PTSD of Abandonment

POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER OF ABANDONMENT

Below is a comprehensive list of 40 symptoms / features of PTSD of Abandonment, compiled by Susan Anderson.

*An intense fear of abandonment.

*Difficulty forming primary relationships.

*Intrusive insecurity that interferes in your love life, social life and goal achievement.

*A tendency to repeatedly subject yourself to people or experiences that lead to another loss, another rejection, and another trauma.

*Shame – any feeling of rejection or failure can trigger deeply embedded feelings of shame.

*Difficulty with trust.

*Tendency toward self-defeating behavior patterns that sabotage your love-life, goals, or career.

*Anxiety with authority figures.

*Heightened memories of traumatic separations and other events.

*Conversely, partial or complete memory blocks of childhood traumas.

*Intrusive reawakening of emotional memories stemming from childhood losses – i.e. feelings of helplessness, vulnerability and dread – without being able to recall the original events.

*Low self-esteem, low sense of entitlement, performance anxiety.

*Feelings of emotional detachment, i.e. feeling numb to current or past losses and disconnections.

*Conversely, difficulty letting go of an ex, difficulty letting go of feelings of rejection, longing, and regret.

*Difficulty letting go period (like a dog with a bone) over a conflict with another, a disappointment, etc.

*Episodes of self-neglectful or self-destructive behaviour.

*Difficulty withstanding (and overreacting to) the customary emotional ups and downs within intimate relationships.

*Reaching impasses – trouble working through the conflict with others.

*Extreme sensitivity to perceived rejections, exclusions or criticisms.

*Emotional pendulum swings between fear of engulfment and fear of abandonment: i.e. On one hand you feel ‘the walls close in’ if someone gets too close, and on the other, you feel insecure, love starved – on a precipice of abandonment – when you become unsure of the person’s love.

*Tendency to feel hopelessly hooked on a partner who is emotionally unavailable.

*Conversely, tendency to ‘get turned off’ and ‘lose the connection’ by involuntarily shutting down romantically and/or sexually with a partner is fully willing.

*Emotional anorexia or emotional bulimia: difficulty feeling the affection and other physical comforts offered by a willing partner, i.e. you ‘keep them out’ or ‘push them away.’

*Tendency to have emotional hangovers ‘the morning after’ you have had contact with an ex.

*Difficulty naming your feelings or sorting through an emotional fog.

*Abandophobism – a tendency to avoid close relationships altogether to avoid risk of abandonment.

*Conversely, a tendency to rush into relationships and clamp on too quickly.

*Difficulty letting go because you have attached with emotional epoxy, even when you know the person is not good for you.

*An excessive need for control, whether it’s about the need to control others’ behavior and thoughts, or about being excessively self-controlled; a need to have everything perfect and done your way.

*Conversely, a tendency to create chaos by avoiding responsibility, procrastinating, giving up control to others, making messes, and feeling out of control.

*A heightened sense of responsibility toward others, rescuing, attending to people’s needs, even when they have not voiced them.

*Tendency to have unrealistic expectations of others coupled with heightened reactivity when they don’t live up to them.

*Self-judgmental, self-critical: unrealistic expectations toward yourself.

*People-pleasing – excessive need for acceptance or approval, setting yourself up for a lack of reciprocity within your relationships.

*Fear response to people’s anger, which unwittingly sets you up to being disrespected by or even ‘controlled’ by them.

*Co-dependency issues in which you give too much of yourself to others, put them first, and feel you don’t get enough back.

*Tendency to act impulsively without being able to put the brakes on, even when you are aware of the negative consequences.

*Tendency toward unpredictable outbursts of anger, sometimes burning bridges to important social connections.

*Conversely, tendency to under-react to anger out of fear of breaking the connection, or out of an extreme aversion to ‘not being liked’.

*Negative narcissism – preoccupied with self-criticism and worry over how you are perceived by others.

Susan Anderson © March 2017

Susan Anderson, Psychotherapist, Author and Founder of the Recovery Movement http://www.abandonment.net

Resources from abandonment.net

Below, I have described each symptom / feature in more detail, and how I relate to them.

*An intense fear of abandonment.

The fear of abandonment arises from being abandoned by someone that we trusted to care for us. A intense fear of abandonment is deep seated, most commonly rooted in childhood. The abandonment fear can be so severe that it interrupts further relationships into adulthood. The person who has the abandonment fear tends to be hyper-vigilant, noticing small things that other people would not. The person with abandonment fear can and usually does have problems with trusting people and jealousy. The hyper-vigilance, and problems that arise from it are defence mechanisms, inbuilt for protection. People with abandonment issues expect to be abandoned and left. That feeling can be very overwhelming. The person with abandonment fear may even push away the very people  that they really want to hold close. Acts of self-preservation that serve as self-destruction.

It is easier, more peaceful for myself, and to others, if I remain ‘single’. I have not met a lover yet that has not lied to me and mistreated me. So nowadays my walls are pretty high.  It’s important for me to keep a small circle and take regular time-out. Everyone-preservation. 

*Difficulty forming primary relationships.

A child that develops in an environment that is not providing for their physical and emotional need can go on to develop attachment disorders in adulthood. During childhood, broken communications with main caregivers limits a child’s right to express their feelings. A child that suffers abuse and neglect will have low self-esteem and low trust in the world and the people around them. As adults they can suffer with confusion about their own identity. They have difficulty forming strong primary relationships due to this. Children that do not form strong bonds with their main care giver go on to suffer problems with their academic work, their work-life, love-life, and other relationships especially with people of authority. They find it difficult to trust the world around them and the behaviours of others, and themselves.

I have difficulty forming primary relationships in the ways detailed above. I have a strong, honest and open relationship with my daughter. I have strong family and friend relations that are also honest and open. It has taken some work to bond those relationships though, for various reasons. I have high standards, set in place for self-preservation, protection. This can sometimes override my logical thinking. My love-life has been the most difficult. Developing trusting relationships that need deep attachment has proved very difficult. Trusting authority figures is difficult. 

*Intrusive insecurity that interferes in your love life, social life and goal achievement.

Anxiety, Anxiety, Anxiety. More Anxiety. I’m not good enough. I’m not pretty enough. I’m not pretty at all. I’m not thin enough. I’m too thin. I don’t do enough. I’m doing too much. I want to do this…no I want to do that. Who even am I? Scrutinise. Over-analyse. Anxiety.

Intrusive thoughts that arise from insecurity can be overwhelming. The intrusive thoughts  can be obsessive in nature, even occurring in the dreams of the person suffering intrusive insecurity, This can lead to insomnia and other sleep problems. A person that is suffering intrusive insecurity will have very low self-esteem and self worth. This can lead to self-destructive behaviours that are damaging to relationships and goals. 

My anxieties do at times override logical thinking. It’s difficult to just ‘shake them off’. They are intrusive. They arise from the need to protect myself and when I am under stress.

*A tendency to repeatedly subject yourself to people or experiences that lead to another loss, another rejection, and another trauma.

This can be a very difficult symptom to overcome because the person whom is subjecting themselves to more loss, rejection and/or trauma does not realise that they are doing it. They can form patterns that they do not know they are forming, or that they have formed.

I do not do this. I avoid people and experiences that lead to another loss, rejection and trauma. I figure people out quickly, and cut them off before they are able to subject me to another loss or trauma. This is not always so easy when I am in love! And that is when the hyper-vigilance and the pushing-pulling starts. 

This symptom / feature is extremely broad and diverse, so I have included a link to some very informative writing, by Bessel A. van der Kolk, MD. 
The Compulsion to Repeat the Trauma

*Shame – any feeling of rejection or failure can trigger deeply embedded feelings of shame.

Childhood maltreatment can and does plant deep rooted feelings of shame that arises intrusively throughout adulthood. If a child is made to feel not good enough, not worthy of being listened to, not deserving of love and/or attention, not deserving of rewards and/or recognition; subjected to emotional abuse and/or neglect then they may feel that it is their fault, and can often feel helpless. They can have feelings of shame because they could not change their situation, or they think that it was their fault. These feelings of shame can arise when any feeling of rejection or failure happens to them during adulthood. As an adult they can become very self-critical and unloving towards themselves. They believe that they are not good enough, not worth of being listened to, not deserving of love, etc. The shame that comes from abandonment can lead to intrusive thoughts of not being of value. This can be very overwhelming at times.

I am very self-critical. And I hate when people criticise me unfairly. I struggle with the shame of having a mental health condition. People pigeon-hole and judge. This causes frustration and consequently I find myself acting out in the very ways that I am trying to defend myself from in the first place! When the intrusive thoughts override my logical thoughts I can say things and do things that I don’t mean to do. It is always related to the frustrations of not being listened to, or not being accurate with detail, or being wrongly and harshly criticised, or being treated unfairly, lied to etc. I struggle with the shame of those things that I have said and done once I have ‘come back down’ from that frustrated hyper-viligant state.I struggle with the shame of not being strong enough for my daughter when I have had troublesome periods, and I find myself continuously worrying whether I am a good enough mother. I struggle with the shame of my own father abandoning me. I have to remind myself – it was his issue not mine. I was a child. I struggle with the shame of needing something to dull the pain. I struggle with the shame of not getting out of bed, sleeping too much, drinking too much alcohol, eating too much, not opening letters and bills, disassociation, not engaging with the world, being distant from friends and family, and even the world issues that I can’t do anything about… I can’t even watch the news or read the papers anymore. Shame and guilt are a part of my everyday life. I am my own worst critic, so I don’t need anymore. 

*Difficulty with trust.

A person with abandonment issues will have difficulty with trust. Their views and sense of self are distorted because either as they grew in childhood, or after an abandonment. They have been left with an unstable sense of self, and a deep rooted fear of being hurt or abandoned again. Insecurities and anxieties can and do override logical thinking. People with trust issues can and do become withdrawn and paranoid.  It can be very overwhelming and can lead to self-destructive behaviours.

I find it difficult to trust people. Under stress I can become paranoid. Once someone lets me down, I find it difficult to trust them again. 

*Tendency toward self-defeating behaviour patterns that sabotage your love-life, goals, or career.

When a person’s self-confidence, self-esteem and self worth are unstable it can lead to self-sabotage. People self-sabotage sometimes as a coping mechanism when faced with the difficulties and pressures of life. Self-sabotage leads to feelings of regret and shame. If a person already feels like they are not good enough then they may self-sabotage to avoid disappointment and/or rejection. A person who has a tendency to self-sabotage may have a fear of failure and making mistakes, a fear of taking risks, inability to plan ahead and listen to instructions carefully, an inability to say ‘no’ to others and an inability to make well thought out decisions. They may be critical of themselves, perfectionists and have unrealistic expectations. They may procrastinate. They commonly have unstable academic or work lives, with many changes. No secure career. 

I have little self-confidence, but I wear a good mask. If I am forced to take off my mask and show my real face, I find myself wanting to run for the hills. I used to have bundles of confidence in myself and what I was doing. But slowly, over the years my symptoms have started coming out, and the anxieties worsened, and now I find it so difficult to relax.

*Anxiety with authority figures.

Children are taught, to some degree, to respect and obey authority. If those teachings are skewed and distorted, then during adolescence and adulthood that child will struggle with authority figures. There will be a subconscious fear around authority figures that can arise unexpectedly and be overwhelming for all involved. 

I find it very difficult to trust authority figures. My main care givers were not reliable, they did not protect me as they should have. When I was a child, I was taught that it was not ok to show emotions. I was taught that authority figures abused their position. I remember that my dad used to say ‘If you keep crying, I will give you something to cry about’. I said that once to my daughter and I instantly regretted it. As a child, I wasn’t allowed to speak about my mother. I was used as a pawn, playing stupid games that I was helpless against. I just had to go along with it all, even though it didn’t feel right. Nobody said any different, so that was that. ‘Children should be seen and not heard’ was another thing that my father used to say. Put up and shut up, basically. That is how I feel about the actions of authority figures throughout my life. They are the authority, so I am required to put up and shut up. How I react to authority is from the helplessness feeling that I get. I defend myself. Self-protection. Not trusting of their intentions. 

*Heightened memories of traumatic separations and other events.

“A century of study of traumatic memories shows that (i) semantic representations may coexist with sensory imprints; (ii) unlike trauma narratives, these sensory experiences often remain stable over time, unaltered by other life experiences; (iii) they may return, triggered by reminders, with a vividness as if the experience were happening all over again; and (iv) these flashbacks may occur in a mental state in which victims are unable to precisely articulate what they are feeling and thinking.

Accuracy of memory is affected by the emotional valence of an experience; studies of people’s subjective reports of personally highly significant events generally find that their memories are unusually accurate and that they tend to remain stable over time.

PTSD involves a unique combination of hyperarousal, learned conditioning and shattered meaning propositions. Shalev has proposed that this complexity is best understood as the co-occurrence of several interlocking pathogenic processes including (i) an alteration of neurobiological processes affecting stimulus discrimination (expressed as increased arousal and decreased attention), (ii) the acquisition of conditioned fear responses to trauma-related stimuli, and (iii) altered cognitive schemata and social apprehension.

Bessel A.van der Kolk MD, 1998
Trauma and Memory

I have heightened memories of painful experiences and I suffer emotional flashbacks in stressful situations. I can easily become confused, unable to articulate properly what I am thinking and feeling. Brain fog. Hyper-vigilance. Anxiety. It can be very overwhelming, and depleting. 

*Conversely, partial or complete memory blocks of childhood traumas.

I have little memories of growing up in my father’s home. I have more memories of being with my mother and my school friends. I vividly recall the day that my mother left, but not the time afterwards. I do not vividly recall the day that I left my fathers, or the time afterwards. For every painful event though I do recall the emotions that I felt.

*Intrusive reawakening of emotional memories stemming from childhood losses – i.e. feelings of helplessness, vulnerability and dread – without being able to recall the original events.

I have not experienced this. 

*Low self-esteem, low sense of entitlement, performance anxiety.

Performance anxiety can prevent a person from doing what they enjoy and can also have dramatic effects on their career.

*Feelings of emotional detachment, i.e. feeling numb to current or past losses and disconnections.

*Conversely, difficulty letting go of an ex, difficulty letting go of feelings of rejection, longing, and regret.

*Difficulty letting go period (like a dog with a bone) over a conflict with another, a disappointment, etc.

*Episodes of self-neglectful or self-destructive behaviour.

*Difficulty withstanding (and overreacting to) the customary emotional ups and downs within intimate relationships.

*Reaching impasses – trouble working through the conflict with others.

*Extreme sensitivity to perceived rejections, exclusions or criticisms.

*Emotional pendulum swings between fear of engulfment and fear of abandonment: i.e. On one hand you feel ‘the walls close in’ if someone gets too close, and on the other, you feel insecure, love starved – on a precipice of abandonment – when you become unsure of the person’s love.

*Tendency to feel hopelessly hooked on a partner who is emotionally unavailable.

*Conversely, tendency to ‘get turned off’ and ‘lose the connection’ by involuntarily shutting down romantically and/or sexually with a partner is fully willing.

*Emotional anorexia or emotional bulimia: difficulty feeling the affection and other physical comforts offered by a willing partner, i.e. you ‘keep them out’ or ‘push them away.’

*Tendency to have emotional hangovers ‘the morning after’ you have had contact with an ex.

*Difficulty naming your feelings or sorting through an emotional fog.

*Abandophobism – a tendency to avoid close relationships altogether to avoid risk of abandonment.

*Conversely, a tendency to rush into relationships and clamp on too quickly.

*Difficulty letting go because you have attached with emotional epoxy, even when you know the person is not good for you.

*An excessive need for control, whether it’s about the need to control others’ behavior and thoughts, or about being excessively self-controlled; a need to have everything perfect and done your way.

*Conversely, a tendency to create chaos by avoiding responsibility, procrastinating, giving up control to others, making messes, and feeling out of control.

*A heightened sense of responsibility toward others, rescuing, attending to people’s needs, even when they have not voiced them.

*Tendency to have unrealistic expectations of others coupled with heightened reactivity when they don’t live up to them.

*Self-judgmental, self-critical: unrealistic expectations toward yourself.

*People-pleasing – excessive need for acceptance or approval, setting yourself up for a lack of reciprocity within your relationships.

*Fear response to people’s anger, which unwittingly sets you up to being disrespected by or even ‘controlled’ by them.

*Co-dependency issues in which you give too much of yourself to others, put them first, and feel you don’t get enough back.

*Tendency to act impulsively without being able to put the brakes on, even when you are aware of the negative consequences.

*Tendency toward unpredictable outbursts of anger, sometimes burning bridges to important social connections.

*Conversely, tendency to under-react to anger out of fear of breaking the connection, or out of an extreme aversion to ‘not being liked’.

*Negative narcissism – preoccupied with self-criticism and worry over how you are perceived by others.