The Psychology Behind the Fear of Abandonment
Self Help

The Psychology Behind the Fear of Abandonment

a girl sitting in prison

In life, it’s really common to be fearful and anxious in relationships when things do not work as expected. Sometimes, in such situations, people’s past bad experiences and insecurities make the situation even more painful. But with time, people overcome their fears and insecurities and move ahead in life. This pattern of behaviour leads to growth in a person’s life and relationships. If dealt with correctly, each life challenge will make them a stronger person. But what if fear or insecurities become dominant in today’s behavior? It will definitely affect a person’s daily life. It becomes hard for a person to battle with it alone. The fear of abandonment is a complex psychological phenomenon rooted in various experiences and attachment patterns.

Sometimes people are unaware that what they are thinking or experiencing is unhealthy. They believe that this is something that happens to everyone. Have you ever seen movies in which the hero or heroine is not ready to be in a close relationship, commitment, or marriage because they fear that it will destroy the beauty of the relationship or that someone will leave them in the future? To avoid future pain, they intentionally push the partner to leave or end the relationship. The theme of the movie is based on a fear of abandonment. Let’s talk about it in detail and understand how it affects people’s behavior and how to overcome it.

Also Read: Revamp your love life

What is the fear of abandonment?

Fear of abandonment is about the fear of losing a person or relationship. Such fear can be caused by the death of a loved one, unmet needs, abuse, neglect, or the sudden end of religion. Fear of abandonment can ruin the relationship or not allow it to proceed in a healthy way. Because of this fear, a person gets easily offended and loses trust in their partner. The loss of life of a close one and relationship is a natural part of life, but for them, this idea is extremely frightening.

In the initial stage, this fear was not purposeful, but the reaction and attention this behavior gets leads to self-reinforcing behavior. Fear of abandonment is not considered a recognized phobia but a type of anxiety.

Symptoms of fear of abandonment:

  1. Attaching quicker, even with an unavailable partner, and Hypersensitive to criticism
  2. feel insecure, unworthy of love, and often unreasonable and jealously
  3. Pleasing behavior and Intense fear of separation anxiety
  4. Because of fear of being alone, continue the relationship even when they are not happy and pretend it is okay when it is not.
  5. Unhealthy relationship boundaries and Spiralling anxious thoughts.
  6. Fear of intimacy and Difficulty trusting their partners
  7. Frequent self-blame and needing constant reassurance
  8. Engaging in unwanted sex (more common in women) and Difficulty committing to a relationship
  9. Pushing people away to avoid future pain

Also Read: What is Schema Therapy?

A sign of fear of abandonment in children

  1. Panic: When they do not see their parents, they get panicky and overreact to the situation. In this situation, they can cry or exhibit tantrums.
  2. Fear of being alone: fear of being alone becomes so dominant that they don’t want their parents to be out of their sight. Even when they are sleeping, they want their parents to be with them. The inattentive presence of their parents also makes them feel comfortable.
  3. Separation Anxiety: When a child gets to know their parents are going anywhere or he has to go anywhere without them, such as school, they experience extreme anxiety. This fear will not allow them to be well-settled in school.

Risk factors for fear of abandonment:

1) Childhood Trauma:

The impact of early life experiences can hardly be removed from anyone’s life. A bad childhood can lead to a fear of abandonment. Trauma can be caused by death, divorce, parental infidelity, neglect, or abuse. Kids who were physically, emotionally, or sexually abused internalize the message that they are not lovable. Sometimes they choose a partner who mimics the hurtful treatment they received growing up.

2) Philophobia:

Bad past relationships are so painful for people that they avoid being in them in the future. The reason for this experience can be betrayal, any type of violence, harassment, abuse, or intense heartbreak. Fear of falling in love or not being emotionally connected to people is known as philophobia. Such people can have several shadow relationships but do not prefer to have a single intimate relationship out of fear of future pain. Hence, sometimes fear of abandonment can be because of this reason.

3) Insecure attachment style:

According to attachment theory, children’s future attendance style closely resembles the attachment style of their parents and primary caregivers (grandparents). When parents give constant attention and continue nurturing, this can lead to a needy and clingy style of relationship in the future. Whereas when a child is neglected or does not get proper care and support from their parents, such people in the future find it hard to trust or be co-dependent in relationships. They can have a fear of rejection, neglect, not being the priority, or betrayal.

Also Read: Impact of Hostile Parenting on Child’s Mental Health

4) Stress:

Very few parents talk about loss and the grieving process with their kids. Sometimes children and even adults get stuck in this process, and whenever they experience additional life stressors, their fear of abandonment becomes dominant. It’s really important to grieve when people experience any sort of loss. Accepting loss can make this fear easier to handle.

Tips to help someone with a fear of abandonment:

In a relationship, it is not easy to break it just because of the partner’s insecurity or fear, which is because of past experience. Relationships are about driving together when things do not go well and being the support system for their partner. When people become aware that they are going to be with someone who has a fear of abandonment, they can follow these tips to make things better:

1) Practice pause:

When past fears and insecurities come to the surface, it becomes very difficult to manage such situations, and a person can become very reactive. In this situation, conversation is very less likely to be productive and more likely to turn into an argument or fight. When people feel that their partners are in this state, it’s best to take a pause and live in the moment. This will allow the partner to settle down, and their conversion can start again. But before living, it’s important to tell them where they are going and when they will come. If they are not informed about these things, they can get panicked, and their emotional arousal can become even higher.

2) Being supportive of them and validating their fears:

It’s very important in relationships to have trust, and validation is necessary for building trust. People feel more secure when they can openly talk about their fears and insecurities about life. Validation of fear refers to acknowledging fear and the reason behind it without judging it. People get mature, but the child inside them still feels the pain with the same or even more intensity when the pain is not resolved. So let them feel that you understand them. This will help the relationship grow in a healthy direction.

3) Expressing feelings about how their fear makes them feel:

Being in a relationship means helping your partner while standing up for yourself. It can sometimes be overwhelming for the person to face constant fear of their partner. It’s okay to tell them how they are feeling and how sometimes it can be challenging for them to handle such situations.

Also Read: Enmeshment Trauma: Being Too Good Can Also Be a Bad Thing

What not to say to the person who fears abandonment:

  1. Everything happens for a reason.
  2. They were lucky. The situation can be worse.
  3. It’s ok. Don’t get attached to the past. Move on.
  4. Why are they making it a big deal out of nothing?
  5. Everyone has some pain in life. Accept what you have.
  6. They are misunderstanding the situation.

Psychological explanation of fear of abandonment:

1) Object Consistency:

Death, loss, neglect, and parental infidelity can lead to damage to a child’s object. Objective consistency is about feeling safe in a relationship even when the geographical distance is high or conflict occurs in the relationship. But because of part of this experience, a damaged person feels it is much more important to be with their partner all the time or to know everything about what their partner does. When their parents are out of sight, they have lots of negative thoughts. Hence, children with weak object consistency may develop irrational fear. People with strong object consistency know that significant relationships can’t be easily broken.

2) Archetypes and mythology:

In mythologies, stories are filled with stories of abandonment, where either parents abandoned children for their safety or to avoid social shame, or females who had devoted themselves to the hero are left behind when the hero leaves her to conquer the whole. According to Jung, these myths become part of the collective unconscious. Story-telling content gets internalized and unconsciously starts directing people’s minds and becoming an important part of their shared worldview. He also said that every person has their own personal myth, which they do not share with anyone, but which resides within the core of the person and guides their perception and worldview.

Also Read: Rejection Does Not Mean the End of Life

Treatment for fear of abandonment:

When fear of abandonment becomes so high that it starts affecting a person’s daily life and relationships, then it’s the right time to take professional help. Some suggestions are as follows:

1) Cognitive-behavioral therapy:

During this therapy process, the person gets to know about their irrational fear, how to rearrange painful memories, and how to form healthy relationships. In this process, unhealthy behavior will become less dominant. With constant sessions, fear of abandonment and anxiety are reduced.

2) Play therapy:

When kids experience fear of abandonment, play therapy can work for them. In this process, the therapist allows the child to share their hidden fear with the help of insightful and engaging game activities. A safer environment created by the therapist made the child feel comfortable, and he discussed the concern openly. When assurance is provided and a support system is available, a child overcomes this fear with practice.

3) Attachment-based therapy:

In this therapy, the attachment style is the center of the entire session. The client and therapist talk about their unhealthy and insecure attachment style and work together to build a healthier style to live a healthy relationship in the future.

4) Behavioural Therapy:

In this therapy, maladaptive behavior patterns are addressed and replaced with more productive behavior patterns. In this whole procedure, the person works on their fear and how to handle it.

We all face challenges in this life, and helping and uplifting each other is the ultimate solution to this problem. So wherever people get to know about anyone’s insecurities, they should respect them and help them overcome them.

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