Abandonment anxiety is the fear of being abandoned in a relationship. People with abandonment anxiety have one of two insecure attachment styles: attachment anxiety and attachment avoidance. The anxiety by clinging is characterized by the need to care for others and the fear that the couple leave. Attachment avoidance is characterized by the persistent need to be self-reliant and fear of dependency.
Where does attachment theory come from?
Modern attachment theory grew out of the work of psychiatrists John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth in the 20th century. Both researchers were influenced by the Austrian psychiatrist and founder of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud. In one of Bowlby’s early empirical studies, he examined 44 children at the London Child Guidance Clinic who were unable to express affection and empathy .
In all cases, the lack of affection is based on maternal deprivation or abandonment. In the 1950s, Ainsworth joined Bowlby’s research team, and together they examined numerous cases of child neglect and deprivation of affection, culminating in what is now known as “attachment theory.”
Definition of attachment
According to Ainsworth, attachment is a strong and loving bond that ties two people together emotionally and continues over time. Attachment theory holds that these emotional ties between people are crucial for healthy development on a mental , social, and emotional level.
The crucial time period for this development is the first six years of childhood. For healthy child development to take place, the child and caregiver must form a bond in which the caregiver provides a safe environment for the child and shows affection and emotional support . These first attachments form the basis for future interpersonal relationships.
Events and conditions such as divorce, illness, or the inability to express affection can interfere with or disrupt the natural bonding process between child and caregiver. When a caregiver is unresponsive or unable to respond affectionately to a child’s fears, the child will grow in one of two ways.
You may continue to seek affection and bonding that you lacked in childhood by becoming overly dependent, or you will become overly independent, distrusting others, and having an intense fear of dependence on others. How an abandoned child develops depends on which coping styles have been most effective for him and the severity of the neglect.
People whose fear of abandonment has resulted in avoiding attachment avoid closeness and affection in their relationships or avoid committed relationships altogether. They generally prefer casual sex that doesn’t have any emotional impact. People who fear abandonment so much that they avoid deep emotional connections with others are at increased risk of developing life-threatening illnesses.
People whose fear of abandonment has led to co-dependency and the fear that partners will leave may be reluctant to enter into a long-term committed relationship, but once they enter one, they bond deeply with the other person. and they are overly concerned that the relationship may end.
According to University of Illinois psychologist Chris Fraley, people who fear abandonment are very attuned to the emotional expressions of others. Fraley tested how people with different attachment styles reacted to changing faces and found that people with attachment anxiety were more accurate interpreters of non-verbal communication, but only when they took the time to make a decision.