Fear of abandonment phobia

Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, and More

Fear of abandonment is a type of anxiety that some people experience when faced with the idea of losing someone they care about. Everyone deals with death or the end of relationships in their lifetime. Loss is a natural part of life.

However, people with abandonment issues live in fear of these losses. They may also exhibit behaviors that push people to leave so they’re never surprised by the loss.

A fear of abandonment isn’t a recognized condition or mental health disorder, per se. Instead, it’s considered a type of anxiety and is treated as such.

Initial behaviors of abandonment fear are often not purposeful.

Over time, however, the reaction these behaviors get — plus the attention that comes with it — can become self-reinforcing. That can cause someone to repeat the behaviors in order to get the response again.

This behavior can have unhealthy consequences. Over time, it can ruin relationships. It can also prevent the development of healthy bonds.

The key to treating abandonment issues is to find psychological treatment or therapy.

Continue reading to find out how these fears develop and how they can be stopped.

People with abandonment fears exhibit many of the same behaviors, though some may be more prominent than others. These symptoms include:

  • Cycling through relationships. Some may engage in numerous shallow relationships. They may fear intimacy and find a reason to leave a relationship before the other person can.
  • Sabotaging relationships. Some may act irrationally to get out of relationships. For example, you may knowingly push away a partner so you won’t feel hurt if they leave.
  • Clinging to unhealthy relationships. Some people with abandonment issues may stay in relationships despite a desire to leave. The fear of being alone is more powerful.
  • Needing constant reassurance. Some may constantly seek out a friend or partner and demand emotional guarantees. They may regularly urge friends or partners to make broad statements, such as “I’ll always be here,” and then say they’re lying.

Kids with healthy emotional attachments to their parents often become upset when they’re left, even if only for a short time.

Some level of this reaction is natural. However, it may be a sign of an underlying mental health condition when it leads to:

  • Separation anxiety. If a child becomes anxious about their parents going somewhere in advance, the child may be expressing abandonment fears.
  • Panic. If a child begins to panic when they don’t see their parents, their overreaction may be a sign of an issue.
  • A fear of being alone. Some children won’t sleep without their parents or even let them step out of the room.

Some abandonment issues and fears become invasive. They can prevent someone from leading a normal, healthy life.

A history of any of the following may increase the risk of a type of abandonment fear:

  • Neglect. People who have been neglected, abused, or abandoned, especially during childhood, are more likely to develop this issue. Likewise, adults who were neglected as a child are more likely to repeat the behaviors with their own children.
  • Stress. High levels of stress may make naturally occurring anxiety worse. This can worsen fears and lead to new anxieties.
  • Traumatic events. Those who have experienced an injury or death or been a victim of a crime may be more likely to develop these issues.

Healthy human development requires knowing that physical and emotional needs are met. During childhood, this reassurance comes from parents. During adulthood, it can come from personal and romantic relationships.

Events can interrupt this assurance at any age. When this happens, abandonment fears may develop. These events may include:

  • Death. Death is natural, but that doesn’t make it less traumatic. Losing a loved one unexpectedly can create an emotional void that can be filled by fear.
  • Abuse. Physical and sexual abuse, along with other types of abuse, can create lingering mental health issues, including a fear of abandonment.
  • Poverty. If basic needs aren’t met, this can lead to a scarcity mindset. This may lead to fears that emotional resources, such as love, attention, and friendship, are likewise limited.
  • Relationship loss. Divorce, death, infidelity — they all happen. For some individuals, the end of a relationship can be too painful. It may lead to lingering fears.

Treatment for abandonment issues focuses on establishing healthy emotional boundaries. You need to build an arsenal of responses to deploy when you feel old thought patterns emerging again.

Primary treatments for abandonment issues include:

  • Therapy. Seek out the help of a mental health professional, such as a therapist or counselor. They can help you overcome fears of being abandoned. They’ll also work with you to understand where the fear originates and what you can do when you sense the fear rising.
  • Self-care. People with abandonment issues may benefit from self-care. Making sure emotional needs are met is important for friendships and relationships. This way, you’re able to better provide for your partner, friend, or child.

Helping a loved one living with abandonment issues can be difficult. After all, if you bring up your concerns, their instinct may be to challenge you and your loyalty to them.

While people with abandonment fears differ, these techniques may help you care for someone who has a fear of abandonment:

Pause the conversation

Highly emotional conversations will inevitably become unproductive. When this happens, pause the conversation. Let them know you care but step away for a few hours.

Be supportive of both yourself and the person with abandonment fears. People with abandonment issues may struggle more with this, particularly if their conversation partner leaves without telling them where they’re going.

Let them know:

  • where you’re going
  • how long you’ll be away
  • when you’ll return

When you return, begin the conversation from a less emotional place.

Support and validate their fears

Validation is an important part of trust in a relationship. When supporting a loved one with a fear of abandonment, validation means that you acknowledge their feelings without judgment. Such understanding of their fears is a key to maintaining communication.

Validating a loved one’s fears doesn’t necessarily mean you agree with them. Instead, you’re supporting their feelings to further build on trust and compassion.

Consider this six-level approach Psychology Today identified to help you get started:

  1. Be present. Actively listen to your loved one’s concerns without multitasking.
  2. Reflect. Summarize your loved one’s feelings verbally in an authentic way so you can reach an understanding without judgment.
  3. Mind-reading. Sometimes it can be difficult for loved ones to describe their emotional states as fear. By listening to them, you can help them identify their emotions for deeper understanding. This level takes a lot of practice with being present and reflecting.
  4. Understand their history. This is an even deeper form of acknowledgment. You know your loved one’s fears and openly state that you understand how a certain situation might be triggering due to their past history of abandonment.
  5. “Normalize” their fears. Such normalization is done by acknowledging the fact that others with your loved one’s history could have fears of abandonment, so what they’re feeling is completely understandable.
  6. Radical genuineness. As the deepest level of validation, radical genuineness involves sharing your loved one’s fears as your own.

It’s just as important to prevent saying things that might invalidate your loved one’s fears. Avoid unhelpful phrases, such as:

  • “It’s OK, just let it go.”
  • “Everything happens for a reason.”
  • “That didn’t really happen to you.”
  • “Why are you making such a big deal out of nothing?”
  • “Things could be a lot worse; you’re lucky.”

Don’t take the emotional bait

A person with a fear of abandonment may use facial expressions, ambiguous statements, or vague body language to draw attention. Don’t bite.

When they tell you nothing is wrong, or they don’t want to talk about it, take them at their word. Requesting that they open up can turn into a way to test you.

Tell them how these behaviors make you feel

There’s no harm in honesty. When you’re upset, clearly express what you mean and how their actions are making you feel. The honesty may be disarming enough that you can make progress.

Helping a child with abandonment issues

If you suspect your child has abandonment anxiety, it’s important to get them help as early as possible so they can develop secure relationships. Talk with your child’s doctor about your options.

These strategies may be helpful with children:

  • Seek professional help. For some children, talking to a parent or teacher may be uncomfortable. A professional may be less threatening.
  • Encourage kids to express their feelings. Children sometimes fear their emotions may upset their parents. Be a blank slate to your child’s feelings. Let them bring up everything they feel while you acknowledge it all.
  • Offer validation. Instead of seeking a solution for their worries or fears, offer confirmation of their feelings. Tell them simply that it’s OK to feel how they do.

Treatment for this type of anxiety can be very successful. It requires commitment and self-care to feel more confident in relationships — but it can be done.

For many people with these issues, worries may linger. A therapist can teach you how to cope with these thoughts when they pop up.

They may also encourage you to return to therapy if the thoughts and anxieties become problematic again.

Many individuals with abandonment issues may not recognize how destructive their behaviors are. They may purposefully endanger relationships as a way of avoiding hurt.

These behaviors can lead to long-term relationship problems in personal and professional settings.

Treatment for abandonment issues focuses on helping people understand the underlying factors that lead to the behavior.

Treatment can also teach coping mechanisms to help manage these anxieties in the future. This can lead to normal, healthy relationships.

Fear of Abandonment: Overview, Symptoms, and Treatment

Fear of abandonment is the overwhelming worry that people close to you will leave.

Anyone can develop a fear of abandonment. It can be deeply rooted in a traumatic experience you had as a child or a distressing relationship in adulthood.

If you fear abandonment, it can be almost impossible to maintain healthy relationships. This paralyzing fear can lead you to wall yourself off to avoid getting hurt. Or you might be inadvertently sabotaging relationships.

The first step in overcoming your fear is to acknowledge why you feel this way. You may be able to address your fears on your own or with therapy. But fear of abandonment may also be part of a personality disorder that needs treatment.

Continue reading to explore the causes and long-term effects of a fear of abandonment and when you should seek help.

You may fear that someone you love is going to physically leave and not come back. You may fear that someone will abandon your emotional needs. Either can hold you back in relationships with a parent, partner, or friend.

Fear of emotional abandonment

It may be less obvious than physical abandonment, but it’s no less traumatic.

We all have emotional needs. When those needs aren’t met, you may feel unappreciated, unloved, and disconnected. You can feel very much alone, even when you’re in a relationship with someone who’s physically present.

If you’ve experienced emotional abandonment in the past, especially as a child, you may live in perpetual fear that it will happen again.

Fear of abandonment in children

It’s absolutely normal for babies and toddlers to go through a separation anxiety stage.

They may cry, scream, or refuse to let go when a parent or primary caregiver has to leave. Children at this stage have a hard time understanding when or if that person will return.

As they begin to understand that loved ones do return, they outgrow their fear. For most children, this happens by their 3rd birthday.

Abandonment anxiety in relationships

You may be afraid to let yourself be vulnerable in a relationship. You may have trust issues and worry excessively about your relationship. That can make you suspicious of your partner.

In time, your anxieties can cause the other person to pull back, perpetuating the cycle.

If you fear abandonment, you might recognize some of these symptoms and signs:

  • overly sensitive to criticism
  • difficulty trusting in others
  • difficulty making friends unless you can be sure they like you
  • taking extreme measures to avoid rejection or separation
  • pattern of unhealthy relationships
  • getting attached to people too quickly, then moving on just as quickly
  • difficulty committing to a relationship
  • working too hard to please the other person
  • blaming yourself when things don’t work out
  • staying in a relationship even if it’s not healthy for you

Abandonment issues in relationships

If you fear abandonment in your current relationship, it may be due to having been physically or emotionally abandoned in the past. For example:

  • As a child, you may have experienced the death or desertion of a parent or caregiver.
  • You may have experienced parental neglect.
  • You may have been rejected by your peers.
  • You went through a prolonged illness of a loved one.
  • A romantic partner may have left you suddenly or behaved in an untrustworthy manner.

Such events can lead to a fear of abandonment.

Avoidant personality disorder

Avoidant personality disorder is a personality disorder that can involve fear of abandonment resulting in the person feeling socially inhibited or inadequate. Some other signs and symptoms are:

  • nervousness
  • poor self-esteem
  • intense fear of being negatively judged or rejected
  • discomfort in social situations
  • avoidance of group activities and self-imposed social isolation

Borderline personality disorder

Borderline personality disorder is another personality disorder in which intense fear of abandonment can play a role. Other signs and symptoms can include:

  • unstable relationships
  • distorted self-image
  • extreme impulsiveness
  • mood swings and inappropriate anger
  • difficulty being alone

Many people who have borderline personality disorder say they were sexually or physically abused as children. Others grew up amid intense conflict or had family members with the same condition.

Separation anxiety disorder

If a child doesn’t outgrow separation anxiety and it interferes with daily activities, they may have separation anxiety disorder.

Other signs and symptoms of separation anxiety disorder can include frequent:

  • panic attacks
  • distress at the thought of being separated from loved ones
  • refusal to leave home without a loved one or be left home alone
  • nightmares involving being separated from loved ones
  • physical issues, like stomachache or headache, when separated from loved ones

Teens and adults can have separation anxiety disorder too.

Long-term effects of fear of abandonment can include:

  • difficult relationships with peers and romantic partners
  • low self-esteem
  • trust issues
  • anger issues
  • mood swings
  • codependency
  • fear of intimacy
  • anxiety disorders
  • panic disorders
  • depression

Here are a few examples of what fear of abandonment can look like:

  • Your fear is so significant that you don’t allow yourself to get close enough to anyone to let that happen. You may think, “No attachment, no abandonment.”
  • You worry obsessively about your perceived faults and what others may think of you.
  • You’re the ultimate people pleaser. You don’t want to take any chances that someone won’t like you enough to stick around.
  • You’re absolutely crushed when someone offers a bit of criticism or gets upset with you in any way.
  • You overreact when you feel slighted.
  • You feel inadequate and unappealing.
  • You break up with a romantic partner so they can’t break up with you.
  • You’re clingy even when the other person asks for space.
  • You’re often jealous, suspicious, or critical of your partner.

Fear of abandonment isn’t a diagnosable mental health disorder, but it can certainly be identified and addressed. Also, fear of abandonment can be part of a diagnosable personality disorder or other disorder that should be treated.

Once you recognize your fear of abandonment, there are some things you can do to begin healing.

Cut yourself some slack and stop the harsh self-judgment. Remind yourself of all the positive qualities that make you a good friend and partner.

Talk to the other person about your fear of abandonment and how it came to be. But be mindful of what you expect of others. Explain where you’re coming from, but don’t make your fear of abandonment something for them to fix. Don’t expect more of them than is reasonable.

Work on maintaining friendships and building your support network. Strong friendships can boost your self-worth and sense of belonging.

If you find this unmanageable, consider speaking to a qualified therapist. You may benefit from individual counseling.

Here are a few strategies to try if someone you know is dealing with fear of abandonment:

  • Start the conversation. Encourage them to talk about it, but don’t pressure them.
  • Whether it makes sense to you or not, understand that the fear is real for them.
  • Assure them that you won’t abandon them.
  • Ask what you can do to help.
  • Suggest therapy, but don’t push it. If they express a desire to move forward, offer your assistance in finding a qualified therapist.

If you’ve tried but can’t manage your fear of abandonment on your own, or if you have symptoms of a panic disorder, anxiety disorder, or depression, see a healthcare provider.

You can start with your primary care physician for a complete checkup. They can then refer you to a mental health professional to diagnose and treat your condition.

Without treatment, personality disorders may lead to depression, substance use, and social isolation.

Fear of abandonment can have a negative impact on your relationships. But there are things you can do to minimize those fears.

When fear of abandonment is part of a broader personality disorder, it can be successfully treated with medications and psychotherapy.

How to deal with the fear of rejection

The fear of rejection is an irrational fear that has convinced a person that people will not accept or approve of him because of his opinions, attitudes, personality, values, beliefs, or behavior.

No matter what it is, one thing is clear: it is a very debilitating fear that significantly affects your daily choices, decisions and actions. In fact, being under its influence, you do things that you would not do if it were not there. The good news is that fear and other strong emotional responses can be learned to deal with. Sign up for the program "Mental self-regulation", we will show you ways to cope with psycho-emotional states.

Just think about how the fear of rejection affects a person's life. He may have goals and dreams, but he refuses them only for the reason that he tests him: career prospects, relationships with loved ones, as well as any social interactions. It's like a barrier that you just don't want to cross. However, the fact is that there is no barrier in reality.

Here are more reasons why you should get rid of the fear of rejection before it ruins your life:

  • prevents you from sharing your own opinion;
  • leads to excessive copying of other people's behavior;
  • makes you succumb to people's emotional changes;
  • cripples the psyche, forcing you to look for reasons for your passivity, and far-fetched ones;
  • you are easily manipulated;
  • you become a victim of guilt.

How to deal with the fear of rejection?

Rejection is certainly not a very pleasant feeling, but over time you will be able to improve your communication strategies with people. Here are some suggestions:

  • Accept rejection

Your first reaction may be to deny the rejection, feel sorry for yourself, or resent the other person. Stop. Instead, graciously accept the rejection with dignity.

It doesn't matter if the refusal is justified. Just accept it as part of life and as part of your experience. This is the only way you can learn, grow and improve your skills over time.

  • Keep your head cool

This advice follows from the previous one. It is important that you remain calm and do not react in a negative, irrational, or hurtful way. A negative answer here will only hurt your chances of getting the result you want.

  • Try again

Entrepreneur and vlogger Jia Jiang found out for himself (and demonstrated it on video) that the more rejections you collect, the easier it is to deal with him psychologically. Any seller knows this.

Get used to being rejected, turn it into a game. So what if you got rejected again? Adjust your strategy and play on.

  • Do not accept rejection personally

When it comes to rejection, it's important that you never take it personally. It means not indulging in a victim mentality. See rejection as something that is part of the world, not of you personally. Think from the perspective of an observer.

Get a little distant and ask yourself:

  • How would an outsider perceive this situation from outside?
  • What would he say?
  • What advice would he give me?
  • What advice would he give to the person who refused me?

When you look at a situation from a detached, third-person point of view, it relieves you of stress and emotional involvement, which is very valuable in our case.

Two steps to overcome the fear of rejection

Fear of rejection is comparable to all other fears. It just as destructively influences and exhausts you psychologically and affects many aspects of life.

Of course, overcoming any fear requires patience, hard work and dedication on your part. The journey will not be easy, because habitual patterns of behavior require constant work on yourself in order to change. But in the end, you will win.

With that in mind, let's break the problem down into a quick two-step process that you can use to help you overcome your fear of rejection.


Determine what you need. To overcome your fear of rejection, you must first determine what you want and why.

There must be legitimate reasons to get rid of the fear of rejection. Without them, you will have very little motivation to make changes. Ask yourself:

  • What do I want?
  • Why is this important to me?
  • How will I benefit?
  • What will I miss if I don't act on my fear of rejection?

The last question on this list creates pain by determining the consequences of inaction. It is very important that you answer it honestly. It will help you get the motivation and confidence you need.


Get correct perspective and clarity. To overcome any fear, you must first gain the right perspective and clarity about that fear. To do this, start by identifying what exactly you are afraid of. Ask yourself:

  • What type of rejection am I afraid of?
  • Whose refusal am I afraid of? Why?

Refusals can be different and from different people. Therefore, it is important to understand what exactly you are afraid of.

Working through the fear of rejection

So now you have a general idea of ​​what you are dealing with. However, you still need more information about what exactly happens when you experience the fear of rejection.

Identify the useless behavior you tend to indulge in when you are afraid of rejection. Ask yourself:

  • How do I behave when I am afraid of rejection?
  • How useless is this?
  • How does this hurt me?

This will give you enough information about your fear. The next step is to identify more helpful behaviors that can be used to help you deal with this fear in optimal ways. Ask yourself:

  • How else can I approach this situation?
  • How else can I think about this situation?
  • How else can it be useful?

Finally, think about potential obstacles that may stand in your way. Ask yourself:

  • What potential obstacles stand in my way?
  • Are these obstacles real or imagined?
  • How can I overcome these obstacles?

Of course, the obstacles you face may be real or imaginary. In fact, when it comes to fear of rejection, many of the obstacles you face are in your head in the first place.

And because they are in your head, you can certainly overcome them as long as you are honest with yourself and make a commitment to change.


Overcoming the fear of rejection is not a one-time, but an ongoing process. You'll probably be a little scared anyway, but it's important not to be paralyzed. Worrying is normal, but you don't need to bring yourself to a phobia.

All of this, of course, requires an unwavering commitment to continuous self-improvement—the desire to increase your self-confidence and self-esteem.

Remember that the more confident you feel, the better people will treat you. This is the law. People feel nervous and painfully shy, and react accordingly.

Also don't forget to turn on a cool head and ask yourself again and again the question: “Why did this person refuse me? What can I change? After that, just look for answers and change your strategy.

We wish you good luck!

Key words:1 Psychoregulation

How to overcome the fear of rejection and make someone else's "no" your resource

Causes of fear

Every person has psychological needs that must be satisfied: stability, care, love, recognition of one's own importance. More often than not, the fear of asking and being rejected stems from a lack of confidence that you are worthy of getting what you want. In addition, it is associated with the need to receive the love and support of a loved one or the approval of a leader. After all, in case of refusal, she will not be satisfied. So it turns out that it’s easier not to stick out, not to ask friends for help, not to apply for a new position. Each "no" will be perceived painfully if the belief grows stronger inside that your value will suffer if you refuse.

Maria Ivanova – psychologist, transformational coach. Author of the book The Art of Inner Freedom. Live by your own rules” and methods to improve personal efficiency.

But look at it the other way. Any fear is a resource. It signals that you are leaving your comfort zone or entering an area where there is a lot of unknown. Both can result in the pain of defeat, and can bring additional opportunities. At the same time, it is worth consciously acquiring new experience only when you understand the truth of your intentions and readiness for what you are asking for. A simple example: an employer denies you a well-deserved promotion. If you are confident in your abilities, then calmly talk to him and find out why he thinks so, what you need to do to change the situation. This is how you show resilience and indicate your intentions. “No” is just a signal that a better option awaits you in the future.

9 ways to overcome fear

Build self-worth. In any situation, find something to praise yourself for. And it doesn't matter if it seems to you that not everything is done perfectly. People tend to focus on what failed. And this reinforces the impression that you did not cope, and then it is difficult to take on a new task or come with a request - you implicitly expect a refusal. But as soon as you give yourself a plus sign, the understanding comes that you could, achieved, succeeded. And then it becomes easier to take on more serious tasks. So, step by step, your self-worth grows.

Realize that the failure and so you have . If you do not ask, do not send a resume, then you will certainly not achieve your goal. Every step into the unknown, every attempt to gain consent is a chance. And it is no longer equal to zero, as in the case if you do not even try.

Remove the significance of the failure. Separate rejection and self-worth. So psychologists advise giving feedback to children - not a bad child, but only a specific act that can be discussed. You consciously accept "no" not as a criticism of yourself, but simply as a refusal. And there can be many reasons for it, starting with the bad mood of the interlocutor.

Give the opportunity to say no. Let the person make the decision he wants. To prevent this from hurting your self-worth, become someone who can say no too. Most likely, you have noticed how unpleasant it is when we are pressured and waiting for consent, and how easy it is to say “yes” if the interlocutor is ready to accept any of your decisions. It is very important to learn to refuse people: it is not easy, and you will definitely encounter resistance. But if you calmly explain the reasons, you are likely to be understood. And as soon as you yourself begin to say “no”, you will be more loyal and sympathetic to other people's refusals.

Consider other options . There is a wonderful exercise called the "fan of desires." When you think over not only option B, but also C and D. And so that all options are a joy. For example, you want to invite a person you like to go to the theater together. At the same time, the fear of rejection stops you. To reduce the heat of passion, think in advance who else you can offer to go with you if he says no. For example, a friend or someone from the family. Maybe you'll have a good time with a massage or just watch your favorite movie at home. When you approach a person with a question, you will have a lot of equally interesting options in stock. And refusal can no longer spoil your evening.

Get over the rejection before you receive it. People often fear fear itself and exaggerate the scale of the disaster. Think about what will happen if they say "no". When you have already lived through the situation in your imagination, assessed the consequences and realized what the next step will be, it’s not so scary anymore.

Replace fear with gratitude and love. This seems like a daunting task. But it is important to understand that a person cannot experience several feelings at the same time. Either fear of rejection, or love for a person, or gratitude for the opportunity to receive a positive response. And only you choose what to focus on.

Believe that whatever happens is for the best. It is not always possible to realize this in the moment, but what is happening leads you to the next events in life. And when you start trusting the world, many fears go away. Recall situations in your life when, having received not the result that you wanted, you eventually realized that in the end you achieved more.

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