According to the National Council for Mental Wellbeing, healthy friendships are one of the biggest predictors of happiness. Maintaining connections and developing authentic relationships impacts mental stability more than wealth, fame, success or status. Other studies have indicated that those who maintained close friendships from adolescence have lower rates of depression and anxiety later in life.

Unfortunately, overcoming abandonment fears in relationships can sabotage our efforts towards love and friendship. These deep-rooted fears stem from a variety of sources, including childhood trauma, attachment patterns and past relationship failures.

This article explores the origins of abandonment fears and the triggers and patterns that emerge in relationships. It also discusses the strategies for building open and honest communication between partners and how self-confidence and self-worth play an important role in relationships.

Exploring the Roots of Abandonment Fears

The fear of abandonment is a form of anxiety that causes someone to dread losing a loved one and affects their ability to form relationships. While it’s not considered a mental health condition, fear of abandonment is often seen in those with specific mental health issues, including borderline personality disorder and avoidant personality disorder.

Some of the most common symptoms in those with abandonment issues include:

  • Trust issues
  • Avoiding others
  • Being codependent
  • Insecurity
  • Desire to control others
  • Inability to express emotional intimacy
  • Giving too much in relationships
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Panic disorders
  • Depression

To understand the fear of abandonment, you must go to the roots. Psychologists find individuals who fear abandonment are more likely to have experienced the death or desertion of a parent during their childhood. Parental neglect or peer rejection may also play a contributing factor. Later in life, the fear of abandonment may come from a romantic partner breaking their trust or experiencing a prolonged illness or death of a loved one.

Individuals with an insecure attachment style may struggle with abandonment fears, while anxious individuals may have a constant need for reassurance and struggle with the fear of being left behind. Evaluating these prior experiences may help mental health professionals gain insight into abandonment fears and how they impact relationships.

Understanding Triggers and Patterns in Relationships

Fears of abandonment don’t usually manifest on their own. While triggers and patterns in relationships are unique to each individual, some experiences are common among those with abandonment issues, including rejection, betrayal and infidelity. Other triggers may include emotional distance, affection withdrawal and the fear of rejection.

When faced with triggers, those with abandonment issues may display patterns of clinginess, jealousy or a constant need for validation. Partners on the receiving end may feel overly stressed and pressured, which leads to a cycle of strained and failed relationships.

Building Trust through Open Communication

Effective communication is the cornerstone of building trust in relationships, and expressing vulnerabilities, fears and insecurities without judgment is essential when communicating your needs in a partnership. When open communication occurs, you foster an environment where hard conversations can happen without fear of abandonment becoming a reality.

Sharing feelings and concerns in a relationship can lead to a deeper understanding of each other’s needs and expectations. Emotional intimacy also helps eliminate miscommunications and makes it easier to discuss fears and insecurities.

Some tips to improve open communication include:

  • Process your feelings before you speak. Instead of lashing out and saying the first thing that comes to mind, process your feelings and approach the topic calmly.
  • Consider the timing. Choosing the right time to talk to one another can make all the difference. Tell your partner you need to talk to them ahead of time so they feel less like they’re being attacked.
  • Use “I” statements. Begin conversations with how you’re feeling or how you perceive situations instead of beginning with “you” statements, which can feel accusatory.
  • Check on your partner during the day. Simple notes throughout the day make your partner feel loved and cared for. Even small notes can have a positive impact on mood.
  • Focus on compromise. When discussing issues, avoid focusing on who’s right and who’s wrong. Instead, learn to respect each other’s opinions while reaching a compromise.

Developing Self-Confidence and Self-Worth

Individuals struggling with the fear of abandonment often have low self-confidence and lowered self-esteem. Activities that build confidence outside of relationships can help you overcome your fear and make it possible to build healthy relationships. Engaging in regular self-care activities can help you recognize your value, cultivate a positive self-image and help you focus on your mental and emotional well-being.

Self-confidence and feelings of self-worth are powerful tools when navigating relationships. When you feel secure in yourself, you often approach relationships with a healthier mindset, which can reduce abandonment fears. Regular self-care also makes it easier to set personal boundaries and prioritize your own needs, preventing you from becoming overly reliant on your partner for validation and security.

Popular ways to build your self-confidence include:

  • Writing down everything you like about yourself
  • Spending time with supportive family and friends
  • Learning something new
  • Participating in a sport or hobby you excel at
  • Not comparing yourself to others
  • Setting and working toward goals
  • Focusing on your strengths
  • Spending time in meditation
  • Observing what makes others succeed
  • Manifesting your success

Seeking Professional Support in Overcoming Abandonment Fears

Individuals struggling with abandonment issues can receive help from a mental health professional or health care provider to discuss the available treatment options when managing fear of abandonment. Therapists, counselors and relationship experts assist in evaluating where the fear started and provide coping activities to help you work through when these fears arise.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one psychological treatment that’s been proven effective in addressing abandonment fears. This goal-centered talk therapy helps manage a variety of mental health conditions, including depression and anxiety.

If you or someone you love struggles with depression, anxiety or other mental health conditions that trigger fears of abandonment in relationships, we can help. Contact one of our caring counselors at Sunlight Recovery to get started on a path to recovery.