How Does Abandonment Trauma Impact You, And What Ways To Cope With It?

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When we experience emotional abandonment as children can leave us feeling insecure, distrustful, incomplete, and afraid. These feelings frequently pursue us into later life and make it challenging for us to establish wholesome, dependable connections. This article teaches about emotional abandonment and healing the psychological impacts of abandonment.

Table of Contents

What is Abandonment Trauma?

Abandonment Trauma
Photo by Julia Taubitz

The development of relationships with parents or other guardians is essential to a child ‘s social, physical, and mental development from birth. Having a kind and attentive caregiver or parent for an infant gives them the care they require to become happy adults. A well-cared-for youngster grows in confidence, feels safe out in the world, and has a solid basis for knowing how to form positive interactions later in life.

But if those first bonds break, the kid could suffer from trauma related to abandonment or neglect. Post-traumatic stress disorder of abandonment, often known as abandonment trauma, results from parents or loved ones being physically absent owing to a parent’s death or separation. Moreover, abandonment trauma further leads to mental health problems, substance addiction, or both.

How does it impact you?

Your reaction to actual or assumed abandonment will vary depending on various factors, notably your age.

Abandonment trauma in children

Trauma can alter how your brain processes information and makes snap decisions. A tragic experience you endure as a youngster may also impact the chemistry of your neurodevelopment.

According to a 2021 systematic review, there is a connection between having unsafe attachments as a young kid and experiencing attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). However, the basis of this relationship is still unknown.

Another comprehensive review from 2021 discovered that executive functioning was impaired in kids and teenagers who experienced early-life hardship, such as deprivation or unsafe circumstances. The term “executive functioning” describes your memory skills and behavioral inhibition.

As per the psychological concept known as attachment theory, your relationship with your primary caregivers may have influenced how you learned to connect with others as a grownup.

Theoretically, reactive attachment disorder and other mental health issues can arise in young children who cannot depend on guardians or parents to fulfill their physical and psychological needs.

Abandonment trauma in adults

One of the major long-term impacts of abandonment trauma is a phobia of being alone. According to experts, abandonment trauma symptoms will keep returning if ignored. 

People who have experienced abandonment trauma are more inclined to act self-destructively.

Childhood trauma can affect adult connections, including meaningful relationships and family relations, since the affected adult may find it difficult to be open, embrace love, and have faith in others.

A person abandoned as a child may also be more prone to growing signs of other mental disorders as an adult.

Despite the little study on the trauma of abandonment, studies on the impacts of trauma can point to possible psychological consequences of being or experiencing forsaken.

75.6% of participants in a 2015 research of 349 persons with chronic depression reported having experienced childhood trauma. More severe depressive symptoms have been associated with many traumatic situations.

 A 2019 research of 187 respondents investigated the proven connection between trauma and psychosis. In this instance, investigators dealt with patients who had just experienced their first psychotic episode. They discovered that trauma survivors were likelier to exhibit extreme aggressive behaviors, especially toward others.

A correlation was also found between trauma and depression intensity, suicidal tendencies, and non-suicidal self-injury activity.

How does abandonment relate to PTSD?

Not everyone who fears abandonment also experiences PTSD, and likewise. PTSD, depression, and detachment are common co-occurring problems according to studies on “comorbid” conditions to borderline personality disorder.

The abandonment fear relates to PTSD when:

  • Significant trauma has occurred, making integration painful and challenging and maybe lead to PTSD symptoms, including nightmares, hallucinations, and hypervigilance
  •  One will wish to push this agony away, either by becoming emotionless to it or dissociating from reality.
  • Feeling disconnected from others, skeptical of other people’s support, and inevitably feeling disapproved of and unwanted by family, friends, and community 

These can result in helplessness and social defeat, with depression.

Signs of Abandonment Trauma

The main indicators of other types of trauma are comparable to the symptoms of abandonment trauma.

Depending on what developmental stage the individual was in when subjected to the traumatic experience of abandonment, these symptoms may vary. Your symptoms might become more severe if you undergo traumatic stress over an extended period.

Children in primary school or younger may experience the following consequences and signs of trauma:

  • Nightmares or trouble falling asleep
  • Screaming or yelling without apparent cause
  • Separation phobia
  • Performance challenges in academic contexts
  • Alterations in one’s food intake or connection

Childhood trauma may have an impact on adulthood if ignored. Possible symptoms and indicators include, among others:

  • Drug usage disorder
  • Eating problems
  • Self-destructive tendencies and suicidal thoughts
  • A problem with establishing and maintaining enduring relationships
  • Self-sabotage
  • Emotional neediness
  • Aversion to intimacy
  • Manifestations that can be seen as “underprivileged.”
  • Pain denial

What causes it?

Childhood events that leave people frightened, insecure, and alone can lead to abandonment trauma.  The emotional discomfort brought on by this kind of trauma can last a lifetime and cause several physical issues. Common causes of abandonment trauma encompass: 

  • An emotionally distant parent
  • Mistreatment due to parent substance misuse
  • A parent’s psychiatric disorder; a parent’s unexpected death
  • A family with a history of severe instability or instability.

Ways to cope with it

No matter what kind of traumatic event you went through or how long you were subjected to traumatic stress, you can recover from trauma.

However, healing from trauma is difficult; thus, consulting a mental health expert is strongly advised.

When abandonment trauma makes it difficult for a person to accomplish daily tasks like working, attending school, taking care of themselves, and establishing loving relationships, expert advises that person to get help.

Consider these additional self-care suggestions:

1. Save some time for joy

Discovering helpful channels can be important for processing your trauma.

“Do things that provide you satisfaction is the best way to cope. This could involve activities, journaling, artwork, meditation, practicing mindfulness, and spending time outside daily.

2. Take into account meditation and mindfulness

Psychologists suggest meditation as a method of processing trauma and remaining calm. To center your body and foster tranquility, meditation asks you to concentrate your attention on a single idea, thought, or even nothing.

Additionally, it has been demonstrated that mindfulness is a powerful coping technique for kids who have had challenging life events.

3. Try to make a connection

Experts suggest contributing to your community as another way to deal with abandonment trauma. Enjoying time with those you love who are part of your “chosen family” might remind you that you are protected and cared for.

Another choice is to volunteer with a cause you’re enthusiastic about and join a local support group.

Also Read: How To Surround Yourself With Positive People


Trauma can result from both physical and emotional abandonment. A traumatic event when you were young might affect how your brain develops and is wired. It might also influence your self-perception and adult connections.

Any trauma, including abandonment, can be recovered from. Speaking with a mental health expert and creating a support system are recommended.

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Picture of Vivien Roggero - Elite Transformation and Executive Coach
Vivien Roggero - Elite Transformation and Executive Coach
Vivien Roggero, an Elite Transformation and Executive Coach, specializes in high-performance coaching and personal transformation, guiding professionals to peak success and fulfillment. With decades of experience, Vivien empowers high achievers, executives, and entrepreneurs through mindset shifts and strategic development.
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