Experiences a person has in childhood influence the character traits they develop as they grow to become adults. Some children are abandoned by their parents, a form of abuse that can be profoundly traumatic and leave emotional scars for years to come. Borderline personality disorder is, in part, caused by trauma and leads to abandonment issues in relationships and problems with drugs or alcohol. The weight of emotional baggage can be lightened with therapy.
Learn about the signs of abandonment issues in adulthood and the types of therapies that can help individuals heal.
2 Types of Abandonment
When people think of the act of ‘being abandoned’, they likely imagine a loved one leaving them on the side of the road without explanation or care. Abandonment does not have to be a dramatic exit; it can involve subtle and repeated acts of physical or emotional abuse over the years.
Physical & Emotional Abandonment
Physical abandonment occurs when a child’s tangible needs are not met. For instance, a parent may frequently leave their young child at home alone or at other people’s houses. They might fail to provide the child with adequate clothing, shelter, and food. Sometimes, a child is left in a vulnerable situation where they can injure themselves or be physically or sexually abused by other adults without the parent’s knowledge.
Emotional abandonment describes when a child’s emotional needs are invalidated or ignored. The child may feel as if they have to hide who they are and what they feel because their parent does not seem to care. They may be afraid to make mistakes for fear of getting scolded and belittled. Accomplishments may also go unacknowledged or devalued, preventing the child from building the self-esteem and confidence to thrive.
The Fear of Being Left in Adulthood
A child who was either physically or emotionally deserted by a caregiver may develop issues with their self-image. The child may believe that their needs are not as important as others, leading them to develop toxic shame and trust issues that manifest in adult relationships with friends and romantic partners.
A person may have a concerning fear of abandonment if they:
- have great difficulty putting their trust in another person and being honest, so much so that it causes frequent conflicts
- want to please others all the time or have a constant need to be emotionally validated or have their accomplishments acknowledged
- intentionally push others away or sabotage relationships to avoid rejection or what they believe to be inevitable abandonment
- become overly needy or codependent in relationships and have unreasonable expectations for how their partner should meet their emotional needs
- struggle to maintain healthy relationships, either jumping from one relationship to another or staying in toxic relationships (they may be attracted to those who will treat them poorly, re-exposing them to trauma)
- let people get close but still feel very insecure and vulnerable of being left
- become emotionally reactive towards their friend or partner when they feel threatened or slighted
How Is BDP Related to Abandonment?
Borderline Personality Disorder (BDP) is characterized by many of the same problems that a person with a fear of abandonment has.
BDP is believed to be caused by adverse childhood experiences (ACE) in some individuals. The CDC defines ACEs as “potentially traumatic events that occur in childhood (0-17 years),” such as “experiencing violence, abuse, or neglect.” Individuals with BDP often report having encountered abuse, abandonment, or adversity during childhood, hostile conflicts, and unstable, invalidating relationships.
Individuals with BDP experience great uncertainty about their self-image and relationships with others. They tend to swing between extremes in their evaluation of people in their life. Today, they might adore and express love (idealization) for a friend. Tomorrow, they might express hate and call them a ‘traitor’ (devaluation) for having slighted them in some insignificant way.
Individuals with BDP also avoid abandonment, such as ending relationships before the other person can. This can lead to relationships that are like a roller coaster ride.
You Can Heal With Therapy
Whether an individual has experienced instances of abandonment throughout childhood or has Borderline Personality Disorder, some treatments can help them heal from trauma and improve their relationship with themselves and others.
At facilities like Avalon Malibu, holistic treatment is a way of providing clients with multiple pathways to recovery. Every person enters treatments with their own troubles that need to be addressed in a way that suits them.
Below is a list of various therapies that are used to treat trauma and BDP:
- Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR)
- Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
- Art therapy
- Music therapy
- Writing therapy
Being physically or emotionally abandoned as a child can cause interpersonal issues that evolve into difficulties maintaining stable relationships with friends or lovers in adulthood. Conditions such as borderline personality disorder are a byproduct of this trauma and can cause further pain if left untreated. Avalon Malibu is an addiction and mental health treatment program in Malibu, CA. We are licensed to treat adults with many conditions that impair their quality of life and well-being. We understand that emotional trauma is not something a person can “get over.” The constant fear of abandonment can be like reliving past trauma repeatedly. Our holistic approach to treating trauma and BDP includes EMDR, DBT, and creative therapies. Our clients can explore diverse options and create a treatment plan that meets their needs and fits their schedules. For more information about our treatment program, please call (844) 857-5992 today.