When you feel abandoned
3 Types of Attachment Styles
Written by WebMD Editorial Contributors
In this Article
- What Are Abandonment Issues?
- Types of Abandonment Issues
- Signs of Abandonment Issues
- Treating Abandonment Issues
- Support and Resources
What Are Abandonment Issues?
Abandonment issues stem from a fear of loneliness, which can be a phobia or a form of anxiety. These issues can affect your relationships and often stem from a childhood loss. Other factors that turn loss into abandonment issues include environmental and medical factors, genetics, and brain chemistry.
Early childhood experiences are the biggest contributor to developing abandonment issues when you become an adult. The traumatic event might include the loss of a parent by divorce or death or not getting enough physical or emotional care as a child. Emotional abandonment occurs when parents:
- Do not let their children express themselves emotionally
- Ridicule their children
- Put too much pressure on their children to be “perfect”
- Treat their children like their peers
Abandonment issues happen when a parent or caregiver does not provide the child with consistent warm or attentive interactions, leaving them feeling chronic stress and fear. The experiences that happen during a child’s development will often continue into adulthood. This is why abandonment issues become more prevalent as you get older and can affect your relationships.
Types of Abandonment Issues
Abandonment issues can present themselves in three insecure attachment styles. These are:
Avoidant Attachment Style
People who follow this style don’t allow anyone to get close to them. You may feel like you can’t open up or trust others, making you appear distant, private, or withdrawn.
Anxious Attachment Style
People with this type of attachment style cope by developing intensely close and dependent relationships with others. You may feel anxious about separating yourself from your partner and tend to be emotionally reactive. It may be easy to see conflicts as a concern that your partner may leave, which makes you act out of fear.
Disorganized Attachment Style
People with this attachment style have difficulty remaining intimate and close but can also be inconsistent. You may feel anxious about being in a relationship or want to avoid the closeness. This attachment style may come with other potential disorders.
Signs of Abandonment Issues
Abandonment issues don’t always come from childhood trauma. They can also develop after losing an intimate partner to divorce or death. Either through adult or childhood abandonment, these issues can negatively impact healthy relationships.
A fear of abandonment presents itself in people who seem like “people pleasers” or need continuous reassurance that they are loved. There is also a consistent anxiety that occurs with abandonment issues.
Common signs of abandonment issues include:
- Giving too much or being overly eager to please
- Jealousy in your relationship or of others
- Trouble trusting your partner’s intentions
- Feeling insecure about your relationship
- Having difficulty in feeling intimate emotionally
- Needing to control or be controlled by your partner
- Settling in unsatisfactory relationships
It is not uncommon for you to want your partners to treat you the same way as you were treated as a child.
Treating Abandonment Issues
When treating abandonment issues, the first step is understanding what triggers you and learning to withdraw when these triggers come up. You should also try to get more comfortable with having conversations about your fears in a calm and respectful manner. It may help to do this with a partner, family member, or close friend. It may be difficult at first, but you will find it gets easier with time.
There are two primary treatments for abandonment issues:
In therapy, you will be able to explore the root cause of your fears and identify negative thought patterns. Your therapist will help you replace them with healthy, more realistic thoughts. Your relationship with your therapist can also give you the sense of having a secure relationship. Working with them, you can learn to establish healthy boundaries in your relationships and help avoid behaviors that hinder healthy relationships.
Practicing self-care can help you make sure your emotional needs are met. This can improve friendships and relationships. Doing self-care like journaling, taking walks, and other things you enjoy can help fulfill you and improve your contributions to your partner, friends, or children.
Support and Resources
Abandonment issues can develop because of many emotional and environmental factors. If you are experiencing fear of abandonment in your relationships, it may be helpful to see a counselor. A counselor will be able to talk to you about how you’re feeling and develop a treatment plan.
Feeling Abandoned? How to Cope When Someone Isn't Emotionally Present
How do you deal with emotional abandonment? There are ways to cope when your emotional needs have gone unmet.
Emotional abandonment is fairly nuanced and complex. When it happens, many things may be going on — on both sides of the relationship.
Identifying the layers underlying emotional abandonment can help you cope when you feel discarded and unsupported.
Emotional abandonment is, “other people not meeting your emotional needs, leaving you feeling rejected, unloved, or painfully lonely,” explains Kibby McMahon, PhD, a clinical psychologist and co-host of the podcast “A Little Help for Our Friends. ”
“Other people recognizing and responding to our emotional needs — such as comforting us when we’re sad — is essential to our well-being,” McMahon says.
So, when loved ones don’t meet those needs, it’s natural to feel abandoned, upset, or scared.
Sometimes, what might look and feel like emotional abandonment to you is actually your loved one needing space or not knowing how to help.
Sometimes, our perception might also be skewed, making us extra sensitive to feeling emotionally abandoned, even though this isn’t the case.
Maybe you misinterpret boundary setting as rejection, or expect people to be emotionally available all the time.
This may happen for many reasons. For example, maybe you have:
- borderline personality disorder (BPD)
- dependent personality disorder
- an anxious attachment style
Many things can lead to emotional abandonment. Everyone has a different tolerance level to what they can handle at a time. Emotional availability may feel costly to some people.
For example, people might be unable to meet your emotional needs because they’re busy with work or other responsibilities, says McMahon.
There are also multiple internal factors that may cause emotional abandonment.
We are complex human beings with different personality traits, tendencies, and histories.
According to McMahon and psychotherapist Joyce Marter, a person may be:
- uncomfortable in emotional situations
- processing their own feelings around a similar experience
- facing fears your relationship will change negatively
- unsure about how to show love in the way you need
- not equipped to provide the support you need
Mental health conditions can also lead someone to be unavailable. This could be because they’re dealing with difficult symptoms, or they inherently have low empathy and can’t put themselves in your position.
Some examples, according to Marter, include:
- substance use disorder
- anxiety disorders
- a personality disorder, such as narcissistic personality disorder or borderline personality disorder
Your loved one might be going through a hard time for other reasons, says Marter. For example:
- financial challenges
- job insecurity
- relationship conflicts with someone else
- fear of commitment
Lastly, keep in mind that “staying emotionally connected is a two-way street,” says McMahon.
Although you’re not responsible for someone else’s emotional health, it’s possible that some of your actions can explain what you perceive as emotional unavailability. For example:
- not openly expressing your emotions, and assuming your loved one should just know what you feel or need
- dismissing genuine attempts to connect by pushing the person away or criticizing them
- having a hard time understanding relationship boundaries
One of the first steps to exploring emotional abandonment in your relationship can be a conversation.
If you’d like to talk with your loved one about them not meeting your emotional needs, it may help to plan what you’d like to say and wait until you’re feeling calm.
It may also be a good idea to have no expectations and be ready to accept any outcome. If the person really is emotionally unavailable, they may dismiss what you say.
Here are a few pointers:
Pinpoint your objective
Both McMahon and Marter emphasize the importance of identifying something specific and concrete you’d like the person to do differently. This way, they’re not trying to guess your needs, and you’re on the same page.
For example, you might say:
- “I’d like us to check in with each other every day.”
- “I need you to respond when I’m speaking to you, even if it’s to say you’re not sure what to say.”
- “When I’m crying, I’d like a hug.”
Be a team player
Think of your loved one as a teammate you’re collaborating with, says McMahon.
As such, try to express empathy and be compassionate. Doing so decreases the chances of the other person being defensive, and promotes a more productive conversation.
For example, if your partner is currently stressed out, you might say, “I realize this is a difficult time for you, and you’re probably feeling pulled in many different directions. ”
Or, if they’re uncomfortable with big emotions, you might try, “I know this is overwhelming for you, and you don’t mean to hurt me. But when you walk out of the room, it makes me feel alone. Can you give me a hug instead?”
Make sure you’re calm
It’s hard to be thoughtful and compassionate when you’re fuming. To have a productive talk, it’s best to be calm and collected. If you’re not, try:
- closing your eyes
- taking deep breaths
- giving yourself 10 to 20 minutes of quiet time
- practicing some grounding exercises
Express softer emotions
“[E]xpress your more vulnerable, ‘softer’ emotions, such as hurt, fear, and sadness instead of anger or disgust,” McMahon recommends.
When you express your emotional pain, you’re not only being honest and authentic, you’re encouraging the other person to share their vulnerability, too.
Use ‘I’ versus ‘you’
This is another way to approach your conversation with compassion and honesty. While it might seem obvious that offending your loved one isn’t helpful, it’s easier said than done.
So, try to lead with your feelings versus assumptions about the other person’s thoughts, feelings, or behavior.
As Marter says, try “I’m feeling sad that we haven’t spoken, and I miss you.”
Welcome their perspective
Remember that this is a back-and-forth conversation. Consider letting your loved one share their thoughts and feelings, and listen intently to what they have to say.
Maybe they’ll mention that when you’re upset, you give off signs that you’d like to be alone. So, in their mind, they’re giving you the space you’re needing.
Before rejecting what they say, try to pause and consider that one situation can be perceived many ways by different people.
Get out of the weeds
“When in conflict, many of us get caught up in the tiny details of what was said or how it was said, or of a certain behavior or action,” Marter says.
But focusing on the minutia can prevent you from seeing the bigger picture.
If issues keep arising, consider them as symptoms of a larger relationship challenge, Marter says, such as:
- a breakdown of trust
- emotional or spiritual disconnection
There’s the possibility that the other person may not respond as you wish or need.
While facing emotional abandonment may be difficult, you can still cope by taking good care of yourself.
Consider these tips to emotionally and physically invest in yourself:
Engage in something deeply relaxing
Creating inner calm can help you feel better, which you can do with relatively simple practices.
For example, according to one 2018 research review, slowed breathing may trigger the parasympathetic nervous system and lead to increased relaxation, comfort, and positive energy. It may also help decrease anxiety and anger outbursts.
You can try these deep breathing practices.
According to Marter, other soothing options include:
- connecting with nature
In sum, anything you enjoy can become a relaxing experience that may help you reset emotionally.
Consider acknowledging and accepting how you’re feeling. Even if there’s plenty of valid reasons your loved one didn’t meet your emotional needs, it’s still upsetting. And you’re allowed to feel hurt and frustrated.
Try to give yourself the same empathy and kindness you’d give to someone you love very much, says Marter.
“Choose to be your most compassionate friend, rather than your worst critic,” she says.
Research has found that self-compassion is associated with many benefits, including:
- positive mental health
- positive physical health
It may also be a good idea to remember that someone’s emotional abandonment doesn’t say anything about you.Ask someone else to meet your needs
If you’re in need of some support, turn to someone else who’s demonstrated they’re capable of providing it.
The key is to be clear with them about those needs. According to Marter, this can be as simple as asking someone to listen to you vent.
Explore unhealthy patterns
If you feel emotionally abandoned in a lot of your relationships, take a deeper dive into what else could be going on.
You might explore these questions on your own or, ideally, with a trained therapist, says McMahon:
- Are you surrounding yourself with emotionally unavailable people?
- Are you acting in ways that push people away?
- Are you assuming that everyone emotionally abandons you because of a previous trauma?
- Do you face the same types of challenges in all of your relationships?
Assess the future of your relationship
In some cases, the best way to handle emotional abandonment is to step away from that person.
If you realize that, despite your attempts, they’re still not responding emotionally to you or you’re in a toxic relationship, it may be a good idea to part ways.
Here’s how you can let go in a healthy way.
Feeling abandoned by someone you care about may lead you to feel overwhelmed, confused, and devastated.
In some cases, someone may temporarily not be available to you because they’re dealing with their own emotions. In other instances, emotional abandonment may be caused by more complex processes.
In either case, you deserve to be loved and supported. If you express how you feel but get no response, it may be time to move to a more fulfilling relationship.
If you’re having a hard time dealing with someone’s emotional distance, consider finding professional help.
I feel abandoned. Thinking of committing suicide so as not to suffer
Requests for helpWrite your story
All my life I have been a quiet, shy and withdrawn girl. I didn't have real friends. Everyone threw me. I'm scary, I have a terrible body. I hate myself.
At the age of 14, there was a relationship that ended tragically. There was attempt number two. The first was also at 14, when I was counting, trying to talk to my relatives and give them hints, but no one tried to stop me. nine0005 I have always been humiliated and insulted. In the 11th grade, I moved to a new school, where everything was perfect: I loved all my classmates, teachers. For me, this year was the most beautiful thing that happened in my life. I was happy to go to school and felt like I belonged. But the year is over, it's time to leave. It turned out that I was completely unprepared for adulthood. The fact is that everything was always forbidden to me, I sat at home for weeks without going out. I grew up like a vegetable given to itself at the same time. That's why I don't know life, I don't know how to live. I will not be able to enter the university because of a not very good certificate. nine0005 In January, a new relationship began. We are too far from each other that it is not easy to take and fly. I was loved, I had friends. But now everyone is leaving me. A loved one is cooling down, and I am afraid to lose him completely and hold on to every thread that binds us with love. I really love. But now everyone is against me. I am afraid of becoming nobody, my relatives do not believe in me, forbidding me to go even to a neighboring city.
Depression. Heartbroken. I feel abandoned. I'm afraid. And it's easier for me to commit suicide than to suffer. It's not scary to die, it's scary, it's scary to suffer all your life
Empty space, age: 06/18/2018
Hello, dear girl. Please listen: Live! All difficulties are within our power, and God has prepared all the best for us! You can experience all this in your life if you believe. There are many different but at the same time identical stories from life, from life where it would seem that everything ended, where it would seem that love has gone and with it the interest and desire to live has gone, but a person is given a choice, to live on or stand on the edge and walk along it. You know that love endures for a long time, does not envy, endures everything! Believe me, everything will be fine, the best is ahead, the main thing is to wait, because this is your best, the main thing is to wait. I understand that you were hurt by the fact that your friends left you. You must love yourself and accept yourself as you are. The body can be brought into shape if something does not suit you in it. Everything can be corrected and changed while the person is alive. Please do not think about the bad. Suicide is not an option. How do we know what will happen after this life? Remember that in this life you saw, felt good. The smallest thing. Moments when you can say: "I'm happy! How glad I am! Thank you for being born!". nine0005 Find your favorite writer, find an interesting hobby, learn something new every time, be positive, do not forget to lead a healthy lifestyle and everything will work out! Remember, you are not alone in this world. Believe in yourself. Believe in your strength, please. Do not be afraid that you will remain a nobody. Learn, set goals and achieve them. If you have such an opportunity, go to a psychologist, and if not, then find many free sites on the Internet. Hold on, I beg you, just hold on dear. Read a lot of interesting materials on this site. Hold on, I beg you everything will be fine. God bless you. nine0003
Mulan, age: 26 / 06/08/2018
I can tell you that all that is on your mind right now is that you have no purpose in life. I understand you, and 200% percent.
Set goals for yourself by the age of 30
And 3 secondary ones, write down on paper what you will do to achieve them.
And let's move along these points...
And if love is real, then it will not go away ...
The fact that everything is so bad for you now, I myself went through, but life just lifts you up to the slack!
Don't give up, you will be stronger and remember all this with a smile)
Normal, age: 33 / 06/08/2018
Hello! I sympathize with you very much. Just don't despair. I understand that it’s very hard for you now, but we are not given tests beyond our strength. I was also withdrawn and shy, I don’t think that this is bad, because each person has his own character. Relations at school are naturally not strong, people part from this is nowhere to go. Try to come to terms with this, you need to accept parting as an integral part of life. After all, the value of your life does not decrease due to the lack of friends. If you were born, then you already have a meaning in life) https://realisti.ru/main/rodit
Try to maintain a relationship with your loved one and do not be discouraged. For true love, there are no distances.
If it's scary to suffer all your life, then how terrible it is to suffer for an eternity .... But you doom yourself to this if you commit suicide. The soul is immortal. So don't make hasty decisions.
If you are not adapted to life, then it is not surprising that your parents do not trust you. Don't take this distrust to heart. After all, in fact, your parents are just worried about you ... Try to understand them and not be offended. nine0005 Helping other people is a good remedy for depression) Try to contact a psychologist to make it easier to overcome everything. To begin with, you can talk to a psychologist online. And you can also ask the Lord for help) God created you a wonderful person, He loves you very much and never leave) Ask Him for help more often and it will become easier for you) God is always with you, you can share everything with Him) I wish you finding the meaning of life, more patience and strength, good family relationships, academic success, good health, always good mood, happiness, more love, joy and peace in life and all the best! Hold on, God will help you! Guardian Angel! nine0003
Anastasia, age: 20/11/11/2018
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requests for about the requests of about helpWrite your story
Hello!!! Help me please! This year turned out to be just terrible for me: a solid black streak and constant depression!!! At the beginning of the year, I started dating a young man, but we constantly had some problems! This was used by my best friend, with whom I was friends for 8 years, and at a difficult moment for us, she decided to take it away from me! But despite this, she offered me to be friends with her, as if nothing had happened! In fact, they started dating! At that time, it was very difficult and painful for me, no one supported me, I tried to pull myself together, but it didn’t work out ... after that I fell into a severe depression, in which I am now very hard !!! I feel abandoned, useless and lonely! And besides, love for this young man haunts me, I don’t know what to do, I want him back so much, but I don’t know how! In principle, it seems to me that he will not mind being with me again, but he is still in a relationship with a girlfriend, and I don’t know what to do! Please tell me, it's really hard for me! nine0005
Olga, age: 18 / 02.11.2009
I'm really sorry this happened! That 2 people betrayed you at once.
But, honey, don't be upset. you will also have devoted girlfriends, not like "this one", and you will find a guy! You are young, you still have everything ahead of you!
I gave you these links! Check it out, there's a lot of good stuff in here!
You let's pull yourself together and live on! We are with you!
Good luck to you!
Lydia, age: 19 / 02.11.2009
Olga! Why do you need a young man who doesn't care who to be with? After all, he will not change, so it will be "both yours and ours. " And then the girlfriend will become boring. Who is next?
Of course, you are hard and lonely. But "it is not necessary to enter the same river." You are young, for sure, pretty, find another young man for whom only you will be needed. Forgive your girlfriend: she will soon suffer in the same way as you are suffering now. nine0005 Don't despair, everything will be fine!
marina, age: 40 / 02.11.2009
Try to find a hobby that will distract you from life's problems. Also, I would advise you to forget about this guy, if he went to his girlfriend, then why do you need him like that?
I've had similar situations in my life. Right now I'm very sorry that I tried to return the relationship. Then it seemed to me that without this girl I could not live, but now 4 years have passed and I am alive and well. nine0003
Fervent, age: 20 / 02.11.2009
Well, what do you mean you don't mind? That he is a creature without will and reason? If I wanted to, I would be with you.