Fear of Abandonment in Relationships, Phobia, Symptoms, Treatment & BPD
Fear of abandonment is the overwhelming but unwarranted fear that people you love will leave you physically and emotionally. Continue to read more about the fear of abandonment signs and available treatment options.
By We Level Up FL Treatment Center | Editor Yamilla Francese | Clinically Reviewed By Lauren Barry, LMFT, MCAP, QS, Director of Quality Assurance | Editorial Policy | Research Policy | Last Updated: January 30, 2023
What is Fear of Abandonment?
Fear of abandonment is a type of anxiety that some people experience when confronted 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. The “fear of being abandoned” isn’t a recognized condition or mental health disorder, per se. Instead, it’s considered a type of anxiety and is treated as such.
Fear of Abandonment in Relationships
Fear of abandonment is a very common and understandable feeling in the midst of a stressful relationship. Recognizing this fear is the first step to taking action. Consider journaling or talking to a friend or professional about your feelings. If your fear of abandonment is preventing you from leaving the relationship, set boundaries and make sure to clearly verbalize your needs, expressing to the other person how their words and actions make you feel.
It’s natural to fear losing someone you love. But if you persistently worry about others leaving you, even when there’s no evidence they will, you may be living with abandonment anxiety.
The fear of abandonment in relationships can be deeply rooted and can be difficult to address. If talking to a trusted friend or professional doesn’t seem to help, engaging in activities that bring joy and help alleviate stress may be beneficial. Additionally, tools like cognitive-behavioral therapy, meditation, and mindfulness can help change the thought patterns associated with fear of abandonment.
Fear of Abandonment Phobia
Fear of abandonment phobia is a term used to describe a feeling of insecurity, fear, or worry that a significant person in one’s life may leave or reject them. It can cause a person to feel as though they are not capable of being loved or valued by anyone else. Fear of abandonment phobia may be caused by past traumas or experiences with rejection or neglect.
BPD Fear of Abandonment
Fear of abandonment phobia isn’t a mental health diagnosis, but it’s sometimes related to mental health conditions such as borderline personality disorder (BPD). A borderline personality disorder fear of abandonment is a mental health condition that impacts how you think and feels about yourself and others, causing problems in everyday life. It includes self-image issues, difficulty managing emotions and behavior, and a pattern of unstable relationships. 
People with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) also experience fear of abandonment. People with this disorder may have heightened feelings of abandonment, accompanied by intense reactions when they feel they are being abandoned or rejected. They may also often engage in self-destructive behaviors to avoid abandonment. With proper treatment, those suffering from BPD may learn new coping mechanisms to help them manage their fear of abandonment.
For example, polyamory fear of abandonment can become intense when your spouse goes out to meetings or hangouts with others; asking for what you need can trigger greater anxieties of rejection when your mate has other “options.”
Why does Fear of Abandonment Happen?
Fear of abandonment personality disorder is deeply connected to emotions like shame and anxiety. In some cases, rejection sensitivity is also linked to mental health conditions that involve fear of abandonment, like BPD, PTSD, and depression. Abandonment trauma, also known as PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) of abandonment, is caused by experiences that make us feel unsafe, insecure, and alone as children. The emotional distress from this type of trauma can persist throughout the lifespan and lead to many health complications.
You may experience fear of either emotional or physical abandonment. Here’s the difference:
- Emotional Abandonment – Refers to “emotional distance.” If you’ve been emotionally neglected by your parents, a caregiver, or a partner, you might fear that others will ignore or abandon you too.
- Physical Abandonment – This happens when an important person exits your life. For instance, you might live with the fear of being abandoned today connected to a parent leaving in your childhood.
Fear Of Abandonment Causes
Abandonment issues stem from a fear of loneliness, which can be a phobia or anxiety. These issues can affect your relationships and often contain from childhood loss. Other factors that turn a loss into abandonment include environmental and medical factors, genetics, and brain chemistry.
What causes fear of abandonment? Early childhood experiences are the most significant contributor to developing abandonment issues when you become an adult. 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 constant anxiety from these losses.
Most Common Fear of Abandonment Symptoms
The most common symptoms of fear of abandonment include emotional instability, difficulty trusting others, loneliness, difficulty forming meaningful relationships, emotional outbursts, and withdrawal from social activities. People with this fear may have an inflated sense of responsibility and take on too many tasks or feel overwhelmed with the amount of responsibility that comes with forming relationships. They may also struggle with anxiety and depression, low self-esteem, and a lack of self-worth.
People with a fear of abandonment may also exhibit obsessive or controlling behaviors—trying to control how their partner feels or acts, being overly focused on the other person’s actions, or having unrealistic expectations. They may experience difficulty expressing their needs and concerns in relationships or may focus on trying to please the other person instead of thinking about their own needs. As a result, their relationships may be unstable and unfulfilling.
People with abandonment issues may struggle to trust others and may fear getting close to people because of a fear that the relationship will end. It can be hard for them to show vulnerability and share their innermost thoughts and feelings. They may also have a need for constant reassurance from their partner or may try to control their partner in order to ensure that the relationship continues.
Positive Fear of Abandonment Quotes
Here are some inspirational fear of abandonment quotes we hope you find uplifting:
“If you get too attached to someone, they will eventually become a part of you and when they leave, they will take a piece of you with them.” – Unknown
“It’s difficult when you feel like you want to get close to someone, but you’re scared to because you know that if you do, it will hurt even more when you inevitably lose them.
“Insecurity feeds the fear of abandonment. When you start believing that you are not worthy of another person’s love, you start worrying about them leaving before you even get close.” – Unknown
“The fear of abandonment is one of the deepest fears we carry. It’s so deep that it often feels like a part of us.
How to Overcome Fear of Abandonment
Creating a secure support network can also help lessen the fear of abandonment. Lean on family, friends, and other loved ones for emotional and moral support. Talking to them about your feelings can also be beneficial. You can also find support in therapy or support groups. Learning to trust yourself, recognizing the importance of self-love, and setting healthy boundaries are all key in managing the fear of abandonment.
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Fear of Abandonment Statistics
Abandonment fear often stems from childhood loss. This loss could be related to a traumatic event, such as the loss of a parent through death or divorce. Fear of abandonment is a type of anxiety that some people experience when faced with the idea of losing someone they care about.
Moreover, people with borderline personality disorder have a deep fear of abandonment. They compete for social acceptance, are terrified of rejection, and often feel lonely in an intimate relationship. Therefore, it is more difficult for them to manage a romantic partnership’s everyday ups and downs.
Surveys have estimated the prevalence of borderline personality disorder to be 1.6% in the general population and 20% in inpatient treatment settings.
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health concern in the United States. Over 40 million adults in the U.S. (19.1%) have an anxiety disorder.
In 2020, 1,750 children died of abuse and neglect in the United States.
Fear of Abandonment Facts Sheet
Abandonment trauma leads to unhealthy relationships because the trauma survivor might become dependent on the other person for validation and love. As such, they will fear rejection or abandonment. The person suffering might not know why they are clinging to their partner, especially when the relationship is unhealthy or abusive.
Fear of abandonment is widely recognized as a core symptom of Borderline Personality Disorder. While fear of abandonment may differ in its clinical presentation, it significantly impacts therapeutic engagement, suicidal behavior, non-suicidal self-injury, clinical management, and prognosis. Most evidence-based psychotherapies for BPD address the fear of abandonment. However, the lack of targeted treatment interventions is disproportionate to its prominence and clinical significance.
The relationship we experience with our primary caregiver(s) during our developmental years teaches us how to be and feel in relationships in later life. This crucial relationship shows us how to bond with others, identify our needs, and give and accept love.
On the other hand, traumatic experiences during childhood, such as living with a mentally ill parent, or a parent who struggles with SUD, and is therefore unable to attune to and care for their child adequately, can disrupt a child’s development and impact their ability to find and maintain healthy, satisfying, and mutually-beneficial relationships.
Types of Fear of Rejection and Abandonment
Abandonment attachment styles can present themselves in three insecure fear of abandonment disorder 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 attachment style cope by developing intensely close and dependent relationships with others. You may feel worried about separating yourself from your partner and tend to be emotionally reactive.
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 closeness.
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. To overcome abandonment, you must reclaim your power and completely own yourself. Your focus needs to shift from avoiding abandonment to building a stable self. Recovery is a process of letting go of feeling like a victim and accepting the belief that you are a significant person.
Fear of Abandonment in Relationships
If you fear abandonment in your current relationship, it may be due to having been physically or emotionally abandoned. For example:
- As a child, you may have experienced the death or desertion of a parent or caregiver
- You may have experienced parental neglect
- Your peers may have rejected you
- You went through a prolonged illness of a loved one
- A romantic partner may have left you suddenly or behaved inconsistently.
Such events can lead to a fear of abandonment. Do you expect your partner to calm your anxiety when your abandonment paranoia becomes out of control? You probably want to feel cared for if you struggle with abandonment issues. This feeling is entirely legitimate; however, it will distort your paradigm of personal responsibility.
Avoidant Personality Disorder
An 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 fear of abandonment symptoms are:
- Poor self-esteem
- Intense fear of being negatively judged or rejected
- Discomfort in social situations
- Avoidance of group activities and self-imposed social isolation
An inferiority complex coupled with a coexisting fear of rejection is the quintessential constellation pattern of avoidant personality disorder. Behaviorally, this manifests as widespread avoidance of social interaction, ultimately the salient diagnostic feature of avoidant personality disorder. This intense aversion towards rejection leads to an excessive suppression of affective expression, resulting in extreme schizoid-like introversion. Often this terrible dread of rejection emanates from a repeated history of disappointing relationships in which the patient places the onus on himself/herself, thus further diminishing self-esteem. This poor self-concept is more descriptively identified as a state of malignant self-regard (MSR). MSR exacerbates feelings of shame, personal inadequacy, alexithymia, and perfectionism and can also be observed in masochistic, self-defeating, depressive, and vulnerable narcissistic personalities. 
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Effect on Relationships
Fear of abandonment phobia name is “autophobia.” As with many phobias, the causes of autophobia are not well known. Some possible reasons include having been alone during a traumatic event. feeling abandoned in childhood as a result of an experience like a parental divorce or a death in the family. Long-term effects of fear of abandonment relationships to you and your loved ones can include:
- Complex relationships with peers and romantic partners
- Low self-esteem
- Trust issues
- Anger issues
- Mood swings
- Fear of intimacy
- Anxiety disorders
- Panic disorders
Fear of Abandonment Symptoms
If fear of abandonment plays a significant role in your life or the life of a loved one, it can show up in how you manage your emotions and behaviors. Below are common symptoms and signs of abandonment issues in adults:
Emotional Signs of Abandonment Issues:
- Panic or anxiety about being alone or not coupled
- Sensitivity to criticism or rejection
- Shame and self-blame when something goes wrong in the relationship
- Fear of intimacy or closeness
- Worry when a relationship seems to be going “too well.”
Behavioral Signs of Fear of Abandonment:
- Using comfort foods or substances to cope when stressed about a relationship
- Tendency to pull away physically or emotionally when feeling criticized
- Codependency, or placing the needs of a partner over your own
- History of relationships that haven’t supported your mental and emotional health
- Tendency to become attached quickly in a new relationship
Diagnosing Fear of Abandonment
Fear of abandonment name isn’t a diagnosable mental health disorder but can be identified and addressed. Also, fear of abandonment and rejection can be part of a diagnosable personality disorder or other disorders that should be treated.
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Healing Abandonment Issues
Without treatment, abandonment issues in adults and children can make it more challenging for the person to form healthy and secure relationships with others and live a fulfilling life. Individuals should seek help if they believe they or a child they care for is experiencing abandonment issues. People with a history of trauma or childhood loss may also wish to speak to a doctor or mental health professional if they have not addressed these experiences. Adults who did not experience abandonment as children may still have feelings associated with abandonment. Fear of abandonment causes can come from losing an intimate partner to separation, divorce, or death.
How to Deal with Fear of Abandonment?
Individual talk therapy may successfully treat fear of abandonment. Furthermore, group therapy can sometimes be helpful. Medications have less of a role in treating people with mental health conditions such as “BPD fear of abandonment.” However, in some cases, they can improve mood swings and treat depression or other disorders that may occur with this condition. 
What is the Fear of Abandonment Called?
Fear of abandonment, also called avoidant personality disorder, is a personality disorder that can involve fear of abandonment resulting in the person feeling socially impeded or inadequate. Some other signs and abandonment trauma symptoms are nervousness, poor self-esteem, and fear of being negatively judged or rejected.
Talk therapy is considered to be the most effective treatment for this condition. It helps people with this disorder be less sensitive to rejection. Antidepressant medicines may be used in addition. Without treatment, a person with an avoidant personality disorder may lead a life of near or total isolation. They may go on to develop a second mental health disorder, such as substance use or depression, and may be at higher risk for suicide. 
How to Overcome Abandonment Issues from Childhood?
See your provider or a mental health professional if shyness or fear of rejection overwhelms your ability to function in life and have relationships. People with this disorder may develop some ability to relate to others. With treatment, this can be improved.
How to Overcome Fear of Abandonment
Searching for “how to get over fear of abandonment and fear of abandonment attachment style?” Depending on what’s causing your fear of abandonment, you can try different approaches to manage it. One of the best ways to overcome the fear of abandonment is to build self-confidence and self-worth. Acknowledge that you are worthy of love and relationships, and value yourself without requiring the approval of others. It can be helpful to practice self-care, focus on developing healthy relationships, and acknowledge your own boundaries. It is also important to focus on your own needs and desires, and recognize that it is okay to be alone if that is what you need. More paths on how to overcome fear of abandonment include:
A therapist can help you recognize and overcome the fear of abandonment by empowering you to:
- Discover your attachment style and how it impacts your relationships
- Learn how to form secure attachments with others
- Develop your emotion regulation skills
- Find out whether a personality disorder or anxiety disorder is causing your abandonment anxiety
- Heal from trauma or childhood experiences that contribute to your fear of abandonment
Talk therapy with a professional you trust can help with the fear of abandonment in multiple ways. You might find that healing also takes place through the process of participating in the therapeutic relationship itself.
Some specific types of therapy may be especially helpful for sorting out where your abandonment anxiety comes from and how to cope with it:
- Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). In DBT therapy, you can learn emotion regulation skills and self-soothing techniques. It’s also a standard treatment for fear of abandonment BPD.
- Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT). EFT focuses on helping you identify your attachment style and how it influences how you relate to others.
- Psychodynamic Therapy. This approach could help you manage personality disorders, including “BPD fear of abandonment examples.” Psychodynamic therapy may also help you recognize behavior patterns linked to your abandonment anxiety.
Learning about yourself can help you identify how fear of abandonment impacts your thoughts and actions — and, as an extension of those things, your relationships. While self-discovery is often a part of therapy, you can also practice it on your own by:
- Keeping a log of your feelings and events that might be causing them
- Curiously checking in with yourself when you feel a surge of emotion — you can start with something like, “Wow, this is a strong feeling. What memories or fears could be at the root of this?”
- Reading up on attachment theory and considering what attachment style you’ve developed
- Using a workbook to identify situations that induce your fear of abandonment so you can be better prepared with coping techniques
3. Support Groups
How to cope with abandonment issues? Community and connection can be important parts of healing from trauma. You might find a support group helpful if you:
- Experienced a traumatic abandonment in the past
- Grew up with emotionally unavailable or distant parents or caregivers
- Find yourself repeating patterns in relationships that you’d like to change
Some support groups for abandonment fear are local, and many focus on abandonment in the context of romantic relationships. You can also check out this online community.
Self-compassion, a way of viewing yourself first with kindness instead of judgment, can help you combat shame and other thoughts that might come up alongside your abandonment anxiety, like:
- “I’m not good enough for my partner.”
- “I deserve to be left on my own.”
- “I’m not loveable.”
It can take time to build up self-compassion. Some ways to practice are by challenging negative self-talk and using mindfulness meditation.
Fear of Abandonment Quotes
“The fear of abandonment forced me to comply as a child, but I’m not forced to comply anymore. The key people in my life did reject me for telling the truth about my abuse, but I’m not alone. Even if the consequence for telling the truth is rejection from everyone I know, that’s not the same death threat that it was when I was a child. I’m a self-sufficient adult and abandonment no longer means the end of my life.”― Christina Enevoldsen, The Rescued Soul: The Writing Journey for the Healing of Incest and Family Betrayal
“Some Survivors think that getting angry is inappropriate and a sign that a person is out of control. Others are afraid of anger, that of others, as well as their own. They are afraid that if they get angry, they will be rejected or abandoned, afraid they will lose control and hurt someone. But, allowing yourself to get angry and express your anger in constructive ways is one of the most healthy and empowering things you can do.”― Beverly Engel, The Nice Girl Syndrome: Stop Being Manipulated and Abused — And Start Standing Up for Yourself
Affirmations for Fear of Abandonment
Two of the most prevalent concerns that people have are the worries of abandonment and rejection. They may also be devastating, resulting in a lack of confidence in interpersonal relationships and overall loneliness. Fortunately, there are strategies for overcoming these anxieties. An effective strategy for conquering them might be the use of positive affirmations. Some of the most powerful affirmations for overcoming a fear of abandonment:
- I am worthy of love and respect.
- I trust myself and my instincts.
- I am capable of creating healthy, lasting relationships.
- I am strong and independent.
- I deserve to be loved and respected.
- I am worthy of love and attention.
- I am lovable and deserving of love.
- I am open to receiving love and intimacy.
- I am capable of giving and receiving love.
- I deserve to be loved unconditionally.
- I am worthy of a fantastic relationship.
- I am ready to let go of my fear of abandonment.
- I am open to love and intimacy.
- I am strong enough to handle any challenges that come my way.
- I am beautiful inside and out.
- I deserve to be happy and loved.
- I am allowed to put myself first.
- I am worth the effort it takes to maintain a healthy relationship.
- I am free from my fear of abandonment.
- I am no longer afraid of being alone.
- I am capable of finding fulfillment from within.
- I am comfortable with myself.
- I am confident in myself and my abilities.
- I trust myself to make the right decisions for myself.
- I am Enough.
Fear of Abandonment Quiz
Here are a few examples of what fear of abandonment can look like. If your answers are YES to the following, you might have a fear of abandonment. If you feel like these feelings are hindering your daily functioning, stopping you from being productive, and giving you anxiety, it’s time to seek professional help.
- Do you have a fear that 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.”
- Do you worry obsessively about your perceived faults and what others may think of you?
- Are you an ultimate people-pleaser? You don’t want to take any chances that someone won’t like you enough to stick around.
- Are you crushed when someone offers a bit of criticism or gets upset with you in any way?
- Do You overreact when you feel slighted?
- Do you feel inadequate and unappealing?
- Have you separated from a romantic partner so they couldn’t break up with you?
- Are you clingy even when the other person asks for space?
- Are you often jealous, suspicious, or critical of your partner?
An avoidant personality disorder is diagnosed based on a psychological evaluation and fear of abandonment test. The healthcare provider will consider how long and severe the person’s “fear of abandonment signs” or abandonment issues symptoms are.
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How to Help Someone with Abandonment Issues?
It can be challenging to help someone with abandonment issues because they often push people away when they feel challenged or vulnerable. The following techniques may help those supporting someone with abandonment issues:
- Stay calm during conversations, even when the person tries to provoke a response — they may be trying to “test” their theory that everyone rejects them.
- Avoid pushing for answers, and allow the person to open up alone.
- Reply honestly and let them know how their behaviors affect others.
Whether this is your first and last abandonment issues treatment program or if you invested years of your time in and out of other therapy programs, we can make you feel at peace again. The We Level Up FL behavioral center is unique in offering unparalleled evidence-based programs.  Along with ultra-modern therapeutic modalities to advance mental health treatment outcomes.
If you have questions about your diagnosis or want licensed guidance or therapy for fear of abandonment, don’t hesitate to contact us.
Most Fear of Abandonment Frequently Asked Questions
How to heal fear of abandonment?
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.
Do I have fear of abandonment?
Yes. If you have difficulty making friends unless you can be sure they like you, take extreme measures to avoid rejection or separation, have a pattern of unhealthy relationships, get attached to people too quickly, then move on just as quickly.
Why do I have a fear of abandonment?
Abandonment fear often derives from childhood loss. This loss could be linked to a traumatic event, such as the loss of a parent through death or divorce. It can also come from not getting enough physical or emotional care. These early childhood experiences can lead to a fear of being abandoned by others later in life.
How to overcome fear of abandonment in relationships?
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. Getting professional help can also make a big difference.
How to begin healing fear of abandonment?
Talk therapy with a professional you trust can help with the fear of abandonment in multiple ways. You might find that healing also takes place through the process of participating in the therapeutic relationship itself.
Search We Level Up FL Fear of Abandonment Mental Health Topics & Other Resources
 Chapman J, Jamil RT, Fleisher C. Borderline Personality Disorder. [Updated 2022 May 2]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK430883/
 Fariba KA, Sapra A. Avoidant Personality Disorder. [Updated 2022 Jun 12]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK559325/
 Borderline Personality Disorder – https://www.mentalhealth.gov/what-to-look-for/personality-disorders/borderline-personality-disorder – U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
 Borderline Personality Disorder – U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
 An Introduction to Co-Occurring Borderline Personality Disorder and Substance Use Disorders – Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
 Mental Disorders – Adult – Social Security Administration