Fear of Abandonment

Fear of Abandonment

The fear of being abandoned is an overwhelming worry, and people around you will leave. 

Anyone can have a fear of being abandoned. It may be deeply rooted in your traumatic experiences as a child or painful relationships in adulthood. If you are afraid of being abandoned, it is can feel almost impossible to maintain healthy relationships. This fear of paralysis can cause you to isolate yourself from yourself to avoid getting hurt. Or you might be inadvertently sabotaging relationships.

The first step in overcoming fear is to acknowledge why you feel this way. You can resolve your fears by yourself or through therapy. But fear of abandonment can also be part of a personality disorder that requires treatment.

Symptoms of fear of abandonment

If you fear abandonment, you might recognize some of these symptoms and signs:

✔️ overly sensitive to criticism

✔️ difficulty trusting in others

✔️ difficulty making friends unless you can be sure they like you

✔️ taking extreme measures to avoid rejection or separation

✔️ pattern of unhealthy relationships

✔️ getting attached to people too quickly, then moving on just as quickly

✔️ difficulty committing to a relationship

✔️ working too hard to please the other person

✔️ blaming yourself when things don’t work out

✔️ staying in a relationship even if it’s not healthy for you

Causes of fear of abandonment

Fear of Abandonment in relationships

If you fear abandonment in your current relationship, it may be due to having been physically or emotionally abandoned in the past. For example:

✔️ As a child, you may have experienced the death or desertion of a parent or caregiver.

✔️ You may have experienced parental neglect.

✔️ You may have been rejected by your peers.

✔️ You went through a prolonged illness of a loved one.

✔️ A romantic partner may have left you suddenly or behaved in an untrustworthy manner.

Avoidant personality disorder

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 symptoms are:

✔️ nervousness

✔️ poor self-esteem

✔️ intense fear of being negatively judged or rejected

✔️ discomfort in social situations

✔️ avoidance of group activities and self-imposed social isolation

Borderline personality disorder

Borderline personality disorder is another personality disorder in which intense fear of abandonment can play a role. Other signs and symptoms can include:

✔️ unstable relationships

✔️ distorted self-image

✔️ extreme impulsiveness

✔️ mood swings and inappropriate anger

✔️ difficulty being alone

Many people who have borderline personality disorder say they were sexually or physically abused as children. Others grew up amid intense conflict or had family members with the same condition.

Separation anxiety disorder

If a child doesn’t outgrow separation anxiety and it interferes with daily activities, they may have separation anxiety disorder.

Other signs and symptoms of separation anxiety disorder can include frequent:

✔️ panic attacks

✔️ distress at the thought of being separated from loved ones

✔️ refusal to leave home without a loved one or be left home alone

✔️ nightmares involving being separated from loved ones

✔️ physical issues, like stomachache or headache, when separated from loved ones

Healing from Fear of Abandonment

Once you realise your fear of being abandoned, you can do something to start healing.

Let yourself relax and stop harsh self-judgment.

Remind yourself of all the positive qualities that make you a good friend and good partner.

Talk to others about your fear of being abandoned and how it happened. But pay attention to what you expect of others. Explain where you’re coming from, but don’t make your fear of abandonment something for them to fix. Don’t expect more of them than is reasonable. 

Work on maintaining friendships and build your support network. A strong friendship can enhance your self-worth and sense of belonging.

If you find this is unmanageable, consider talking to a qualified therapist. You may benefit from individual counselling.

When to see a doctor

If you’ve tried but can’t manage your fear of abandonment on your own, or if you have symptoms of a panic disorder, anxiety disorder, or depression, see a healthcare provider.

You can start with your primary care physician for a complete checkup. They can then refer you to a mental health professional to diagnose and treat your condition.

Without treatment, personality disorders may lead to depression, substance use, and social isolation.


Fear of being abandoned can have a negative impact on your relationships. However, there are steps you can take to minimise these fears. When fear of abandonment is part of a broader personality disorder, it can be successfully treated with medication and psychotherapy.

Useful links:

SAFA Cumbria

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Phone: 01229 832269


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  1. Has this fear affected your relationships, friendships and lifestyle?
  2. Could you benefit from counselling or speaking to a professional?


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