Fear of Abandonment

fear of abandonmentMany people grow up with fears around abandonment. Some are plagued by these fears pretty consistently throughout their lives. They worry they’ll be rejected by peers, partners, schools, companies, or entire social circles. For many others, these fears aren’t fully realized until they enter into a romantic relationship. Things will be going along smoothly, and all of a sudden, they feel inundated with insecurity and dread that their partner will distance themselves, ignore, or leave them. Everyone experiences this fear at different levels. Most of us can relate to having heightened anxiety over thoughts of rejection. We may be set off by anything from an aloof first date to a longtime partner seeming distracted and unavailable. In extreme cases, people may struggle with “autophobia,” an overwhelming fear of being alone or isolated, in which they perceive themselves as being ignored, or uncared for even when they’re with another person. They may also experience a fear of abandonment phobia, which is characterized by extreme dependency on others, and is commonly seen among individuals diagnosed with Borderline Personality disorders.

The degree to which a person is faced with this fear can shape how they live their lives and experience their relationships. However, there are effective ways for people to develop more security within themselves and overcome their fear of abandonment. They can start by understanding where this fear comes from. How and why does it develop? How does it affect me in my current life? What are strategies for dealing with the anxiety that arises? How can I develop more resilience and experience less fear around relationships?

Where does fear of abandonment come from?

As children, people may experience real losses, rejections, or traumas that cause them to feel insecure and distrusting of the world. These losses and traumas can be dramatic, like the death of a loved one, neglect, or emotional and physical abuse. However, they can also occur at a much subtler level, in everyday interactions between parents and children. In order to feel secure, children have to feel safe, seen, and soothed when they’re upset. However, it’s been said that even the best of parents are only fully attuned to their children around 30 percent of the time. Exploring their early attachment patterns can offer individuals’ insight into their fears around abandonment and rejection. Understanding how their parents related to them and whether they experienced a secure attachment versus an insecure one, can give people clues into how they view relationships in the present.

Secure attachments form when caretakers are consistently available and attuned to a child’s needs. However, ruptures in these early relationships can lead children to form insecure attachments. From infancy, people learn to behave in ways that will best get their needs met by their parents or caretakers. A parent who may at one moment be present and meeting the child’s needs, then at another moment be entirely unavailable and rejecting or, on the opposite end, intrusive and “emotionally hungry” can lead the child to form an ambivalent/ anxious attachment pattern. Children who experience this type of attachment tend to feel insecure. They may cling to the parent in an effort to get their needs met. However, they may also struggle to feel soothed by the parent. They are often anxious and unsure in relation to the parent, who is erratic in their behavior, sometimes available and loving, and other times, rejecting or intrusive in ways that frustrate the child.

How early attachment patterns and fears of abandonment affect us in adulthood

A person’s early attachment history acts as an internal working model for how he or she expects relationships to work. As a result, people may carry their childhood insecurities and expectations for how others will behave into their adult relationships. Children who experience an ambivalent attachment pattern may grow to have a preoccupied attachment pattern as adults, in which they continue to feel insecure in their relationships. They “often feel desperate and assume the role of the “pursuer” in a relationship,” wrote Joyce Catlett, co-author of Compassionate Child Rearing. “They rely heavily on their partner to validate their self-worth. Because they grew up insecure based on the inconsistent availability of their caregivers, they are “rejection-sensitive.” They anticipate rejection or abandonment and look for signs that their partner is losing interest.”

Adults who experience a fear of abandonment may struggle with a preoccupied attachment style. They frequently anticipate rejection and search for signs of disinterest from their partner. They may feel triggered by even subtle or imagined signs of rejection from their partner based on the real rejections they experienced in their childhood. As a result, they may act possessive, controlling, jealous, or clingy toward their partner. They may often seek reassurance or display distrust. “However, their excessive dependency, demands and possessiveness tend to backfire and precipitate the very abandonment that they fear,” wrote Catlett. She describes how some people who have a fear of abandonment behave in ways that are punishing, resentful, and angry when their partner doesn’t give them the attention and reassurance they believe they need to feel secure. “They often believe that unless they dramatically express their anxiety and anger, it is unlikely that the other person will respond to them,” wrote Catlett. However, some people with preoccupied attachments are more “reluctant to express their angry feelings toward a partner for fear of potential loss or rejection.” This can lead them to suppress their feelings, which can cause them to build up, and, eventually, spill out in outbursts of strong emotion. Whether, they’re repressing or conveying their strong emotions, these individuals are being triggered in the present based on events from their past. Therefore, resolving these emotions is key to feeling stronger in themselves and experiencing healthier relationships.

A person’s early attachment style can also affect his or her partner selection. People often choose partners who fit with patterns from their past. For example, if they felt ignored as children, they may choose a partner who is self-centered or distant. People are rarely aware of this process, but they may feel an extra attraction to a person who reminds them of someone from their past. Or they may find ways to recreate the emotional climate of their childhood. People who are afraid of being abandoned often not only select partners who are less available, but they may also distort their partners, believing them to be more rejecting then they are. Finally, they sometimes even provoke the other person in ways that influence their partner to pull back and create more distance. Catching on to these patterns, which Drs. Robert and Lisa Firestone call “selection, distortion, and provocation” can help people who have a fear of abandonment make better choices that can help them create more security.

How can we overcome fear of abandonment and change our attachment patterns?

Fortunately, a person’s style of attachment is not fixed. We can develop earned secure attachment as adults in several ways. As Dr. Lisa Firestone, who recently co-taught the online course Making Sense of Your Life: Understanding Your Past to Liberate Your Present and Empower Your Future with Dr. Daniel Siegel, has said, “What’s broken in a relationship can often be fixed in a relationship.” What she means by this is not that a person’s current partner can be expected to fill the voids or heal all wounds from one’s childhood, but that experiencing a secure attachment can offer someone a new model for relationships and how people behave in them. If a person is able to form a relationship with someone who has a long history of being securely attached, that person can learn that he or she doesn’t have to desperately cling to a person to get his or her needs met. Another way for individuals to develop more security within themselves is through therapy. Experiencing a secure relationship with a therapist can help a person form earned secure attachment.

Attachment research has further shown that it’s not just what happens to people in childhood that affects their adult relationships; it’s how much they make sense of and feel the full pain of what happened to them. As human beings, we are not helpless victims of our past, but we do need to face our past in order to create a better future. One of the most effective ways for a person to develop secure attachment is by making sense of his or her story. Dr. Daniel Siegel talks about the importance of creating a coherent narrative in helping individuals feel more secure and strengthened within themselves. When people make sense of and convey their story, they get to know their patterns and triggers, and they aren’t as instinctively reactive in a relationship – be it with a romantic partner or with their children. When people make sense of their past, they may be less likely to feel such intense, knee-jerk fear of abandonment. However, even when they do feel fear, they are far better able to calm themselves down. They can identify where their fear comes from and where it belongs, and they can take actions that are more rational and appropriate to the reality of their present lives. They can enhance and strengthen their relationships rather reacting with fear and insecurity and creating the distance they so fear.

Strategies to calm down when you experience fear of abandonment

Every one of us has fears about being left alone. Most of us struggle with some fundamental feelings that we are unlovable or won’t be accepted for who we are. We all have a “critical inner voice,” a negative internal dialogue that chronically criticizes us or gives us bad advice. This ‘voice’ often perpetuates our fear of abandonment: “He’s gonna leave you,” it warns. “She’s probably cheating,” it cries. Because we all have “voices” and alarms that are set off when we feel triggered, it’s helpful to have tools and strategies to calm ourselves down when we notice our fears amp up. One useful resource is this toolkit to help people cope with anxiety, which lists exercises and practices that are beneficial for anyone to utilize when they feel stirred up.

Another general practice to adopt is that of self-compassion. Researcher Dr. Kristin Neff has done studies, revealing countless benefits of self-compassion. Enhancing self-compassion is actually favorable to building self-esteem, because self-compassion doesn’t focus as much on judgment and evaluation. Rather, it involves three main elements:

  1. Self-kindness: This refers to the idea that people should be kind, as opposed to judgmental, toward themselves. This sounds simple in theory but is much more difficult in practice. The more people can have a warm, accepting attitude toward themselves and their struggles, the stronger they’ll feel in the face of difficult circumstances. We can all be a better friend to ourselves, even if we feel hurt or abandoned by someone else. 
  1. Mindfulness: Being mindful is helpful, because it helps people not to over-identify with their thoughts and feelings in ways that allow them to get carried away. When people feel afraid of something like being abandoned, they tend to have a lot of mean thoughts toward themselves perpetuating this fear. Imagine if you could acknowledge these thoughts and feelings without letting them overtake you. Could you take a gentler attitude toward yourself and let these thoughts pass like clouds in the sky instead of floating off with them – without losing your sense of yourself and, often, reality? 
  1. Common humanity: The more each of us can accept that we are human and, like all humans, we will struggle in our lives, the more self-compassion and strength we can cultivate. If individuals can consistently remember that they are not alone and that they are worthy, they can help themselves avoid believing those cruel and incorrect messages, telling them that they will be abandoned or that they’re unwanted.

Moving on from fear of abandonment

Fear of abandonment can feel very real and very painful, but if people can practice self-compassion, they are more likely to get through those times when they’re triggered. The more individuals can trace these feelings to their roots in their past, the more they can separate these experiences from the present. It takes courage for someone to be willing to see what hurt them and face the primal feelings of abandonment they may have had as children when they had no control over their situation. However, when people are able to face these feelings, they can essentially set themselves free from many of the chains of their past. They can become differentiated adults, who are able to create new stories and new relationships in which they feel safe, seen, soothed, and therefore, secure.

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About the Author

Carolyn Joyce Carolyn Joyce joined PsychAlive in 2009, after receiving her M.A. in journalism from the University of Southern California. Her interest in psychology led her to pursue writing in the field of mental health education and awareness. Carolyn's training in multimedia reporting has helped support and expand PsychAlive's efforts to provide free articles, videos, podcasts, and Webinars to the public. She now works as an editor for PsychAlive and a communications specialist at The Glendon Association, the non-profit mental health research organization that produced PsychAlive.

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As a child, I wanted and expected that my mother would be a buddy who would “show me the ropes”, i.e., coach me in the ways of the world, help me figure out what my gifts, obligations, strong traits and weaknesses were so that I could be at ease in the world, or at least not make a fool of myself. I developed fear and anger when my wish to be like her was ignored. She was a solo act and even though I wanted to dress like her and feel secure, as she seemed to feel, in public, and to enjoy and be comfortable in other people’s company, she would elbow me out with a look or a nudge that I had learned to read accurately as “Who are you kidding?”. I was often the butt of jokes by her or her friends, in situations in which she would mildly protest while enjoying the joke that I was never “in on”, as I so wished to be. She often said she didn’t know how to proceed in situations that I knew would be solved with a phone call that she just didn’t feel like making, or even just a good guess backed by support no matter how it turned out. Once, my parents drove back home from a relative’s garden party without realizing they had left me there. My aunt had to call them, while I waited near the driveway so they wouldn’t have to get out of the car and pick me up at the house. I wanted to die of embarrassment as the car arrived with laughing people but no apology. I learned to not trust her, felt my father was weak against her, felt stupid or foolish for most of my life and felt “outside” all the time. Eventually, I found that I could stumble through the world, sweating profusely, worried about my imagined ugly features, feeling terribly insecure, but if I kept at it, I could attempt to achieve some of my goals, because I was alone in the world and I had to. I had a fairly good career but two unsuccessful marriages, partly because, as this article suggests, I chose people who were distant and selfish to some extent, not feeling worthy to choose a person who would love and support me emotionally, and toughed it out despite loneliness, frustration and the bewilderment that inevitably came. Always trying to “make him love me” over time, I chose austere mates who couldn’t really love anybody. I know now that it was likely because I experienced in childhood the same treatment. To this day, and I am 66 years old, I relate to broken people, outsiders and shy children moreso than the so-called normals. Part of my life was spent teaching, and you can bet the behavior of the adults in my early years informed me as to how NOT to teach, just as the fine, intelligent people I was privileged to meet later on glowed in my mind and methods in the classroom. Teaching helped me to replace some of the stupidity I experienced, with success and compassion, since I was determined that no child would struggle as I had with self-esteem and feelings of worthlessness and humiliation. I am still working on leaving the anger and disappointment of a childhood behind, but I think I will be more successful if I just consciously try to choose opportunities for happier times in the future that remains.


Thank you for sharing Christine. I can relate to you, I’m 45 and struggled very much with the effects of my past, up to today. Lost my mom when I was 4 and my father either ignored or attacked me all the time, it was a constant fear of being seen, just wanting to be invisible. God bless your heart. Simone.

Yvonne R.

Yes, I can also relate to your experience. I lived with my mother till she died when I was 12. I went to live with a father I barely knew. My father had remarried and both of them were extremely abusive and either ignored me or constantly attacked me. There was not the insult of constant laughter, but every day there was sullen rage, threats, insults and distain.


Personally I don’t know what is wrong with I have a tendency of always telling lies to get attention to the people I love


Thank you so much for sharing! I can relate so much to your story and wish that I could have been one of your students. Not all teachers share your compassion.


I have had some of the same experiences as Christine and can relate to her feelings. I severed ties to my parents 20 years ago because I realized that I didn’t matter much to them. I am only now aware of how much that abuse has affected my relationships. Thank you for sharing your story.


My mother left me for my grandparents to raise.They were poor and didn’t have much money and had 3 more mouths to feed.They did the best they could though and I thank God for them.I married young and divorced young,figured I better leave him before he leaves me.I actually remember saying those very words to myself . Hmmm,do you think I have issues? August 5,2017


I have been working through these childhood triggers & filters so I am so thankful to have found this article. Even though my dad and I really didn’t have much of a relationship after I was the age of 3, I never thought I had issues from it because I had true love & compassion for him. Growing up with a relationship with God, an old soul, & a natural wisdom- I understood the circumstances and how life happens sometimes, especially knowing my mom’s personality and his personality. Of course I forgave him for the hurt but let’s say I didn’t take it personal. How could I? He didn’t really know me. The past 3-5 years I have been taken on a journey from HELL just to finally realize that I live as a prisoner to my life filter “fear(illusion) of loss” and right when I think I am trekking along fine here comes the trigger flush to stop me in my tracks the sudden “fear of abandonment”. What I call “filter” is the tint (fear of loss) in which I live my life. I think it comes from my attachment to my mom from a young age. As you could guess, she was a single mom & has always been my best friend. Being served emotional/financial chaos was a norm in my childhood. My childhood was an extreme of love & free spirited adventure vibes with my best friend/mom or feeling extreme anxiety & misery watching the clock until she said she was off work. Sometimes making my presence to daycare owners, intolerable. She was the best mom but my perception sometimes was that I was 2nd important or the truth was being stretched to covers ones desire to do something without me. Maybe this subconsciously stems from my dad as well? She is extremely loving with a huge generous heart but she has also been accused of being in her own world. Momentary lapses of emotional distance. In a way I think that helped protect her. The way that is negativity damaging my present life though is my inability to LET GO. I hold on & I hold on tight. I am extremely nostalgic & romanticize the past. It’s the only constant. Being burned deeply by heart breaking regret in my adult life has only cemented this crutch in my life. What I refer to as the “trigger” fear(illusion) of abandonment is only applicable in my romantic relationships. Before I can even recognize it something alerts the red flag of possible “abandonment” “betrayal” and because of this I’ve attracted these situations into my adult life (which doesn’t really go in the direction we’re heading here!). I think it is only triggered within romantic relationships is because my mom has always been the epitome of loyal. She is the rock. Though this isn’t like my filter that doesn’t mean it is exclusive from that. Both of these things are interwoven. My mom said that I would go outside and yell for my dad as a little 3 year old & it would break her heart. Little did she know that the job he left for would turn sour & life would keep them separated indefinitely. I didn’t get the chance to ever see my dad again. I found his obituary when I was searching for addressed to invite him to my wedding (to the husband who eventually & is currently ghosting me different story). But because of my filter of attachment (hey good name) because of my relationship with my mom- the fear of abandonment becomes something that keeps me in relationships &/or attached to people because once they’re gone… they are gone. As we know until we deal with it- my husband I ultimately pushed into this (I almost hypnotically veered way independently almost leaving emotionally before I was left?)- has now ghosted me for 2.5 years, fell into his prescribed soil & another woman made him a father. Thank you Facebook for this information. While I brokenly fell into a relationship with someone who is emotionally distant as a human due to his social fears/fear of entrapment. Why hello 3rd trigger! Now I am trying to heal these things so I can leave a relationship that is out of alignment & live a LIFE FREE FROM ATTACHMENT!!! FREE TO THE FORCE OF TRUE LOVE! Should I just interrupt the feelings as soon as they arrive with affirmations of truth, pray, feel good, change the narrative until my brain rewires (unending process but you know)? Anything I am missing? God & prayers of course. Any wisdom from anyone is like sweet honey! I want to change my story.


I’m 30 years old and just found out that my story is the same my parents divorced when I was 7 and my dad died 4 years later he was very good to me and loved me but he was not around due to the divorce. I attach or hurry to attach to people because I want to feel secure fast as possible because of the pain in my chest and the fear which is the reason that drives them away (needy man is a major turn off for women) I noticed I have fear of abandonment only in romantic relationships and I have pushed people away with it all my life, after my last romantic relationship I found out there is something wrong with me
and it was the anxiety of being left alone it self that pushed people away…
its like you are depending on another person (like when you are a child) to make you feel safe and loved and now that I figured it out I’m on a journey to learn meditation which can calm your mind help you with self acceptance self esteem self worth self-love it helps to calm your emotions and so many other positive traits about controlling your emotions and fears, so that is my advice to everyone learn the ways of meditation learn to self-love forgive yourself for the past accept yourselves and be proud of who you are that’s the only way to be happy other people can’t do that for us.. and that pushes them away because we look week and dependent on their love and acceptance just like a child in adult’s body searching for the love of the parents


Im 23, although Im young and have not gone through as tough times as those in these comments and have not left the death of a parent. Ive always been the butt of the joke with my friends, my boyfriend and my family. I never felt like I had a place I could go without being made fun of, ignored or ditched. I develeped sever depression at a young age but didnt learn what it was I was feeling until I met my boyfriend. He suffered with it more then I. Within 2 years I learned if I continued to llive like this I would die early by my own hands and that terrified me enough to seek counciling. Although my couciler and I focused on my depresseion and my relationships with others we only glimsed at the idea that I needed acceptance from others. Its not until now that I realize I have a fear of abandonment and after reading this article I plan on seeking a therapist again to solve this constant stream of anxiety and depression. I realize that my 6 year relationship with my boyfriend, who is extremely independant and self assured, have issues because of my clingyness and lack of reasurance that I am loved and will continue to be. The struggle is real. If I didnt constantly examine how people preseve me in hopes to make all accept me. Id probibly have blue hair, a tattoo, have a girlfriend and have a successful att career going for me. But I have brown hair, non inked skin, average wordrobe, no art career and a struggling relationship with my boyfriend, a constant fear with losing my friends, and complete and utter fear of voicing my bisexuality.

Its time for a change I think. How about you?


Julie, i relate to your story so much! i was also always the butt of the joke to my family and friends, am nervous about my own bisexuality, and I also think I would have blue hair if i was more confident. My boyfriend of 2 years recently broke up with me because he blamed me for his own abandonment issues. I’m having trouble finding friends I trust and confiding in anyone because i’m in my own way. Just want you to know you’re not alone, we’re on this journey together, and everything will work out great 🙂

Lucy Tebbutt

Hi my mother left me at 9 years of age to be bright up by my wonderful grandparents. I have struggled to cope with the fear of my partner leaving me or cheating on me . Not feeling secure in a relationship fearing the moment of are they going to leave me not love me as I hope they say they do.

Mary smith

my mother left at young age and my father busy with his own priorities…over the years ive pushed people away scared of commitment accuse a guy im dating of seeing other woman …..I just cant seem to get over the fear of abandonment and very bitter to both my so called parents


Hello…im having this issue more than usual. At least recently it’s been pretty worse than what it usually is. I have been dating this great guy for over a year. I’ve known him since high school. I’m 33yrs old now so it was quite some time ago lol
We crossed paths and we began to date. We do a lot together. We stay active and try new things together and we are always looking for a new adventure to share together. We both love similar things and are both very open to trying new things as well. He’s pretty much my best friend. We get sling very well and are extremely happy. Except recently. He is aware of my past. I haven’t exactly dated saints and have pretty much always been hurt and cheated on. A few times I put myself through staying in the relationship even after the cheating and lying.
It was about a year since I had last dated before I met my now boyfriend. And he’s truly great. I have 2 kids and he doesn’t have any. He treats my kids so well and he’s very supportive and tries to understand as much to his capabilities with some issues I have.
Like I said I didn’t exactly date saints. Most days I’m fine, but lately I have just had this huge anxiety of getting hurt. And I know my bf wouldn’t do anything like what others have to hurt me but that fear is still there.
I have been damaged repeatedly by the same type of people, over and over again. That I honestly expect him to hurt me the same way. Even though he doesn’t give me reason to. It’s a thick steel wall guard. I don’t behave this way on purpose. I would love nothing more than to not have these random episodes where I feel anxious and just freak out because something triggers some bad memory or experience. That I wish that I wouldn’t have these fears of getting hurt and just feeling not good enough. I want nothing more than to be able to just fall into his arms with complete trust that he is who he seems to be and I can be perfectly happy and safe in a relationship with him
….. but my own experiences have taught me otherwise over and over again. And that’s what makes me paranoid and act the way I do. Fear. I’ve been betrayed so many times. That I’m always thinking of what if’s and recently it’s teally taken a huge toll on our relationship.
He says he isn’t giving up but it’s really unfair to him when he isn’t anything like them. And I know this. I know he isn’t like them and I know it isn’t fair to my boyfriend to be going through this.
I just always have this fear that he will find better and I’m not good enough.

Any advice on how to stop thinking this way? On how to cope with it or just deal with it?


I’m dealing with this same issue right now. Looking online for ways to cope/help, found this very helpful article cause I’m feeling like I’m going crazy.

My boyfriend gives me no reason AT ALL for me to suspect he’s cheating. But I’ve been so damaged from past relationships , that as soon as the words were said to me “ I love you” the fear set in almost instantly and I’m investing so much time looking for signs that he’s detaching from me because he probably has someone else.

I’m hoping you guys made it through.


You could find a Hypnotherapist to help you resolve the underlying beliefs (notice both words have “lie” in them) and disconnect the associations stuck in your blind spots. Then you’d be free to receive love without the fear of being abandoned.


It’s kind of weird how similar our stories are. I have been dating this guy for over a year. We knew eachother several years ago and reconnected and started dating. I have 3 kids and he has none. He is loving and supportive. He has his own issues, but he has never given me any reason to believe that he will hurt me like other men have hurt me. I do the same things you describe. I am afraid that he will find better. I’m afraid I am as unworthy, unattractive and unlovable as I have been told I am and shown I am in the past. I plan to find a therapist tomorrow for myself and him individually and together. Cognitive behavioral therapy is what you and I need, rflo. We need to feel secure and comfortable in ourselves in order to ever feel secure and comfortable with our amazing boyfriends. I wish you and your children the very best life has to offer. I truly hope you find the security and happiness you deserve. Thank you for sharing. I cried reading your post because it made me feel less alone. It’s weird how looking at your situation made me want to tell you that you are strong and beautiful and deserve to be loved, but despite the ways I can relate, I don’t ever want to tell myself those things. I hope you find that compassion for yourself. I hope I can find it for myself, too.


I’m sorry…I wasn’t aware I was the only one making comments whether short or long.
Hit the comment button not reply in anyone else’s comment.

How unkind of you making SUCH a thoughtful comment! I applaud you


Thank you for these stories and this site. It helps to feel like I’m not alone.
Becomeing more aware of abandonment issues helps but it also makes them hurt more. ..More aware: I am the oldest of 4 ( my mom recently told me I was a mistake and she really didn’t want children at that time, that I kept her from having a career, but since she was then pregnant might as well start family, I never felt accepted by parents mom is a bit of a cold narcissist dad was warm but a partied. Thank god for the acceptance of my grandparents when I saw them. I am in my 50’s now. I feel overwhelmed when I like someone even though I just would be happy to be friends with him due to his marriage. Just seems like someone I can let my walls down with, But I always always choose unavailable people. I took a chance last husband ( have two great teenage girls) and he ended up being controlling and emotionally anusive to all of us. Still remain civil and as friendly as possible.
My first love relationship in high school he had alcohol issues like myself. We got along so well then he basically drooped our if school , abandoned me and then continued a destructive cycle and died in a car accident 3 months later. So I do have abandonment issues! I then continued drinking my life until I quit at 28. Which was a Blessing.
After that, I continued to Like another unavailable maniac. And then met the now ex-husband. Who I wish the best for him but he has no control over emotions. Seems to have some mental health issue.
I relate to emotionally wrecked people because that is where I am at, but when it is not about relations with others- I am very courageous and confident. Even now with relations I am a mess but, but I am much better than I was. Have had therapy to talk about my mother and my father.
But Today I also realized I keep friends away too , pretty much. So I am feeling very lonely Trust and worth issues. Never felt worthy grew up as a loner… so I am feeling this all today. My best friend is my oldest daughter but she needs her space and is going to college next year. ( the other has a social group of friends)
Having this forum to verbalize it now helps.
So this new friend , he is also sober and a actual nice person, or seems like so, and of course I come on so strong – I am just craving connection. Even if just as friends
When I like someone ( which evidently turns into stalking until I scare them away) I become an emotional mess; yet ..
when there isn’t anybody that I like and I am just living life between ‘crushes’.
(And then I am not in that fragile space of wanting this intimacy that I never really had but I seem to want it )
– when I don’t like anyone, ( which is a stage that can last for years) I am less emotionally insecure, it is just when the want for a relationship ‘ shows it’s head and life get overwhelming. Yet ** I don’t want to stay way from love anymore either. Probably just need more healing time now that I am more aware of abandonment theory.
Sorry to go on and on, but I definitely relate to these feelings. Thanks for listening.


I was put in a boarding school at the age of 5 for 13 years till age of 18. I was highly sensitive kid and quiet nature. I still remember my first day in boarding school. The image is imprinted vividly on
my mind. I can recreate the feelings too. That was the day it broke me and I have never been the same since. I missed home everyday and even when I was at home for vacation, I used to count the days left to go to school. I used all sorts of coping mechanism (subconsciously) to survive in that system. After many years it was all resurfacing and whenever I got close to a girl, I developed obsession and neediness. This happened to me twice before I realized that something was seriously wrong with me. With the third girl, I maintained my distance but it felt very artificial because I was not acting naturally. This time, even knowing what was wrong with me and trying to prevent neediness, I gave in when the pressure was cranked a little. I was only fixing the symptoms of my abandonment. This is when I realized that I need to face the real wound.


I can definitely identify with abandonment issues also. I was born into a dissolving marriage. I never knew my father at all. He left and that was it. My mother was not the warm supporting type. I’ve always had trouble fitting in, even now. My teaching jobs were very difficult and straining for me. I wish I had had a successful career. It’s been a rather difficult life. I have had 4 good sustaining family relationships in my life. Friends have come and gone. Even relatives move away. It’s really hard to have a feeling of security in this world except to trust solely in God. That keeps me steady. Without Jesus I would be totally lost. Prayer, reading the Bible, going to Church, praying the rosary, gratefulness to God for what blessings He has given me, that is what grounds me. He will not abandon us if we turn to him.

April Prescott

Hello Trish, we have similar stories, thank you for sharing for it helps that someone else would understand. Your love for Jesus is beautiful and comforting. Best wishes, April.

Kathy Pacella

I am 70 and I am so insecure and it has cost me a lot lost a good Husband and now my children don’t trust me my worst fears have manifested in my life it so terrified me Thank You for your article


I am 67 years old. Still married to a man with a lot of issues. My Father and I had a great relationship. My Mother and I did not. She I believe always had wanted a son. She lived for TV Books and prescription drugs. She was very beautiful in her youth and never stopped talking about it. I looked like my Dad and she pounded me with that fact everyday. Why couldn’t you look like me. She terrorized me with books she read about ghost stories when I was very young and made fun of me when I got scared. I have a large nose and she did not want to spend money to fix it so she told me horrible things that made me fear wanting to have something done as I got older. When I was a baby she had a nanny because she did not want to take care of me claiming she was ill. She new I was made fun of at school and went in there screaming which made it worse so I started to lie and told her everything was ok. Soooo I had no friends at school no Mom and I was an only child and she would if she could not let me have any neighborhood kids over claiming she did not like them. I did have my Dad. I married young also had one son which she worshipped and tried to turn him against me. My husband was an alcoholic and still is working on being a better person. So yes I have abandonment issues. I am a very successful businesswoman.
My Mother died when I was 38 years old and I tried never to disrespect her. She died of lymphoma. My Father and I had a great relationship for the most part. I really loved him. Although when Mom was around it could get tough.
I wish I could not feel so desperate at times when I feel challenges to my near little world of people. Close friends husband son, long story he married a girl just like my mother. She estranged us for a long time but we talk everyday now. We also have 2 beautiful twin granddaughter. I guess it never leaves us. But I found if we try to be kind, kindness returns. I love helping people. I may not be gorgeous, but somehow someway I have a good heart and I think that trumps a lot of the toxic. Just wish I could control the bad days better. Good Luck to all of you life is not easy but its worth it.

Bibiana Heath

Was researching today on Fear and abandonment and found this site and just reading it I found somewhere I finally fit…I am 49 years old and have so much internal anger and fear I don’t know where to turn anymore. My parents were constantly fighting when I was young, watched my father beat my mother drag her down the hallway, he used to kick the doors in when he got home. I lived in constant fear of him. When I was 13 I was asleep in my room and he walked into my room and knelt down by my bed drunk and just stayed there staring at me I could smell the alcohol on him and I kept saying its me what are doing…then all of he sudden he got up and walked out and I ran to my moms room (they were divorced by then and we lived in the same house but they were in different rooms go figure) and after that day its been a long road of abandonment issues, fear of men, and the mentality the I am getting out of this relationship before you leave. I had two children (never married) both girls and when my oldest was 18 she left abruptly to go with then Husband, devastated me, then my youngest at 18 left abruptly the same thing and I was destroyed I felt alone. My oldest daughter gave birth to a son and when I saw him I feel in love, I was so drawn to him the 1st boy in our family, in the beginning she was so close to him but as he got older and his looks changed to resemble his father her attitude towards him changed and I was always picking him up every weekend just to see him. Eventually she got a new boyfriend who didn’t like my grandson so I stepped in to help her watch him again didn’t want to be alone. I have had him living with me since he was two years old, he is now 7 going on 8 and now he tells me he wants to go and live with his mom and when he said that I couldn’t help but take it personally. I watched him, taken him to school, did everything I could to make him happy and not feel that he wasn’t enough for his mom to take care of him and now he wants to go home. I know that he doesn’t do it out of spite but maybe he feels rejected by her and wants her love but I can’t help but be selfish for my own feelings of being alone again. I fear the feeling of just now that I am older I don’t know how to be alone, I had my children at 18 and now that I am 49 just unsure of how to step back now and let her take over, not sure she wants to either. Not sure where to turn now.


I have the opposite problem.. my husband and I got married way to fast and I didn’t know all about his past or his childhood trauma. Plus he war veteran. So he’s been thru a lot of trauma. He told me he is taking his meds and going to therapy. We were very happy or I seem to believe so. He was the perfect husband. He had a major shoulder replacement surgery and took two months off work.. so he would drive me to work and pick me up.. which is great.. but a month ago something trigger his ptsd, partly me, covid-19 or being off work. He got upset and pack all of his stuff and left me. He suddenly became a different person I don’t know. Withdrawn, cold and distance. He just went to a new therapist and she said he has abandonment trauma which stem from his mom giving him, his brother and sisters up for foster care. He went from relationship to relationship and they all cheated on him or use him. Until he met me, and we were happy.. but now I don’t know.. I love him so much and I am trying to be understanding and show him I’m here to help anyway I can. He told me to go live my life while he figured his out and hopefully he can find his way back to me. He said I can’t help him right now, he has to do this on his own. I just don’t know what to do..


I am married to a 56 yo adopted man. We have struggled all of our marriage (35+ years) with his fear of abandonment. Any time I chose to spend time more than a few hours with friends or family he shuts down. Sometimes he becomes cold, sometimes angry and he always sees me as “choosing” the other party over him. I love him very much and he is at most times a wonderful husband and father whom I would NEVER leave. But he has tried his darndest to push me away I think just to prove his fears of abandonment are valid.
Right now I am at our daughter and son in laws home helping out after the birth of their second child. After day four (scheduled to be here six days) he was angry that I was gone and stopped taking my phone calls/texts. It is so very painful to feel that he is making me choose between our child and himself. I know he loves her, loves his grandchildren and wants me to help out but he still feels abandoned and needs to punish someone for that.
I really don’t expect anyone to give me advice or any suggestions. I just needed to vent in a place where someone would understand my husband is not a bad person he just a grown man with a very hurt little boy still living inside him. Adoption abandonment is real and it effects far many more people than just the adoptee themselves.


Abandonment issues can’t be healed in a relationship. This idea perpetuates the problem it doesnt solve it. The only way to be truly free of the fear of abandonment is to let it happen, allow yourself to be abandoned. Stop all activities you engage in that are designed to protect you from being abandoned. Stop all thoughts, actions and words that are ways of protecting yourself. Just let go of it all and see what happens. You’ll pass through a period of terror, confusion and loneliness. Let this happen, dont interfere with it, dont reach out and try to distract yourself by calling people or trying to use their company to ease your suffering, let go completely and let things work themselves out. I promise those feelings will pass and when they do you’ll emerge on the other side completely free. You’ll have overcome the thing that held you captive for so long. You’ll also see yourself, others and life in a completely different light, a sober light, you’ll see the truth as opposed to seeing things through a distorted filter. Because heres the truth: Nobody can abandon you. Youre an adult and as such capable of looking after yourself so even if everyone you knew turned on you and abandoned you, you’d still be ok, you wouldnt be harmed in any way. And when you know this not just in your head but also in your heart, you’ll be at peace because nobody will have the power to disturb you ever again.

C. L. Hunt

The first part of what you say is a good prescription for a “cold turkey” treatment for abandonment issues, IF the person is truly in a safe mental space to handle the emotional intensity of such an action

However, the second part is fundamentally untrue and harmful. Human beings need other people – there is no way around it. We are evolved to belong to tribes, period. The difficulty when struggling with abandonment issues is bringing yourself to trust *a legitimately trustworthy person*. It is not healing to exile the part of you that needs others. Rather, it is healing to find a community that guides you into trust and security. <3 Best of luck!


This is really good writing. I wish I read this 20 years ago. I’m going to share with my therapist. I need to get to work on this immediately. Holy smokes this is me to a tee. Thank you from the heart. I’ve went through several therapists. Gina told me I have these issues. I’m so excited to finally know what the blank was wrong with me all these years.


It’s so interesting to me how fear of abandonment starts for most people in childhood but can also develop as an adult! I’m actually finishing up a piece on the fear of being alone at https://debpreston.com/fear-of-being-alone/ right now in response to my friend’s husband’s odd behavior. She wanted to better understand how, as a grown man, he seemed afraid to be apart from her, so I offered to research! Reading this post, however, I can totally see how his mother was attentive (from his retellings) but he’s been abandoned (cheated on) and divorced three times before marrying my friend. I do believe his fear of abandonment drives his fear of being apart from her. This makes total sense! Thanks so much for the insight.

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