February 16, 2017

Fear of Abandonment: What Causes It? How Do You Overcome It?

Written by Rachel Eddins

woman scared of abandonment

Fear of abandonment is the constant feeling that someone significant in your life is going to leave you. To a certain extent, this is a normal feeling for a human being to have. But when the fear of abandonment is constant, and so severe that it affects other aspects of your life, it can make it hard to establish fulfilling and healthy relationships.

But what causes one to develop a fear of abandonment? If you suffer from these fears, what can you do to overcome it?

What Causes You to Develop Fear of Abandonment? 

Physical Abandonment

There are several things that can cause you to develop the fear of abandonment. One of them, for example, is if you were physically abandoned by your parent or guardian when you were young. This could very well lead to the feeling that it could happen again, at any time, with anybody you know. Parents can physically “leave” in a number of ways: death, divorce, debilitating illness, depression/trauma, or physically leaving the family. You may have left as well – being sent off to boarding school, to live with a grandparent or other forms of separation can also contribute to abandonment fears.

Further, fear of abandonment can keep you from developing healthy self-esteem. It has been shown that those with low self-esteem seek out those who reinforce those beliefs, keeping the cycle going. This is the most common source for these fears. It happens again! If this pattern rings true for you, relationship counseling can be a helpful way to identify your relationship and attachment patterns and heal fearful or unhealthy ones.

Emotional Abandonment

You can develop the fear of abandonment even if you didn’t have a parent physically leave you. They may not have provided you with a safe place, or physically or sexually abused you. Or perhaps they established a pattern of emotional neglect, or ridiculed you for not meeting their high standards. Perhaps you longed for connection, but received distance from your parents. If your parent didn’t establish a safe place for you to grow up (both physically and emotionally), this can lead to developing the fear of abandonment.

It isn’t only events in your childhood that can cause it. If you lose an intimate partner, whether to your first break up, divorce or to death, the fear of abandonment can develop in you as an adult. This is especially true if you greatly relied on this person or the relationship was significant to you.

So if you’ve already developed the fear, what can you do to overcome it?

What is your relationship attachment style? Take this quiz and find out.

How to Overcome the Fear of Abandonment

Many of those suffering from the fear of abandonment consider themselves weak. Instead of falling for this trap, give yourself some unconditional love. Revisit your own history to identify reasons you might feel this way and give yourself compassion for what you’ve experienced.

Fear of abandonment can create significant pain in your life, particularly in your interpersonal relationships. On the one hand, it can lead you to feel fearful of losing another person and cling more tightly. On the other hand, it can lead you to avoid the pain of loss by disconnecting from others or feeling that you “don’t need people” or can’t rely on them.

Overcoming abandonment fears is first about learning how to connect with your needs and provide emotional support and soothing for yourself. Do not expect your partner and/or loved ones to carry you the whole way. You can learn to develop some self-reliance or increase your ability to rely on others, and build your trust and confidence in yourself and others. When you lean so heavily on others that just the thought of losing them feels unbearable, you are walking a dangerous path. It is like a house that is built upon one support. The people living in that house would obviously fear anything happening to that support.

Instead, try to build strong relationships with multiple people. One person or partner cannot fulfill all your needs. Going back to the house example, this is like having several supports holding the house up. Sure, some of those supports may be larger than others. But if one of those supports goes away, the house will still stand.

You, like the house in the example, need the support of many to stand. Relying on one person too much is unhealthy for you. Not only that, it isn’t fair to them. Knowing that they are expected to be responsible for another’s well-being is added stress on their lives. If you love this person, you will not expect them to support your house by themselves.

Likewise, shouldering the burden of life on your own without the emotional support of others is too much to expect of yourself. You may have been hurt in the past, but you have survived.

Overcoming the fear of abandonment isn’t easy. Instead of relying on others for your needs, you first have to learn to connect with and trust yourself. If you are overly self-reliant, you may also need to learn to rely less on yourself and reach out for help more often. This is easier said than done, but if you can make the change, your life will be a lot healthier and more stable. The reward is greater safety, connection and intimacy in your relationships both with self and with others.

Overcoming Fears through Relationship Therapy

Relationship counseling can help you re-establish a secure attachment style. This means, feeling secure both within yourself and in relationship with others. Trusting yourself and feeling safe to be vulnerable with others can be a huge gift to yourself. It can help you ease the burden of shouldering responsibility alone and help you feel a sense of belonging and connection with others. We’d love to help. Contact us at 832-559-2622 or schedule an appointment online. 

Your attachment style influences how you react to your needs and how you go about getting them met. It impacts which partner you select and how your relationship progresses. This brief attachment style quiz will help you understand your own attachment pattern and what implications it might have for your relationships.

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