40 Features of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder of Abandonment

Susan Anderson © March 2017

Please see my comments at the end of item # 40.

  1. An intense fear of abandonment.
  2. Difficulty forming primary relationships.
  3. Intrusive insecurity that interferes in your love life, social life and goal achievement.
  4. A tendency to repeatedly subject yourself to people or experiences that lead to another loss, another rejection, and another trauma.
  5. Shame – any feeling of rejection or failure can trigger deeply embedded feelings of shame.
  6. Difficulty with trust.
  7. Tendency toward self-defeating behavior patterns that sabotage your love-life, goals, or career.
  8. Anxiety with authority figures.
  9. Heightened memories of traumatic separations and other events.
  10. Conversely, partial or complete memory blocks of childhood traumas.
  11. 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.
  12. Low self-esteem, low sense of entitlement, performance anxiety.
  13. Feelings of emotional detachment, i.e. feeling numb to current or past losses and disconnections.
  14. Conversely, difficulty letting go of an ex, difficulty letting go fof feelings of rejection, longing, and regret.
  15. Difficulty letting go period (like a dog with a bone) over a conflict with another, a disappointment, etc.
  16. Episodes of self-neglectful or self-destructive behavior.
  17. Difficulty withstanding (and overreacting to) the customary emotional ups and downs within intimate relationships.
  18. Reaching impasses – trouble working through the conflict with others.
  19. Extreme sensitivity to perceived rejections, exclusions or criticisms.
  20. Emotional pendulum swings between fear of engulfment and fear of abandonment: i.e. On one hand you feelthe 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.
  21. Tendency to feel hopelessly hooked on a partner who is emotionally unavailable.
  22. Conversely, tendency to ‘get turned off’ and ‘lose the connection’ by involuntarily shutting down romantically and/or sexually with a partner is fully willing.
  23. 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.’
  24. Tendency to have emotional hangovers ‘the morning after’ you have had contact with an ex.
  25. Difficulty naming your feelings or sorting through an emotional fog.
  26. Abandophobism – a tendency to avoid close relationships altogether to avoid risk of abandonment.
  27. Conversely, a tendency to rush into relationships and clamp on too quickly.
  28. Difficulty letting go because you have attached with emotional epoxy, even when you know the person is not good for you.
  29. 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.
  30. Conversely, a tendency to create chaos by avoiding responsibility, procrastinating, giving up control to others, making messes, and feeling out of control.
  31. A heightened sense of responsibility toward others, rescuing, attending to people’s needs, even when they have not voiced them.
  32. Tendency to have unrealistic expectations of others coupled with heightened reactivity when they don’t live up to them.
  33. Self-judgmental, self-critical: unrealistic expectations toward yourself.
  34. People-pleasing – excessive need for acceptance or approval, setting yourself up for a lack of reciprocity within your relationships.
  35. Fear response to people’s anger, which unwittingly sets you up to being disrespected by or even ‘controlled’ by them.
  36. Co-dependency issues in which you give too much of yourself to others, put them first, and feel you don’t get enough back.
  37. Tendency to act impulsively without being able to put the brakes on, even when you are aware of the negative consequences.
  38. Tendency toward unpredictable outbursts of anger, sometimes burning bridges to important social connections.
  39. Conversely, tendency to under-react to anger out of fear of breaking the connection, or out of an extreme aversion to ‘not being liked’.
  40. Negative narcissism – preoccupied with self-criticism and worry over how you are perceived by others

Any of these issues can emerge in the aftermath of abandonment trauma stemming from childhood and adulthood losses and disconnections. The post traumatic symptoms of PTSD of Abandonment share sufficient features with PTSD to be considered a subtype of this diagnostic category.

As with other types of post trauma, PTSD of Abandonment is neuro-psycho-biological condition, a so-called “limbic disorder” or “disease of the amygdala” with symptoms that range from mild to severe. Its earmarks include:

  • Intrusive feelings of insecurity – a major source of self-sabotage in primary relationships and in goal-achievement.
  • Tendency to compulsively reenact abandonment scenarios through repetitive patterns (i.e., abandoholism – being attracted to the unavailable).
  • Diminished self-esteem, heightened vulnerability, and an easily triggered sense of shame.

PTSD of Abandonment leaves its victims with a need to buttress their flagging sense of self with defense mechanisms that can be automatically discharged and whose intention is to protect the narcissistically injured self from further rejection, criticism, or abandonment.  These habituated defenses tend to become maladaptive in that increase the need for immediate gratification which forestalls the achievement of long-range goals – a vicious shame cycle.

Victims tend to have emotional flashbacks, flooding them with feelings ranging from mild anxiety to intense panic in response to triggers that they may not be conscious of.  Once abandonment fear is triggered, they can feel momentarily overwhelmed, and some experience what Daniel Goleman calls “emotional hijacking” – a difficulty reining in one’s emotions. If emotional hijacking occurs frequently enough, its chronic emotional excesses can lead to unsparing self-criticism, as well as give rise to secondary conditions such as chronic depression, anxiety, obsessive thinking, isolation, negative narcissism, and addiction.

The list above is designed to be descriptive rather than exhaustive of the many issues related to PTSD of Abandonment. If you’d like to have input, please write to me at www.abandonment.net. Your submissions will be held in strictest confidence.

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