Heal Abandonment Trauma & Fear of Abandonment
What Is Abandonment Trauma?
Abandonment trauma refers to the emotional and psychological response someone develops from experiencing severe physical or emotional neglect at any age. It can also develop from an instance of perceived or unintentional abandonment or a time when a person was threatened or left behind. While the effects of abandonment trauma can vary depending on the person, feelings of emotional pain and anxiety are typically associated with a strong fear of losing a loved one or a relationship ending.
Growing up with an emotionally detached parent, experiencing emotional abuse, or being left in a dangerous situation by a parent or caretaker can result in abandonment trauma. Not everyone will experience trauma similarly or develop traumatic stress in response. However, abandonment trauma can cause long-lasting distress and mental health issues without proper treatment.
Abandonment Trauma Symptoms
Abandonment trauma can cause various symptoms that negatively impact a person’s well-being, including:
- Extreme insecurity or anxiety within a relationship
- Debilitating self-esteem or feelings of inadequacy
- Obsessive or intrusive thoughts of being abandoned
- Inability to form healthy relationships and being distrustful of others
- Feeling depressed or helpless
Common Signs of Abandonment Issues
Abandonment trauma affects everyone differently, but there are a few behaviors that can strongly indicate a person struggles with being abandoned or neglected. Common signs of abandonment issues include:
- Clingy or codependent behavior: A person who fears being abandoned may give too much in a relationship, have a lack of boundaries, or become overly attached to the other person. These clingy behaviors are meant to keep the other person around, especially if they fear a relationship is about to end.
- Extreme jealousy: People with abandonment issues may exhibit manipulative or abusive behavior out of jealousy or fear their partner will leave them. For example, they may try to stop their partner from socializing with others.
- Sensitive to rejection: Individuals may be sensitive to any sign of rejection and find it difficult to trust their partner won’t leave them. Out of fear of abandonment, a person may reject their partner before the partner can reject them first.
- Avoidance of close relationships: Those who’ve been abandoned or neglected may form an insecure attachment style, making it difficult to establish and maintain healthy relationships. They may push their partner away or engage in other alienating behaviors to protect themselves, even though it’s harmful to the relationship.
Poor communication: Individuals with abandonment issues may use harmful or manipulative communication techniques to ease their own anxiety about a relationship. For example, they may display attention-seeking behaviors, such as acting as if they don’t care about a partner or the relationship to protect their own feelings.
How to Overcome Fear of Abandonment and Heal Abandonment Trauma
If fear of abandonment is significantly impacting a person’s life or relationships, professional support may be needed to overcome abandonment trauma symptoms. Therapy can be beneficial in helping individuals explore their experiences of being abandoned or neglected and develop healthy coping mechanisms to heal.
A therapist can help individuals build self-esteem and establish boundaries or positive communication methods to effectively form healthy relationships with others. Since symptoms and behaviors can vary depending on an individual’s unique experiences, there are several types of therapy available to help people overcome their fear of abandonment.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of talk therapy designed to help individuals change their behaviors by altering their negative thought patterns. This type of therapy stems from the belief that unhelpful or harmful ways of thinking and behaving can cause psychological distress. By changing those thoughts and behaviors, individuals can establish new habits that relieve mental health symptoms and encourage them to think and act more positively.
CBT can be helpful with separation anxiety, a condition where individuals become excessively anxious when separated from a partner or loved one. During CBT, people can learn how to better manage their fears surrounding separation or uncertainty and use these techniques to reduce symptoms of anxiety.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy
Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a type of CBT that teaches individuals how to develop healthier coping mechanisms to deal with stress and better regulate their emotions. It was originally developed to treat borderline personality disorder, a mental health disorder that severely impacts a person’s ability to regulate their emotions and form relationships with others.
DBT can be broken down into four categories, including mindfulness, distress tolerance, interpersonal effectiveness, and emotion regulation. Individuals with abandonment issues can use DBT to better identify and understand their self-destructive habits and learn how to develop healthier responses to stressful or triggering situations.
Trauma Focused Therapy
Trauma focused therapy can help individuals process traumatic experiences to better understand how the situation affects their thoughts and behaviors. People with abandonment trauma may not fully understand what happened to them or why they respond to certain situations the way they do. After being assessed by trained clinicians, individuals enter a treatment plan that includes trauma-specific group therapy and support groups to connect with others with similar experiences.
If someone is diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for their abandonment issues, PTSD treatment can help individuals process their experiences. Trauma-informed therapy can also be beneficial for individuals with a co-occurring substance abuse problem. Individuals suffering from PTSD are at a higher risk for developing a substance abuse disorder by using drugs or alcohol to deal with unpleasant symptoms. Trauma focused therapy can facilitate healing in a healthier way.
Holistic therapy is a type of treatment that focuses on the physical, mental, and spiritual well-being of individuals to treat the whole body rather than a single aspect. This stems from the belief that there’s no one-size-fits-all treatment option. Holistic therapy offers customizable healing options geared toward each individual and their unique experiences with abandonment trauma or other mental health issues.
For example, art therapy is a part of holistic rehab that can help people express their traumatic experiences and negative emotions through a creative outlet. By making art that delves into abstract feelings, such as anger, fear, and insecurity, individuals can find meaning in what they’ve created and approach their abandonment issues with a new perspective. Art therapy is proven to help with emotional healing, self-discovery, stress, and conflict resolution.
Learn More About Healing From Abandonment Trauma at Beachway Therapy Center
Dealing with untreated trauma can have a negative impact on an individual’s life, leading to mental health or substance abuse issues. Over time, these issues can cause problems in other life areas, such as work, school, or relationships. Fortunately, help is available, so no one has to go through this alone.
Beachway Therapy Center offers several programs designed to treat mental health disorders, addiction, or dual diagnoses. Individuals have access to personalized care from trained staff to help them overcome their mental health issues, including abandonment trauma, and learn coping strategies to facilitate a successful recovery. Contact us today to speak to an experienced counselor about our programs.