The fear of abandonment is essentially one of the many forms of anxiety. It’s technically not a phobia, though many, including myself, strongly disagree with its non-qualification as one.
The closest phobia to the fear of abandonment is autophobia. Autophobia is the dread or fear of being isolated, or alone. It doesn’t entirely cover the fear of abandonment, though, as the primary staple of it is the fear of being abandoned by friends and/or loved ones.
The fear of abandonment is a common trait among those living with Borderline Personality Disorder.
What is it, and how does it develop?
The fear of abandonment is, simply put, a fear of being abandoned my someone. It can be a friend, family member, significant other, a combination of these, or all of these.
A fear of abandonment can potentially manifest if a person experiences:
- A loss during childhood, like a long-term separation (divorce) or death of a parent
- Not receiving enough emotional care or nurturing as a child
- Experiencing a long-term situation in which your emotional or physical needs were not met
- Experiencing a threatening situation, such as abuse, poverty, or other trauma
- Experiencing any type of traumatic loss (usually the death of a loved one)
More often than not, the fear of abandonment stems from childhood neglect, abuse, or a situation in which emotional and physical needs were not sufficiently met. This includes situations where a child is not allowed to express themselves emotionally or who are frequently ridiculed, especially within their own family.
This can also happen if someone in a child’s life has unbelievably high standards for that child. Situations like these can be a traumatic experience for a child, especially if it occurs over a period of time as opposed to just once or twice.
These are not the only contributors to the development of a fear of abandonment, but they are some of the most common.
The relationship trajectory of someone who has a fear of abandonment
Everyone experiences the general discomfort of worrying about being left or abandoned by someone they love. However, when the fear is severe and frequent, it can be detrimental to a person’s mental health and well-being.
It will likely have an impact on some, most, or all of the relationships in that person’s life.
People who have a fear of abandonment often experience a certain trajectory in their relationships; especially in their relationship with a romantic partner.
They will experience happiness and enjoyment at first, but after a period of time, usually after the couple’s regular routine sets in and they start to experience regular, every day life, it’s common for some people who struggle with a fear of abandonment to assume their partner doesn’t love them anymore or that they are going to leave them.
Life is sometimes unpredictable. Their partner could simply be working late, engaging in one of his or her hobbies, or taking a little longer than normal to reply to a text.
While these are all examples of very simple explanations for separation or short-term distance between couples, the mind of a person who has a fear of abandonment would likely swarm with thoughts that involve their partner not loving them, breaking up with or divorcing them, or even having an affair. And these aren’t thoughts that are easy to get rid of.
The thoughts are often invasive and very intense.
My struggle with my fear of abandonment
There are days when I have an intense fear of my husband cheating on or leaving me. Some days, the thoughts are so invasive and overwhelming that I break down, become paranoid, and even get thrown into another depressive episode.
The fear of abandonment can be harmful and debilitating. It isn’t something to “shrug off” and it’s not something that you can simply “get over”.
Reassurance helps, but it isn’t a cure
A person who has a fear of abandonment will always require some level of reassurance from their friends or loved one(s). Coincidentally and unfortunately, the reassurance is often not enough. With that being said, it is still better to receive some reassurance than none at all. In my experience with my own fear of abandonment, at least.
Most abandonment issues are deeply rooted, so it’s no wonder that just reassurance won’t help the anxiety to its entirety.
Helping someone who has a fear of abandonment
If you know someone who has a fear of abandonment, one of the most important things you can do is be understanding, unlike Person A in the above conversation.
Being fearful of being abandoned is not something that anyone chooses to struggle with. Imagine having intrusive thoughts about your partner abandoning or cheating on you, just because they have to stay late at work one night, you see them texting or browsing on their phone, or they don’t respond to your text in what you feel is a reasonable time frame.
Carrying that anxiety around is mentally exhausting. And, sometimes it’s hard to start a conversation about it with your partner because you worry that they may feel like you don’t trust them, which could potentially start an argument, and so on, and so forth.
It is extremely important that you try to understand where their feelings of abandonment are coming from, as it’s very possible that it manifested because of something from their past.
A person who struggles with a fear of abandonment is no less worthy of friendship and love than someone who doesn’t. Giving them reassurance, whether it is an “I love you” text, telling them how much they mean to you, or spending some quality time together is a great way to show them how much you love and care about them.
If you care about and love your partner, none of those things will feel “draining.”
An “I love you” text from my husband always makes me smile, and can sometimes turn my whole day around.
I don’t want to say that providing someone with reassurance takes no effort, because it does, but there are some simple things that you can say or do that can have a big impact on someone’s day.
Do you have a fear of abandonment?
My fear of abandonment is only prominent in my relationship with my husband, but some people struggle with it with friends and family as well.
If you have a fear of abandonment, I would love to hear your thoughts and hear about your own experiences with it. It effects everyone differently and I’m always curious how certain things effect different people.