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As humans, we have a basic need and desire to be accepted and cared for. That’s especially true when it comes to people we love and people who are expected to take care of us or support us. 

When that need isn’t met or suddenly goes away, it can lead to abandonment trauma. 

Abandonment trauma is an emotional response that comes from experiencing harm or neglect from abandonment. While you might immediately think of a parent abandoning a young child, this kind of trauma can happen at any age and in a variety of relationships. 

Let’s take a closer look at abandonment trauma, some of the signs, and how you can cope with it. 

Abandonment Trauma as a Child

It’s true that many cases of abandonment trauma impact children. It occurs when a parent or caregiver doesn’t meet the basic needs of their child. They are unable to form a strong bond with that child, which can lead to attachment issues that go well into adulthood. 

Abandonment isn’t always as cut-and-dry as people think. A parent doesn’t necessarily have to physically walk away from a child for it to occur. Rather, you can experience abandonment as a child when your needs are neglected. 

It has everything to do with a lack of secure attachment. When a child doesn’t have a secure attachment with their caregiver, it can impede their ability to form healthy relationships later on in life. 

This kind of abandonment can create huge problems for children — not just when it comes to relationships but in their overall development as well.

Research has shown that children with an insecure attachment style are more likely to experience anxiety, ADHD, and low self-esteem. They might think that the abandonment is their fault, leading to extreme guilt and a sense of worthlessness. 

Abandonment Trauma as an Adult

Even if you had secure attachments in childhood, abandonment trauma can occur in adulthood when someone goes through a traumatic experience caused by abandonment. That might include things like domestic abuse (physical or emotional), divorce, or even death. 

Experiencing abandonment trauma as an adult can make you distrust people and might make you hesitant to put yourself out there in other relationships. You might also struggle with self-sabotage or feelings of inadequacy. That same sense of worthlessness that impacts abandoned children can rear its ugly head for adults, too. 

What Are the Signs of Abandonment Trauma? 

It’s not always easy to determine if you’re a victim of abandonment trauma, especially if you experienced it as a child. However, there are some common symptoms to pay attention to, including: 

  • Fear of being alone or abandoned
  • Anxiety
  • Difficulty fostering healthy relationships
  • Difficulty managing your emotions

As you might expect, these symptoms can have a negative impact on your quality of life. The harder it is for you to form healthy relationships, the more your emotions can feel like they’re spiraling out of control. 

What Can You Do? 

Thankfully, you don’t have to live with the effects of abandonment trauma forever. Prioritizing self-care and making lifestyle changes that boost your sense of self-worth can help you manage your symptoms every day. 

Often, however, therapy is the best option for managing abandonment trauma and overcoming it. Therapy will help you get to the root cause of your trauma. While that isn’t always easy, it’s the necessary first step toward healing. 

If you’ve experienced abandonment trauma at any stage of life, it’s never too late to get the help you deserve so you can enjoy healthy, secure relationships moving forward. Feel free to contact us for more information or to set up an appointment soon for trauma therapy.