Trauma from abandonment can fuel addiction and mental health conditions
Abandonment: What You Need to Know
Emotional abandonment is a form of trauma that usually results from the behavior of significant others, predominantly parents. Abandonment can occur from a variety of experiences and be either physical or emotional. When there is parental addiction or mental health problems in the family, members experience emotional abandonment. The addiction or mental health issue becomes the central organizing feature in the family, it is what everyone is reacting to, and the needs of the child are often overlooked. An acrimonious divorce can produce the same result if children are used as pawns, ignored, or not given the attention they need.
Abandonment is also experienced when parents have rigid, perfectionistic, and unrealistic expectations. As a child attempts to meet those expectations and is not able to do so, anything less than perfect is experienced as failure. Not reaching the expected goal and doing less than sadly becomes translated into a shame-based belief that “who you are, is not okay.” When a young person is rejected by a parent or other loved ones for their sexual orientation, the emotional abandonment can have a significant impact, leaving them feeling alone and unloved.
Effects of Abandonment
Those who have experienced abandonment are more prone to developing attachment disorders or relational issues later in life. Two main childhood attachment disorders are Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) and Disinhibited Social Engagement Disorder (DSED).
When children have Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD),they have a learned distrust of caregivers and do not seek them out when they are upset. They may appear sad or irritated in interacting with caregivers during ordinary activities or seem to have no emotion at all.
When children have Disinhibited Social Engagement Disorder (DSED),they have a tendency to trust strangers and caregivers equally, being unable to distinguish who should be taking care of them. They may be overly friendly and unafraid of talking to, hugging, or going places with people they’ve never met.
As children with attachment disorders grow into young adults, they may experience separation anxiety and intense fear of abandonment.
In young adults, symptoms lasting six months or more (that are not explained by other conditions) may be classified as a separation anxiety disorder. Individuals with anxiety disorders or early trauma experiences can be more likely to use drugs or alcohol to calm themselves down. Mood-altering substances can worsen symptoms, however, and lead to addiction or the development of other mental health conditions.
Symptoms include the following:
- Severe distress when anticipating or experiencing separation from home or loved ones
- Irrational fears of adverse events that would separate the individual from loved ones
- Refusal to sleep away from home or go to sleep without loved ones nearby
- Persistent complaints of physical pain (stomach aches, headaches) when anticipating or experiencing separation from loved ones
- Nightmares of being separated from loved ones
The Stats on Abandonment
- According to a NSCAW report, 42% of children removed from their homes and placed in an alternate setting met the criteria for a behavioral health disorder.
- Worldwide, one-third of mental health conditions can be traced back to Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), according to the American Psychological Association.
- Children who experience ACEs are 3-4 times more likely to develop mental health conditions by the time they become adults
- Every year thousands of minors are forced into homelessness by their families because of their sexual orientation, according to the Indiana Journal of Law and Social Equality.
Treating Issues Related to Abandonment
Without healing from these various forms of emotional abandonment, young adults are more apt to seek out relationships that are unhealthy, abusive, or emotionally unavailable, causing the cycle to repeat and emotional needs continue not to be met. The young adult can also be plagued by a fear of future abandonments, which creates a barrier to making healthy emotional connections in adulthood.
We utilize experiential therapies including neurofeedback, mindfulness practices, equine-assisted psychotherapy, challenge courses, trauma-informed psychodrama, EMDR, and Somatic Experiencing to address these issues. Our evidence-based treatment approach has been proven effective in helping individuals process and overcome emotional trauma, including trauma from abandonment.
Help for Abandonment Issues
Abandonment issues can have a range of adverse effects on a young adult’s life if they are not addressed. The Claudia Black Young Adult Center can help individuals suffering from trauma, substance use, or mental health conditions related to physical or emotional abandonment issues. We offer a comprehensive treatment program that focuses on healing the whole person, and our experienced staff looks forward to helping you begin your healing journey.
Featured Article: Understanding (& Overcoming!) Abandonment Issues
Emotional trauma or neglect of needs and feelings in childhood often leads to abandonment issues in adults.
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