Emotional abandonment: what is it, causes, symptoms and how to overcome it

  • Jul 26, 2021
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Emotional abandonment: what is it, causes, symptoms and how to overcome it

The psychological implications that derive, for example, from a childhood marked by abandonment, are usually quite serious and an experience of trauma is often determined. However, the experience of abandonment can take various forms: the child who is abandoned by the mother in childhood, the death of a father or partner, periods of permanence in institutions, an alcoholic relative, discontinuity in parental care, threats of abandonment or even death, a childhood in almost total loneliness, a divorce, etc. These are just a few examples of childhood emotional neglect.

In this Psychology-Online article, we are going to address together the topic of emotional abandonment, to understand better what it is, its causes and symptoms to recognize it, but also some suggestions to see how to overcome it.

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  1. What is emotional abandonment
  2. Causes of emotional abandonment
  3. Symptoms of emotional abandonment
  4. How to overcome emotional abandonment

What is emotional abandonment.

The term abandonment does not refer only to an absence / physical experience. The most common form of abandonment, in fact, refers to the emotional absence of the main attachment figure. However, this feeling of emptiness is ageless, precisely because any child can perceive it, any adult can be devastated.

Childhood emotional neglect is not necessarily related to proximity: it can occur even when the other person is lying next to you, when you cannot connect with them and your emotional needs are not met in the relationship. Often times, people are unaware of their emotional needs and simply feel that something is missing; But human beings have many emotional needs in intimate relationships, and in Consequently, if there is a strong conflict, for example abuse or infidelity, these needs will not be satisfied. Therefore, emotional abandonment is a subjective emotional state in which the person feels unloved, abandoned, insecure, or discarded. Likewise, emotional abandonment can also occur in the couple.

People experiencing emotional abandonment may feel at a loss, isolated from a crucial source of sustenance that has been withdrawn, either suddenly or through a process of erosion. Feeling rejected, which is a significant component of emotional abandonment, has a biological impact, as it activates the physical brain pain centers and it can leave an emotional mark on your alarm system.

Causes of emotional abandonment.

The early childhood experiences they contribute to a greater extent to the development of abandonment problems throughout our lives. The traumatic event could include the loss of a parent through divorce or death or not having received sufficient physical or emotional treatment as a child. Let's look at some of the causes of childhood emotional neglect related to parental behavior:

  • Do not let children express themselves emotionally
  • Ridicule your children
  • Putting too much pressure on your kids to be "perfect"
  • Treat your children like your peers

Abandonment issues occur just when a caregiver does not provide friendly, caring, and consistent interaction, leaving room for chronic stress and fears. Even in a healthy adult relationship there are periods, days, and even moments of emotional abandonment that can be intentional or unconscious. These can be caused by:

  • Intentional withholding of communication or affection
  • External stressors, including parents' needs
  • Disease
  • Uneven work hours
  • Lack of mutual interest and time sharing
  • Worry and self-centeredness
  • Lack of healthy communication
  • Unresolved resentment
  • Fear of intimacy

How to avoid the feeling of abandonment? To prevent abandoned child syndrome in adults, it is necessary for the child to have a reference figure who is available, firm and affectionate.

Symptoms of emotional abandonment.

Individuals with abandonment problems can display a wide range of behaviors in their relationships. Some of the more common symptoms associated with emotional neglect include:

  1. Participate in a series of superficial relationships. Your abandonment issues can take you into many relationships on a superficial level and look for excuses to leave before the other person leaves you.
  2. Sabotage healthy relationships. You may have a tendency to end healthy relationships when you suspect that your partner may leave you; This can lead to various sabotage behaviors, such as cheating or starting unnecessary conversations.
  3. A devastating fear of being alone. If you tend to stay in unhealthy relationships despite wanting to leave, you may fear being more than you fear being hurt by the other person.
  4. Search for constant guarantees. You may have abandonment issues if you often pressure your partner or friends to make promises that you will never let go, or if you want to hear how much they love you and appreciate you every day and get angry if you don't make.
  5. Obsessive behavior and jealousy. If you think that your partner could leave you, or when you could harass and express your jealousy at the idea that they leave you for someone else. In this article we talk about what is jealousy in psychology.

How to overcome emotional abandonment.

How to overcome the abandonment syndrome? If your abandonment issues have damaged your relationships and made you feel even more vulnerable, it is time to take charge of your life and face the wounds of your childhood with your head held high and adolescence. Many people, at times, feel immovable and unworthy - don't let this dictate the way you live your life. We will see some simple tips to start dealing with the problems of emotional abandonment through self-compassion and caring:

  1. Be kind to yourself. Many have that critical inner voice that tells us that we are terrible people; the sooner we learn to curb this voice and prevent it from dictating their behaviors, the better. Because it is good to learn to see the positive traits in ourselves instead of concentrating on our shortcomings.
  2. Practice awareness. To overcome the fear of abandonment, we can learn to be aware of our thoughts and feelings, nipping them in the bud those petty thoughts, which will help us build a stronger emotional core without losing our sense of ourselves themselves.
  3. Remember that you are not the only one with these painful thoughts and feelings.. Most people struggle with their own problems and if we can all come together to cultivate self-compassion and emotional strength, it would be much easier to live a life based on acceptance and love. Keep in mind that you are not alone in this: you are worthy of love and compassion, like everyone else. In the next article you will find more information about What is self-compassion in psychology and how to practice it.
  4. You don't have to heal your own emotional wounds alone. In therapy, we will be able to explore the root cause of our fears and identify patterns of negative thinking, and an experienced therapist can help us replace them with healthy and more realistic. By working with them, we can learn to setting healthy boundaries in relationships and help avoid behaviors that hamper healthy relationships.

This article is merely informative, in Psychology-Online we do not have the power to make a diagnosis or recommend a treatment. We invite you to go to a psychologist to treat your particular case.

If you want to read more articles similar to Emotional abandonment: what is it, causes, symptoms and how to overcome it, we recommend that you enter our category of Emotions.


  • Brennan, D. (2020). Abandonment Issues: Symptoms and Signs. Recovered from: https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/abandonment-issues-symptoms-signs
  • Glass, J. (2020). Abandonment Issues & Their Effect On Relationships. Recovered from: https://www.lovetopivot.com/emotional-abandonment-affect-relationship-love-addiction/
  • Lancer, D. (2016). What is Emotional Abandonment? Recovered from: https://psychcentral.com/lib/what-is-emotional-abandonment#1
  • Vagnoni, F. (2020). Esistere oltre. Rome: Albatross.

Emotional abandonment: what is it, causes, symptoms and how to overcome it

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