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People with a fear of abandonment often worry excessively that those they care for — even their closest loved ones — may one day leave them. These issues are common in those who were abandoned as children, or whose childhood caregivers were unavailable emotionally. While many people may experience some level of fear of relationship loss due to life changes or death, people with abandonment issues often develop a set of dysfunctional behaviors. These behaviors often serve only to alienate that person's friends and loved ones even more, so that the fear can sometimes become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Psychological therapy can often help those who fear abandonment overcome their issues and ultimately feel more secure in relationships.
Fear of abandonment can begin in childhood, when a parent or other caregiver literally abandons the child. Childhood neglect and abuse can also cause abandonment issues later in life, since abused and neglected children often struggle with feelings of loneliness and helplessness. Some people with such issues may never have been abandoned, abused, or neglected as children, but may fear being left due to emotional problems of a different nature, including personality disorders.
True fear of abandonment often doesn't set in until adulthood, when the person must live independently for the first time. When the fear begins, it can leave its victims terrified of being utterly rejected by friends and loved ones. Those with abandonment issues often feel certain that all of their close relationships are on the verge of dissolution, and that they themselves will be helpless to carry on all alone.
Those who are suffering from true abandonment issues often exhibit a specific set of psychological symptoms. They often scrutinize their relationships closely for signs that abandonment is imminent. These individuals might panic over even the slightest flaws, perceived or actual, in a loved one's behavior, such as not returning a phone call or being a few minutes late for a rendezvous. They often cling excessively to the person or relationship they fear losing, and may go to excessive lengths to please loved ones in an effort to prove that they are worthwhile and should not be rejected. They might threaten self-harm if the loved one ever leaves. A person who fears being abandoned by a romantic partner may jump from one short relationship to another in an effort to avoid being left by doing the leaving themselves.
The symptoms of abandonment issues can often make it difficult for those who suffer them to form strong relationships. Many behaviors serve only to drive loved ones away, rather than keep them close. Therapy can help those who suffer from fear of abandonment to understand the causes of their issues, and it can give them the tools necessary to overcome these emotional problems and achieve emotional independence.
Although it is not an official phobia, the fear of abandonment is arguably one of the most common and most damaging "phobias" of all. People with the fear of abandonment may tend to display compulsive behaviors and thought patterns that sabotage their relationships, ultimately leading to the dreaded abandonment. This fear can be devastating, but understanding it is the first step toward resolving it.
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