How to Deal With Abandonment Issues in Your Relationships

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Abandonment issues, also known as fear of abandonment, is a term used to describe the frequent or extreme distress some people experience at the thought of losing a loved one, having someone leave their life, or being rejected by someone they care about.

People with abandonment issues may struggle to maintain healthy relationships, constantly experience anxiety and fear, and have difficulty trusting others, says Helene D’Jay, MS, LPC, executive director of young adult services at Newport Healthcare, Connecticut.

If you or a loved one have a fear of abandonment and find that it’s affecting your life, it can be helpful to seek therapy from a mental healthcare provider. With therapy, it’s possible to feel less anxious and form healthier attachments, says D’Jay.

This article explores the signs and potential causes of abandonment issues, as well as some treatment and coping strategies that can help you overcome them.

Signs of Abandonment Issues

According to D’Jay, abandonment issues can cause you to experience both emotional and behavioral symptoms, such as:

  • Feeling insecure
  • Having difficulty trusting others’ intentions
  • Experiencing feelings of extreme jealousy
  • Being clingy with partners or loved ones
  • Being overly eager to please
  • Giving too much in relationships
  • Engaging in attention-seeking behaviors
  • Having difficulty in feeling intimately connected
  • Needing to control or be controlled by one’s partner
  • Settling for unsatisfactory, unhealthy, or abusive relationships in order to avoid being alone

In children, D’Jay says abandonment issues can cause symptoms such as:

  • Being afraid to leave a parent or caregiver, even to go to another part of the house
  • Throwing tantrums and panicking when the parent or caregiver leaves the child in the care of others
  • Being anxious about attending school or daycare
  • Experiencing anxiety around friendships and other relationships as they grow up

Research has found that abandonment can lead to mental and physical health issues such as depression, phobias, substance use, anxiety, eating disorders, and other medical conditions.

Causes of Abandonment Issues

These are some of the potential causes of abandonment issues, according to D’Jay:

  • Loss of a parent or caregiver: Losing a parent or caregiver, particularly at a young age, due to death or abandonment, is the most likely contributor to fears of abandonment. You may have a deeply ingrained fear of losing other loved ones as well.
  • Abuse or neglect: Being abused or neglected as a child can cause you to develop abandonment issues, because you have not been treated well by people who are supposed to love you and care for you.
  • Parental divorce: Having your parents divorce or separate and losing the security of your family unit at a young age can cause feelings of abandonment, particularly if it means one parent is less present in your life than before.
  • Loss of a loved one: A significant loss later on in life, such as that of a life partner, sibling, or child can also cause anxiety around fear of abandonment.
  • Adoption: Learning that you’re adopted can trigger feelings of abandonment, because you may question why your birth parents were unable to care for you.
  • Mental health conditions: Certain mental health conditions, such as anxiety, borderline personality disorder, and other personality disorders, can cause you to experience fear of abandonment.

Helene D’Jay, MS, LPC

Abandonment issues are generally rooted in loneliness, a sense of loss, or a fear of change.

— Helene D’Jay, MS, LPC

Triggering Abandonment Issues

Abandonment issues occur when you feel abandoned by someone so powerfully that you start to feel abandonment fears in other relationships, says Aimee Daramus, PsyD, a licensed clinical psychologist and author of “Understanding Bipolar Disorder.”

“As a result, you may be triggered by small things like a friend going out with another friend and not asking you, or a partner being very busy and unable to meet you.”

How to Treat and Overcome Abandonment Issues 

According to the experts, fear of abandonment can be overcome with treatment options such as therapy and medication, as well as healthy coping strategies.


According to D’Jay, therapy can help treat a fear of abandonment by:

  • Exploring the root causes of your fears
  • Understanding how your intense fear of abandonment is affecting your life and your relationships
  • Teaching you how to manage your emotions and anxiety
  • Treating underlying mental health conditions, such as anxiety or borderline personality disorder, that may be contributing to your fear of abandonment
  • Bringing awareness to the behavioral patterns in your relationships and helping you develop healthier relationship dynamics
  • Improving your confidence and self-esteem
  • Accepting and healing from past trauma

These are some of the types of therapy that can help, according to D’Jay:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy can be helpful in managing anxiety and thought distortions
  • Dialectical behavior therapy can help with mental health conditions that contribute to anxiety
  • Art therapy can help children express themselves through creative processes
  • Play therapy can help children express and resolve emotional issues related to abandonment through play activities
  • Family therapy can help members of a family work through the loss or abandonment of a loved one together


If you’re experiencing severe anxiety, your healthcare provider might prescribe medication in addition to therapy. “Medication can help reduce overall anxiety and allow you to then benefit from talk therapy,” says D’Jay.

Coping Strategies for Abandonment Issues

In addition to therapy, these are some other coping strategies that can be helpful:

  • Healthy relationships: Having healthy relationships in your life that offer nurturing and reassurance can help you heal, says Dr. Daramus.
  • Confidence-building activities: Participating in confidence-building activities such as sports, hobbies, and self-care activities can help build your self-esteem and reduce your insecurity, says D'Jay.
  • Journaling: Maintaining a journal of your thoughts can help you identify situations that trigger your fears. Being aware of your triggers is the first step toward changing your reactions.

Is It Possible to Heal From Abandonment Issues?

Yes, it is possible to let go of abandonment issues and heal.

A combination of therapy and treatment options, as well as other coping mechanisms, can help you manage your anxiety, heal your trauma, chart a path toward healthy relationships, and improve your confidence and self-esteem, says D’Jay.

5 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Sanjana Gupta
Sanjana is a health writer and editor. Her work spans various health-related topics, including mental health, fitness, nutrition, and wellness.