Needing control often ties closely with a lack of trust and fear that things will get out of hand leaving you incapable of protecting yourself. If you are the one to control then you can dictate what happens and create a reality that no one can touch.
If you prefer to be controlled instead, whatever happens, can be pinned on the other person leaving you devoid of fault. Both of these scenarios are problematic. One because you truly cannot control the outside world, and two because by giving someone else controls you forfeit your freedom, will of choice, and use it as a way to escape any wrongdoing.
Control issues can be hard to overcome so it is strongly recommended that you seek a mental health professional to help you with this. I will leave you with a few thoughts to think over though.
The first one is that the only thing you can control is yourself and your reaction to the outside world. The second one is that you are a sovereign being. Even if you think that someone else can control you, it is only an illusion, you control yourself.
5- Being in unsatisfactory relationships
A person with an abandonment wound that isn’t healed will always attract unsatisfactory relationships. These relationships can be emotionally neglectful ones for the most part, but can also take a step into physical abuse.
To attract healthier relationships, you need to heal your fear or anxiety of being abandoned. It is not something that you can do in a day, it takes time. This is why this is best done with a mental health professional.
It is possible to become healthy and have healthy relationships in your life so don’t give up, instead keep going until you get there.
Was this list helpful? Would you add anything else? Let us know in the comments. Don’t forget to check out our YouTube channel for more about psychology and mental health.
Cherry, K. (2021, September 3). How to Stop Being a People-Pleaser. Verywell Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/how-to-stop-being-a-people-pleaser-5184412
Editorial Contributors. (2020, November 23). Abandonment Issues: Symptoms and Signs. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/abandonment-issues-symptoms-signs
Leonard, J. (2020, February 26). What to know about abandonment issues. Medical News Today. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/abandonment-issues#symptoms
Pietrangelo, A. (2019, January 10). Defining and Overcoming a Fear of Intimacy. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/fear-of-intimacy#treatment