Many individuals are known to seek therapy for the fear of abandonment and issues related to it. The fear of abandonment phobia is characterized by extreme dependency on others. It is commonly seen in adults and children who are also diagnosed with Borderline Personality disorders. Such people live in the constant fear that their ‘world will collapse’ if their protectors or loved ones abandon them.
Fear of abandonment can lead to different issues that can cause harm to both the sufferer and his loved ones. Often, the phobic tends to threaten or sabotage his/her relationships using statements like “I will leave you before you leave me” or “You love them more than me” or “You’ve never loved me” and so on. This phobia can also lead to domestic violence: breaking or destroying property or even physically hurting loved ones.
Causes of Autophobia
- Doctors believe that, in majority of the cases, the fear of abandonment phobia stems from childhood trauma when a parent or loved one leaves following a divorce (or dies). Even in adulthood, the sufferer continues to believe and fear that every significant person in his/her life is going to abandon him/her in a similar way. Thus, the phobia stems from behavior learned from childhood experiences.
- Abandonment in childhood can be physical, emotional or financial. All of these can be traumatic to the young child. Death of a parent gives rise to several overwhelming feelings followed by financial difficulties, change of lifestyle, or change of home etc. This deepens the trauma further.
- Sometimes, the fear of abandonment phobia can come on suddenly in adulthood, when one is financially or emotionally dependent on another adult, who dies or leaves leading to significant loss of financial and emotional support.
- Individuals with an adrenal deficiency or those with a general tendency towards being overly anxious or ‘high strung’ are also more likely to suffer from such phobia.
Symptoms of the fear of abandonment phobia
Autophobia varies in degree and intensity leading to different levels of symptoms in suffering individuals. Major symptoms brought on by this phobia include:
- Avoiding intimacy or relationships
- Anxiety and panic attack symptoms such as shaking, trembling, nausea, headaches, gastrointestinal distress, increased heart rate, shallow or rapid breathing etc at the thought of being left alone.
These psychological effects are seen in every aspect of the sufferer’s life to an extent that it may impact his/her social, professional and intimate relationships:
- A spouse constantly suspects his/her partner of having an affair.
- Autophobic parent does not allow his/her child to form intimate relationships with peers.
- A partner constantly sends messages/calls or texts the other.
- One attends office functions or other events where one is not invited.
- Stalks ex-spouse following a divorce.
Overcoming the fear of abandonment
A big part of overcoming Autophobia is developing love for self and confidence in one’s abilities. One must also discuss beforehand all of one’s needs before forming intimate relationships.
Finding a ‘safe and calm haven’ is a recommended technique to overcome this phobia. This is best done through positive visualization and affirmations as well as meditation and other mind-body techniques.
Family or loved ones of individuals suffering from this phobia also play an important role in the therapy. Loved ones need to be firm and not give in to the phobic’s demands especially ones that are unhealthy for them. If one feels physically threatened by the individual, it is best to stay away and get police help. Arguing with such a person is only going to make matters worse and often loved ones find themselves isolated from others.
Hypnotherapy is a tried and tested therapy for treating Autophobia. It gets to the root of the problem and helps reprogram the subconscious thoughts to help dispel the fear.
Other scientific treatments for overcoming fear of abandonment include NLP or neuro linguistic programming and energy psychology both of which are proven methods to overcome Autophobia.