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Coping with Feelings of Abandonment

Abandonment is an extraordinarily painful experience. It can have substantial  impacts on our perceptions of ourselves and others. An experience of abandonment and the lingering fear it instills in us can negatively affect how we engage with our friends, family, co-workers, and romantic partners. It can leave us feeling sensitive, irritable or numb.

Though the idea of being abandoned seems to imply being physically left on your own, we can feel abandoned by someone who is still physically present yet emotionally unavailable. Abandonment wounds are often, though not always, inflicted during childhood and can become complexly intertwined with our personalities and conceptions of self.

Abandonment is a traumatic experience and requires the development of different psychological and behavioral strategies for protecting ourselves in the future. These strategies can be helpful as we navigate the immediate aftermath of being abandoned, but they become maladaptive if they persist in the long run, thus they become “issues.” Abandonment issues are commonly characterized by anxiety and fear of losing loved ones which results in a hypersensitivity to perceived distancing in a relationship (Smith, 2018).

Below are just some examples of the many symptoms we might observe if we suffer from abandonment wounds.

  • Difficulty forming close, healthy relationships

  • Patterns of choosing partners who are abusive, controlling, needy, emotionally unstable, or emotionally unavailable.

  • Patterns of unhealthy interpersonal communication with partners and friends

  • Consistent feedback from others that you are too needy

  • Losing yourself in relationships

  • Inability to trust others

  • Pushing others away to avoid rejection

  • Always wanting to please others

  • Feeling insecure in relationships

  • Developing codependency

  • Need for constant reassurance that others will not leave

  • Maintaining unhealthy relationships

  • Hypersensitivity to criticism

  • Tendency to dissociate

  •  Social anxiety

  • Addictions, eating disorders, and self-harmIf you have signs or symptoms of abandonment and would like to work with one of our therapists, please contact Gretchen for scheduling 703-215-4101.

Dr. Debra Brosius Licensed Clinical Psychologist with over 20 years of experience.

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