15 Signs of Abandonment Issues in Adults

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Have you lost a loved one due to an unexpected separation or death… and felt like you never got past their leaving?

Do you experience feelings of insecurity, jealousy, rage, anxiety or obsessive thoughts when you are in a close friendship or intimate relationship?

Maybe you sabotage relationships so they fall apart? Or you’re too controlling?

All of these are signs of abandonment issues in adults… and they stem from unfortunate childhood experiences. 

What are Abandonment Issues?

Abandonment issues have their roots in anxiety and are considered a type of anxiety disorder. Yet, the condition isn’t recognized as a mental health issue or standalone condition by medical or clinical professionals.

Instead, it’s a grouping of behaviors that are associated with the fear of loss… most typically the loss of a relationship or someone’s death.

People who exhibit signs of abandonment issues have reached this stage because their thinking and behaviors have been reinforced through the attention paid to them by others.

They may also be unable to form lasting relationships… and even make efforts to push people away. 

The root cause of abandonment issues starts in childhood and has multiple triggers. The most common causes of abandonment issues are:

  • Death of a close friend or family member
  • Being denied love or abandoned by a parent
  • Being forced to act as adults during childhood

Loss of a loved one, such as a grandparent early on in life, can really wreak havoc on a child as they begin to question their own mortality.

Parents who divorce can trigger feelings of abandonment in children that last a lifetime… especially when one parent decides to leave their family to start a new one.

Children instinctively look towards parents and family members for attention and love, but adults don’t always provide these things to their children.

And often single parents will look to their children to take on much more responsibility than any child should at a young age, causing their child to feel blame or shame… whether their parents divorced or became widowed.

Now that we’ve gone over some of the reasons for abandonment issues in adults, I’ll provide a list of 15 telltale signs that are commonly associated with the disorder. 

15 Signs of Abandonment Issues in Adults

1. Entering Into and Maintaining Unhealthy Relationships

An unhealthy relationship is one that features verbal or physical abuse. It can also feature drug and/or alcohol abuse.  Maybe it’s both.

Someone who has abandonment issues will enter into these relationships… even though they’re aware that the individual they’ve chosen is not likely to make a good life partner.  And even though they know this, they stay in the relationship because their fear of being alone is stronger than their desire to leave. 

2. Tendency to Attach Too Quickly

This involves getting too close, too fast, to a new friend or romantic partner.

In the case of friendship, there’s a strong desire to be with them all the time and do fun things as much as possible.  

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People with abandonment issues are often “clingy” in the hope of keeping this person in their life for as long as possible.

For a romantic partner, there’s an urge to proclaim feelings of love and deep affection before they actually form.  This can scare some people away… and if it doesn’t, they may have issues as well.

People with abandonment issues are often “clingy” in the hope of keeping this person in their life for as long as possible. 

This can also be a sign of co-dependency.

3. People Pleasing

“People pleasing” is when a person says “yes” to everything… even though it may not be in their best interest.  A people pleaser will go out of their way to make others happy so that the relationship continues, despite what they may have to give up for saying yes all of the time. People pleasing can also be mentally and physically exhausting. 

These types of people might decide they need to pay for lavish gifts or items they may not get reimbursed for.  They may want to show someone a good time, even if they don’t like what that consists of.

A people pleaser may also push their body past its limits, putting too much time into helping others instead of taking care of them. 

4. Envious of the Relationship of Other People

This is when you know a happy couple, or you have a friend who’s in a great relationship, and you just can’t find it in yourself to feel completely happy for them.

Instead, you might find reasons to nitpick the relationship or criticize it. Or just simply wish for what they have, becoming extremely jealous.

It’s normal to have a little bit of envy for someone in a great relationship, but when those feelings turn into resentment, it’s one of the signs of abandonment issues.

5. Reluctance or Lack of Desire to Fully Commit to a Relationship

The desire to have a relationship is there, but some part of you holds back on fully connecting with a partner.  

You’ll make excuses to yourself as to why you shouldn’t become more involved, you’ll ignore genuine feelings of affection… and you’ll check out of the relationship prematurely after a while because you think you know it is going to eventually end. 

6. Feeling Unworthy of Love

The feeling of being abandoned is intertwined with feelings of loss.

When a loved one leaves you, or passes away, you have this feeling that you’ll never be loved that way again. And if you do find someone who loves you, you feel like you can’t accept their emotions. Like it must be a dream.

You convince yourself that you’re not a good enough person for their love and often push them away to find it elsewhere.

7. Avoidance of Emotional Intimacy

The roots for this are similar to feeling unworthy of love… but this time you avoid going deep into that part of yourself that enables you to fully connect emotionally with a partner.

You’ll probably acknowledge how you feel about them on the surface level, and tell anyone who will listen that you do love this person… yet your inside voice says to not go deeper. The flags go up.

You’ll also notice that you’re always the first one to leave the relationship in order to protect yourself. It’s a classic defense mechanism.  

8. Insecurity and Self-Doubt/Low Self-Esteem

Insecurity and self-doubt sound like they’re one and the same on paper, but they’re actually different… although related.

Insecurity is a lack of self-confidence, while self-doubt is the act of believing in or making definitive negative statements about yourself.

That is, insecurity consists of negative thoughts about how someone else perceives your appearance or intelligence.  

But self-doubt involves your own thoughts about being ugly, stupid, clumsy, etc. It’s also known as low self-esteem.

9. Jealousy or Thoughts of Unfaithfulness on Behalf of a Partner

This is sometimes considered paranoia because you have become obsessed with the fear that your partner is cheating on you.  So much so, you may actually be pushing them away.

You think they are being unfaithful, even when they’ve given you no reason to… nor are there any red flags to indicate that your partner is actually cheating.

Part of this pattern of thinking stems from your own thoughts that you’re not good enough for your partner… so they must be seeking a way out of the relationship.

Eventually the thoughts can lead to an overwhelming and constant feeling that your partner is cheating on you, and no amount of rational or reasonable explanation can convince you otherwise. This leads to a paranoia that can destroy the relationship.

10. Difficulty Trusting Others

This applies to anyone in your social circle, even family.

You think you trust people, but you don’t realize that you only trust them as far as you can throw them.

It’s normal to have a little suspicion that someone won’t do as they say they will, but that usually goes away over time. They earn your trust. Prove their loyalty.

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People with abandonment issues usually have a hard time trusting others.

Constantly carrying the suspicion that someone is about to do you wrong is not normal, especially when that person has been consistent and has always done what they said they would.

This distrust stems from your core belief that everyone you love or like is going to leave you…  so why bother having faith in them as a trustworthy individual? 

11. Can’t Tolerate Long Periods of Separation

Do you get lonely and anxious when your partner leaves for longer periods of time?

For instance, they go on a business trip for a few days and you find yourself aching for their return? Or maybe they just go out with some friends for the night and you become worried?

The longer you’re not physically near your partner, and/or your routines are upset, the more you engage in negative thought patterns like these.

You honestly feel that you can’t bear to be without them.

Then you become depressed.

Then irrational.

You wonder if they are ok.  Or if they’ve been in an accident or are cheating on you, etc. 

12. Overly Controlling

This is when you feel that you have to control every aspect of a relationship. 

When you feel the need to make people live by your standards… simply because you feel it will keep them safe.  And close by.

The thinking here is that if you can keep them safe, they’ll live longer. And you won’t lose them through any fault of your own.

Meanwhile, you’re ignoring the fact that the more controlling you are, the more likely you are to push people away. 

13. Picking Partners that are Emotionally Unavailable

Emotionally unavailable partners are ones that are unwilling to commit to a relationship for a variety of reasons.

Those reasons can include already being married, going through a separation or divorce…  or they simply aren’t interested in a serious romantic relationship at this time.

You pick these partners because you feel that you can have a satisfying physical relationship, while not having to put any effort into connecting on an emotional level. It’s casual dating at its worse.  

14. Relationship Sabotage

You pick arguments, you find fault, you make false accusations, and you’ll say anything to your partner or friend to make them leave.

Deep down inside, you know there’s really nothing wrong with the relationship… but you don’t trust the other person to stick around, so you decide to push them out of your life on your terms.

But instead of being honest with yourself and your friend or partner, you engage in thoughts and actions that put the blame on the other person so you can convince yourself you made the right decision to push them away. 

15. Self-blame for Breakups

When a friendship or partnership fails, you take all the blame for the breakup.

You’re not capable of recognizing the actual truth of the situation.  That is, you may not recognize that the compatibility issues weren’t entirely your fault… but you will think so anyway.

You also aren’t able to see that your ex had issues of their own that ultimately led to the demise of the relationship, be it a romantic or plutonic one.  

Final Thoughts on Signs of Abandonment Issues

Remember, abandonment issues are a type of anxiety disorder… although not given a standalone diagnosis.  

Chances are good that you have a larger mental health issue that is serving as a safety net for those abandonment issues.  

It’s not a pleasant thought to consider… but it may be something worth talking about with a mental health professional. Finding your way towards a healthy state of mind is a lot of work, but you are worth it.

Doing so may be the only way you’ll ever be able to engage in healthy relationships with people you truly love and care for.

As you start on your journey to find out why you think and act the way you do, you should take the time to engage in mental health exercises to help lift yourself out of negative thinking patterns. Make sure to check out our article from Happier Human that outlines 45 positive affirmations to help you relieve stress and anxiety… and get you started on the path to mental wellness.

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