What comes to mind when the word trauma is spoken? You may immediately think of a child who has been physically or sexually abused or maybe someone who has been involved in an active-shooter situation. These are all legitimate examples, but trauma is much more complex. The purpose of this article is to explain trauma in detail and how to heal if trauma is a part of your story.
Unfortunately, we live in a word full of traumatic experiences. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 70.4% of people surveyed experienced trauma during their lifetime. When most people think of trauma, thoughts of sexual assault, military combat, physical abuse or near-death situations come to mind.
Trauma doesn’t always evolve into PTSD. Normally, PTSD is attached to highly interpersonal trauma like rape. It’s even possible for trauma to be the result of serious surgery, childhood neglect, a painful divorce, the death of a loved one or a major life change.
The emotions that accompany traumatic situations can interfere with having a healthy personal and professional life. Trauma can influence your relationships, spiritual beliefs, and emotional responses. There’s usually no area that isn’t somehow touched by the effects of trauma.
There are symptoms of trauma that you should be aware of. This list isn’t exhaustive, but just to give you an idea of commonly experienced symptoms.
- Emotional numbness
- Disconnected from reality
- Paralyzing anxiety
- Consuming fear
- Overwhelming guilt
- Inability to concentrate
- Easily frightened
- Tendency to isolate
- Feelings of helplessness
- Extreme moods
- Loss of trust in people
- Nightmares or flashbacks
- Accelerated heartbeat
- Body aches (including head and stomach)
- Loss of interest in eating
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Defined
According to the American Psychiatric Association, Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric disorder that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event. Those events are defined as natural disasters, serious accidents, terrorist acts, military combat, rape or other violent personal assaults.
Even recurring exposure to forms of traumatic events can cause trauma (e.g., first responder). Symptoms of PTSD often develop years after the trauma occurred and can be quite the shock.
PTSD symptoms are numerous and can include anything from angry outbursts and substance abuse to intrusive memories and sudden nightmares about the traumatic event. PTSD can cause a person to avoid any event or environment that may trigger memories of a traumatic experience.
For example, a war veteran might avoid watching firework displays on the Fourth of July due to the noise triggering memories of a time in combat. A woman may avoid visiting the home where childhood abuse happened.
Most people are familiar with PTSD, but, surprisingly, this is actually not the most common trauma diagnosis. Researches have found that separation anxiety disorder and defiant disorder are some of the most common diagnoses when dealing with victims of trauma. Trauma during childhood causes challenges in regulating emotions and hinders the attachment system.
Complex trauma is when there are many traumatic events that keep building on each other over a certain period of time. Most cases do occur in childhood such as habitual sexual or physical abuse or neglect.
You may have heard of the relatively well-known ACE (adverse childhood experiences) study that was conducted by Kaiser Permanente and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Feletti, et al., 1998). ACE examined all forms of childhood abuse, childhood neglect, domestic violence, caregiver separation, and having a household member with a mental illness or problem with drugs and alcohol.
The ACE study revealed a strong relationship between adverse childhood experiences and a higher possibility to be susceptible to depression, sexual promiscuity, obesity, suicide and drug, alcohol and cigarette use.
The higher the number of adverse childhood experiences, the more negative outcomes. Those that conducted the study discovered these negative childhood experiences were linked to risk factors for common causes of death in adults.
Trauma during childhood has an impact on intellectual, emotional and physical development. The stress response system can be altered due to the child focusing on their need for safety rather than on regular growth activities. This means they are constantly at a heightened state instead of only when there’s an imminent threat. If you live in this state for a long period of time it can have negative implications for your overall health and ability to function.
People living with hyperarousal symptoms are always on the lookout for danger or are frightened easily. Those that have experienced an active-shooter situation may have hyperarousal for years after the situation.
Finding Effective Trauma Healing
Trauma healing is not an overnight process. Trauma has many layers and it takes patience to work through every step toward healing. If you are experiencing the symptoms described above and have experienced a traumatic event, there are a few places to focus on to help cope.
Howard Bath wrote The Three Pillars of Trauma-Informed Care which focuses on safety, connections and emotion management during the trauma healing process.
When a person experienced trauma his feelings of security were shattered. That’s why it’s even more important to create a safe environment where the person suffering from trauma can share experiences and begin to process what happened to him or her. Those feelings of safety were stripped away from them at some point but finding a safe place to open up about emotions and thoughts is critical in the healing journey.
Safety can be created by offering a child control in decision making. If their life felt out of control during the time of the abuse, the child can benefit from being granted some control over his or her life. Another way to form a safe environment is by developing consistency or a routine in life. This child can learn to relax over time knowing there is stability.
Relationships are necessary for a fruitful, healthy life. Unfortunately, trauma sometimes is a result of a trusted family member or friend crossing a physical boundary. Thus, it can be difficult to trust again or have emotional and physical intimacy with others. It’s normal to gravitate toward isolation, but this is a gateway to depression.
Healing doesn’t happen in isolation. Bringing what happened in the dark to the light is one component of healing. It lightens the burden you’ve carried as you share among people you trust. It takes courage to speak up and often the bravest thing we can do is let people into our pain.
3) Managing Emotions
If you’ve experienced trauma, you may have a harder time managing emotions. Mood swings and angry outbursts become normal for those living with PTSD or other diagnoses. Emotions are real, but they aren’t reliable.
Here are a few ways you can begin to manage your emotions to promote trauma healing:
Anxiety really messes up our breathing. You get less oxygen to your body when you take shallow breaths caused by anxious thoughts. As a result, this increases the intensity of anxiety. Taking slow, deep breaths is one way to combat anxiety and calm down. There are many different breathing techniques available online that you can test out in your daily life to see what is the most beneficial.
Your mind is a battlefield of twisted thoughts. One thought can lead to another and soon you are frozen on your bed unable to make a move. It’s important to learn to control your thinking, instead of letting it control you. Learn how to take your thoughts captive, speak life into your situations and reject the lies invading your mind.
Discovering ways to relax is paramount. Living in constant fight or flight mode takes a toll on your body and can have negative health implications. Maybe your way to relax is painting, dance, yoga, or going to the spa. Find out what works for you and begin to make relaxation a daily or weekly practice.
Physical activity and Nutrition
Joining a gym or fitness class can be a wonderful outlet for your emotions. It’s equally important to focus on your nutrition and the amount of sleep you are getting every night. Avoid trying to use alcohol to numb your pain or escape from your emotions.
Journaling provides a way for you to release bottled up emotions and thoughts. Putting pen to paper is its own form of therapy.
In a moment of panic, you may need to ground yourself in a tangible way. Feel your feet on the ground, look at the things around you, and say aloud where you are.
Healing is not a quick process that can be accomplished in a few steps. Some days you might feel on top of the world, and other days you might feel like you’ve lost your will to persevere.
If a person or place triggers unwelcomed emotions, this does not mean you aren’t making progress or that you’ve moved in the opposite direction.
These are more opportunities for growth. It’s important to seek professional help for your trauma symptoms if they are negatively impacting your quality of life. Yes, healing can take place over time, but a trusted counselor can support you as you heal from trauma and go on to live an abundant life.
Treatment Methods for Trauma Healing
Two possible effective treatments for trauma healing include Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT).
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
Memories from trauma can be stored in an unprocessed and non-adaptive state. Extreme stress or a lack of development ability to process trauma can cause incomplete processing of trauma. EMDR therapy focused on three time periods: the past, present, and future. EMDR therapy uses bilateral stimulation like left-to-right eye movements to enable memories to become unstuck and reprocessed into an adaptive memory.
The unprocessed traumatic memories are in their original states with all thoughts, feelings, images and body sensations that occurred during the traumatic event. EMDR therapy proves that the mind can heal from psychological trauma similar to how the body recovers from physical trauma.
Trauma-Focused Cognitive-Behavior Therapy (TF-CBT)
Trauma-Focused Cognitive-Behavior Therapy is designed to help those who have been traumatized to navigate through the thoughts and emotions associated with the trauma. TF-CT may include relaxation training, discovering how to regulate emotions, examining the thoughts attached to the trauma, and creating a trauma narrative. This therapy can occur in group, family or individual settings.
If you are finding the trauma healing process to be difficult, you are not alone. You can experience recovery and there’s hope for your future. Professional therapists are ready to go through this healing journey alongside you.
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Many people in the United States will have experienced emotional abuse or know someone who has endured it. Although emotional abuse is something that people are often reluctant to talk about, it really is quite pervasive.
In the past, the things that are now considered to be emotionally abusive would never have been recognized as being problematic, but now the emotional impact of words and actions are much better understood.
It’s important to draw a distinction between someone who is an emotional abuser and a person who says or does emotionally abusive things. To be clear, an emotional abuser intentionally and continually seeks to hurt, undermine or manipulate other people.
By contrast, everyone has the ability to say or do something that can be considered to be emotionally abusive in a certain situation – but unless they do this continually, this is not the same as being an emotional abuser.
While, as human beings, we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, a majority of people will repent of their actions and seek to repair the damage done. However, a minority fall into a category of people who repeatedly hurt others and deliberately destroy relationships with people. Unfortunately, these types of people are rarely able to change for the better.
Emotional abuse can happen in a range of different relationships: romantic, parental, siblings, friendships, colleagues, and in church communities. It is not limited to specific demographics or locations – potentially anyone can either abuse or be abused emotionally.
Signs of Emotional Abuse
The exact signs of emotional abuse vary from person to person, but there are common characteristics for each of the types of relationship context the abuse occurs. It can be helpful for you to consider which of these types of abuse you most relate to, as well as to reflect on whether you may have used these behaviors yourself in your relationships.
Neglect as a Type of Abuse
Parents who are physically neglectful of their children, through withholding interaction, for example, are being emotionally abusive. It is also possible for people to neglect their children and other family members emotionally, by refusing to engage in any way with them. Additionally, parents who are providing for the physical needs of children but prioritizing other areas of their own lives can be considered to be neglectful.
Ultimately, when a caregiver or partner neglects to meet the needs of the other person, they are doing emotional harm. It is considered to be neglectful to fail to meet needs because there are general expectations associated with being a parent or being in a romantic relationship.
When you decide to become a parent or enter into a serious relationship, you are signing up for the responsibilities that come along with those things, and to be an active participant in the relationship. Failure to meet those responsibilities and expectations for care, whether that care is physical, emotional or financial, constitutes neglect.
Verbal Emotional Abuse
There are a number of ways in which someone can be verbally emotionally abusive. For example, a person may continually refuse to accept or consider your opinion and actually force you to accept their opinion. Another example might be a person who refuses to speak to you or interact with you in any way as a form of punishment or control.
People who always insist that they are right, those who have to have the last word, and those who judge you and others harshly, causing you to feel guilt and shame are also being emotionally abusive. Some methods of emotional abuse are more obvious than others.
It is the tactics being used that make these things examples of verbal emotional abuse. Verbal emotional abuse can have a significant impact on your self-worth and sense of uniqueness. A more surprising example of verbal emotional abuse is sarcasm. People are less likely to view sarcasm as emotional abuse since it’s common and many in our society see it as permissible as long as it’s funny.
However, when we stop to think about the sarcastic comments that we either make ourselves or receive from others, it becomes clear that sarcasm, regardless of humorous intent, can really hurt people’s feelings. Ultimately, sarcasm belittles others while masquerading as humor.
Verbal emotional abuse can take the form of a person who is always being prepared to preach to you about the faults and errors in the way that you live your life and attempting to control you. Even when this is done with good intentions, it lacks grace and understanding and doesn’t help you resolve issues.
Another common type of verbal emotional abuse is the person who insists that they have forgiven you for something – but then takes every possible opportunity to bring up the past grievances so as to shame you and make you feel guilty. At the heart of all these examples of verbal emotional abuse is the use of language to control and belittle others.
Emotional Abuse Via Behavior
While physical abuse generally tends to be also emotionally abusive, emotional abuse is not necessarily physical. There are different ways in which emotional abuse can take place through actions and behaviors. For example, people who intimidate others and incite fear as a means of control are being emotionally abusive.
People with unpredictable moods that tend to swing from extremes can be considered to be emotionally abusive since the people around them often struggle to feel safe. A more extreme example might be the Jekyll and Hyde personality – people who have a charismatic public ‘side’ to their personality but are very different (and emotionally abusive) at home. It’s hard to know where you stand with both of these types of people.
Favoritism is another means by which a person can be behaviorally abusive. Favoritism is where a person has a ‘favorite’ and uses their favorite as a measure for other people’s accomplishments. Favoritism has a profound impact on someone’s self-esteem and self-worth.
In family situations, favoritism is a common problem. Another family-related example of behavioral emotional abuse is role-reversal, where parents expect their children to assume a parental role while the parent takes on the role of a child.
A severe example of role reversal is emotional or covert incest, which was identified by Dr. Kenneth Adams in the book Silently Seduced. This happens when a parent who feels neglected by the other parent uses the children as substitutes for their partner.
This type of emotional abuse can have profound and long-lasting negative effects on children – and the dysfunction may continue well into adulthood. Christian counsellors are often consulted by people who are concerned by the unhealthy relationship that their spouse has with a parent, and which consequently is affecting the marital relationship.
People who constantly make promises that turn out to be empty may also be considered to be guilty of emotional abuse. Empty promises result in a loss of security and trust and may impact on the victim’s ability to experience hope. That’s because when you experience constant disappointment, you can begin to question whether good things will ever happen.
The Effects of Emotional Abuse on Relationships
Now that you understand more about the types of emotional abuse and their signs, we need to consider how emotional abuse impacts people’s lives.
If you’ve been the victim of emotional abuse at some point in your life, you may find that you struggle with intimate relationships. This is because emotional abuse tells us that other people are not emotionally safe, and as a defense mechanism you may distance yourself from others or avoid being in any way vulnerable around people.
Another example of the impact of emotional abuse is known as co-dependency. This leads to people continually seeking validation and approval from their significant others. Their entire sense of self-worth is dependent upon another person – this is often the result of emotional neglect in childhood.
Enabling behaviors can also be caused by emotional abuse in the past. For example, someone who has a history of being emotionally abused will enable other people to behave in ways that are unhealthy or inappropriate just in order to feel needed or wanted. Often, people who come to therapy because of their engagement in abusive relationships have received a message in the past that they deserve to be abused.
People who isolate themselves completely from others have frequently been the victim of emotional abuse. On the other end of that spectrum, victims of emotional abuse may also crave relationships (due to neglect in the past) to such an extent that they will endure anything, and do anything that they’re asked to do, perhaps to avoid abandonment.
What Does the Bible Have to Say About Emotional Abuse?
Although the Bible does not specifically address emotional abuse by name, there are plenty of examples in Scripture of God’s view of emotional abuse:
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord. – Ephesians 6:4
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. – 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. – Ephesians 5:1-4
A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. – Proverbs 15:1
He who isolates himself pursues selfish desires; he rebels against all sound judgment. A fool does not delight in understanding, but only in airing his opinions. With a wicked man comes contempt as well, and shame is accompanied by disgrace. The words of a man’s mouth are deep waters; the fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook. A fool’s lips bring strife, and his mouth invites a beating. A fool’s mouth is his ruin, and his lips are a snare to his soul. A gossip’s words are like choice morsels, and they sink into the inmost being. – Proverbs 18:1-4 & 6-8
It is clear from these verses that God is particularly concerned with the way that we interact with others, and how we use our speech and the intentions within our hearts as part of our daily interactions. There is much wisdom to be gleaned about emotional abuse from these verses.
Many people experience emotional abuse and suffer the long-term effects in their lives. However, it is possible to heal from the impact of emotional abuse, and a San Diego Christian counselor can help you start your journey towards healing.
A Christian counselor can give you the tools that you need to challenge the distorted beliefs that result from emotionally abusive relationships. Working together, it is then possible to build a much healthier belief system and develop your sense of identity.
It is an unfortunate truth that hurt people hurt people. When you have been hurt or broken by past abuse, it can lead to long-term problems not only for you but for the significant others in your lives. You can hurt people without intending to when you have distorted beliefs about what is, and isn’t, acceptable.
The emotional abuse that you experienced was not your fault, and you did not deserve it, but it’s important that you seek help in order to heal from the effects – both for your emotional wellbeing and for the wellbeing of your loved ones. Reach out now so that you can begin the process of change.
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Fear of abandonment is a primal universal fear, as humans were born to be socially connected to one another. At the very start of life, infants are already hardwired to attach to their primary caregivers. The survival of a young infant or even toddler depends entirely on them. If basic needs are not met, then a high level of anxiety is created.
Moreover, should something happen to the caregivers or should the caregivers’ attitudes suddenly change, the child is then no longer able to feel the care as before, causing even more trauma. If this loss (e.g. – the death of a parent, divorce) or change in attitude (e.g. – abuse) is permanent, then the child internalizes the fear of abandonment.
Everyone experiences some form of abandonment, but not everyone’s experience is severe. However, for those who underwent something traumatic, the personal impact can really cripple their life. Without proper treatment, abandonment wounds can severely affect the way a person is able to function. It cripples the way they handle interpersonal relationships and personal joy is sapped.
Fear of Abandonment: Common Causes
Abandonment issues are intense fears of losing someone close to you. They originate from past experiences that left you alone or uncared for. In that past experience, you were made to fend for yourself, developing a distrust of others and a sense of self-pity for not being loved.
Those who have been abandoned feel cut off from what Susan Anderson, an abandonment research expert, calls “life-sustaining support.” She believes it is a “cumulative wound,” meaning that all the negative events of your childhood up to the present are collected and reignited when triggered.
The causes of this are many. The primary ones are connected to problematic parenting, such as:
- Children who felt deserted because of death, divorce, or being left in the hands of others (e.g. foster care, raised by relatives, even daycare);
- Children who felt discarded due to physical, emotional or sexual abuse;
- Children who felt neglected as basic needs were not met for some reason.
There are, however, other forms which are less recognizable but still very impactful, for instance:
- Children who could not connect to parents who had a mental illness or had addictions;
- Children who had doubts due to caregivers’ unavailability due to prolonged absences (e.g. out of town trips) or late nights at work;
- Children who felt ignored as they were left to solve issues on their own without guidance;
- Children who felt imperfect due to relentless teasing by siblings or other relatives;
- Children, particularly teens, who felt insecure due to constant criticism;
- Children who felt isolated due to chronic illnesses or disabilities;
- Teenagers who felt rejected due to peer rejection, a romantic break-up, or prolonged singleness.
Fear of Abandonment: Common Symptoms
As there are several possible causes of abandonment, here are seven common symptoms of abandonment issues to look out for in yourself or people you know and love.
1. Chronic Insecurities
Abandonment destroys the self-esteem. Though it is not their fault, they often believe it is, thinking that there must be something within that makes them unlovable and worthless. Children are egocentric thinkers and are particularly vulnerable to believing such things, so they grow up thinking that they are not worth respecting and they have this inescapable feeling that if things go wrong in a relationship, romantic or otherwise, that they are to blame.
2. Reenacting Trauma
An unfortunate result of childhood abandonment is the possibility of experiencing the same thing in adulthood. Deep inside there is a core belief that, “I will always be abandoned.”
Reenactment is a subconscious effort to resolve trauma. Because of this, suchpersons subconsciously place themselves in situations where abandonment may occur again. They are usually attracted to the “wrong” people despite clear advice from friends against the idea. Such “wrong” people are often reckless, noncommittal, or unavailable so eventually, the relationship stops working.
In other cases, former victims are the ones driving others away by being overly cautious, standoffish, or extremely clingy. Moreover, they may be projecting their insecurities onto their loved one, saying to them, “You will leave me. You do not truly love me.” As they fear being abandoned, they may not want any commitments; they may wish to ensure that those they love cannot escape them, or they are preparing themselves for another loss.
3. Pervasive Unworthiness
Those who have been abandoned experience the raw emotional pain of feeling worthless. They feel undesired and unlovable. Imagining a good life is next to impossible as they do not believe they deserve such.
This unworthiness extends even to their judgments and actions. As they believe that they are not good enough, should anything go wrong, they blame themselves first.
4. Heightened Emotional Sensitivity
The trauma of abandonment affects the brain. They have become extremely emotional to anything that triggers rejection such as criticism, disagreement, exclusion, neglect, or ridicule. Once triggered, they may experience emotional hijacking (a term coined by David Goleman), where the emotional part of the brain takes over the rational side. When this occurs, the person is overpowered by emotions.
Being rejected by a loved one makes a person feel helpless. Because of this, they grow up realizing that they cannot truly depend upon the people around them since they were hurt already in the past.
To cope with this, those with abandonment wounds may choose to become self-sufficient since they doubt the ability of others to care for them. They may decide to do things themselves and keep others from becoming too close. Such people may portray an aura of toughness and are vigilant and even suspicious of others’ motives.
6. Mood Swings
Abandonment brings about much depression and anxiety. Oftentimes to protect their inner self, victims try to detach themselves from the people and world around them. This, however, causes them to feel empty, lost and alone. Paranoia of loved ones leaving them is another result.
Thus, some become very obsessive and jealous. Anger arises when people are too busy and sometimes this busyness is linked to thoughts of that loved one being with someone else. These people are generally defensive, disconnected, and feel misunderstood.
7. Self-Sabotaging Relationships
This fear of abandonment greatly affects relationships in adulthood as they do not really know what they want or how to achieve it. They desperately cling to people as they are afraid to be left behind and yet they are also afraid to get too close as intimacy scares them.
Intimacy dodgers fear being controlled and then discarded by another. They do not want their heart to be crushed again. Others, however, cannot handle the intimacy. So even if they have found real love, they decide to leave first. In this way, they cannot be fully rejected.
In the end, their life becomes a vicious cycle of love and abandonment.
Christian Counseling for Abandonment Issues
Fear of abandonment can ruin a person’s life, as social connections are either abusive or cut short because of insecurities and anxiety. The good news, however, is that there are ways to overcome it.
If you or a loved one has experienced abandonment, then a Christian counselor San Diego can help to overcome the past, learn to trust again, and accept the truth that you are a wonderful person created by an all-loving God.
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When you think about types of trauma, it’s possible that only a handful of extreme situations might come to mind.
The fact is, everyone experiences trauma in their life in one form or another. Life is inherently uncertain, and you never know what is around the corner. That being said, some have experienced a much greater level of trauma than others. While one person may have been traumatized by an incident of childhood bullying, another person may have experienced severe physical or sexual abuse.
Post-traumatic symptoms can develop following a high-stress and deeply disturbing incident, and this sometimes occurs years later. Though you might have recovered physically from a car crash, for example, you may still find yourself haunted by thoughts that you “could easily have died.”
Ten Common Types of Trauma
In an effort to develop our understanding of trauma, it is worth taking a closer look at ten of the most common types of trauma.
1. Sexual Assault or Abuse
Defined as any type of sexual behavior toward someone that is either unwanted or involuntary, it includes, but cannot be limited to: inappropriate sexual joking, genital contact, fondling, groping, penetration, forced kissing, or exposure to material that is sexually inappropriate. For example, a mother who exposes herself to her adolescent sons, or exposes them to sexually explicit material.
This type of assault or abuse also may include undesired sexual activity between children or internet exploitation. It can also include the sexual exploitation of a minor for sexual gratification by an adult – such as in child pornography or prostitution.
2. Physical Assault or Abuse
Physical assault or abuse constitutes any inflicting of physical harm on someone (beatings, stabbings, shootings, etc.). This includes situations where adults inflict physical harm on children or even when groups of kids attack another child. However, it excludes appropriate spanking, typical sibling rough-housing, and rough play between children or adults of a equivalent age.
3. Emotional Abuse
This may be defined as verbal abuse in the form of insults, violent threats, controlling behavior, bullying, or terrorizing behavior. It may include extreme demands put upon an individual, behavior intended to make a person believe they are going crazy, or forms of emotional neglect that are designed to create a fear of abandonment in the victim (behavior such as shunning or the silent treatment).
Neglect is defined as failing to provide a person with the care they need. This may be seen in a failure to provide the basic necessities, such as food, shelter, clothing, or proper medical care.
Though neglect is typically reported to child protective services, it can actually occur with people of all ages. This failure to provide for a person’s needs when the caregiver is fully able to provide it is termed neglect.
5. Domestic Violence
Domestic violence is usually defined as any actual, perceived, or threatened physical or sexual violence, or emotional abuse between adults who are involved in a close or intimate relationship. It can also include any witnesses to incidents of domestic violence and are incapable of intervention. This may include children who are living with parents who are abusive toward each other.
6. Serious Accidents or Illness
These may include traumatic incidents such as automobile accidents, building fires, or severe injury. In the aftermath of such events, the victim may feel extremely emotional. Painful or frightening medical procedures are included under this heading, and children, in particular, may be afraid to undergo such treatments.
7. War-related Trauma
“Post-traumatic stress disorder,” or PTSD has entered the common vocabulary through America’s military endeavors. PTSD can result when someone returns from a combat zone in which they experienced a threat to their life or the injury or death of a fellow soldier. Those who are living in war zones may also experience this type of post-traumatic reaction.
Firefights, executions, and forced displacement are only a few of a number of traumatic experiences commonly endured by refugees who were living in a war zone and have been forced to flee as a result of the violence.
8. Natural or Manmade Disasters
Disasters that are either natural or manmade fall into this category, and may include such things as building fires, tsunamis, hurricanes, earthquakes, mudslides, or tornadoes, or any other disaster caused either by nature or man.
9. School Violence
School violence has become more prevalent than ever before. It is not uncommon to turn on the news and see that another student has entered their school campus with the goal of killing or otherwise harming other people. These events are highly traumatic for the students involved and may even cause anxiety for those at other schools.
10. Bullying and Workplace Mobbing
When we think of bullying, our minds usually turn to the schoolyard. But this isn’t the only place where such behavior occurs. “Workplace mobbing” can happen in a professional environment and is often described as “bullying on steroids.”
The bully recruits co-workers to “collude in a relentless campaign of psychological terror against a hapless target” (Bullying at Work: Workplace Mobbing is on the Rise by Sophie Henshaw). The targets of workplace mobs are typically competent, resilient, well-educated, and are more likely to be female.
Christian Counseling for Trauma Recovery
There are many different types of situations that can result in trauma. But several highly effective methods of therapy can be used to treat people suffering from trauma. EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy is one method that is widely used.
If you have gone through a traumatic experience, a trained Christian counselor in San Diego can help you unpack some of the emotional baggage, and will help you to break free.
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If you find yourself often having anxious thoughts about your partner being distant or even leaving you, you may be dealing with some abandonment issues in relationships. Maybe you have a fear of vulnerability and are afraid to reveal too much about yourself because you’ll seem unlovable. Maybe you find yourself making a plan for how to protect yourself if you’re abandoned.
Another way these fears might manifest is if you choose to date one person after another in rapid succession, demonstrating a fear of commitment. In the relationship itself, you might seek constant reassurance, or become overly controlling of your partner’s activities and whereabouts; this is frequently coupled with an attitude of suspicion.
If most of those descriptors remind you of yourself, you might have abandonment issues.
Often, abandonment issues in relationships derive from a significant relationship in your past that failed to meet your needs physically, mentally, spiritually, or emotionally. You may have suffered from abuse, neglect, or chronic absence. This would have happened in a context where you trusted someone to care for you, but instead, they disappointed or rejected you.
A sense of being abandoned includes feeling disconnected, rejected, and deprived of what you need to feel secure. Abandonment is a form of trauma, and you’re left with a fear of losing loved ones and being left on your own to survive. These fears are often subconscious, and you might not realize they’re the driving force for the way you act in future relationships.
11 Abandonment Issues in Relationships
The following are eleven symptoms of abandonment wounds that may have an impact on your relationships today:
1. Lack of Vulnerability
This attitude involves having a guarded outlook on relationships, especially new ones, springing from entrenched trust issues. Individuals with this mentality do not allow others to get close to them, and they don’t reveal their own vulnerability except to those they carefully select. By maintaining their privacy, they feel safe from being rejected.
This behavior presents as coldness, distance, or being overly independent. Some people with abandonment turn to detachment to cope with the pain they’ve experienced in the past. Detachment goes hand in hand with a lack of commitment. A lack of commitment means you can’t be abandoned, and no one can hurt you.
Detachment is a sort of counter-dependence. It’s not giving yourself permission to need another person or depend on them. It’s a way to retain a sense of power, but it ultimately results in loneliness and isolation.
Another form abandonment issues can take is overwhelming clinginess or neediness. This might include sharing far too much about yourself very early on in a friendship or relationship or ignoring warning signs of dysfunction.
Once in a relationship, the clingy person will constantly want to be reassured and given lots of attention. They can seem overly exacting and difficult, and they usually fixate on one person whom they expect to meet all of their needs.
This becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, in which the target of their clinginess cannot handle the person’s overwhelming neediness, so ends up rejecting them.
4. Difficulty Feeling Love
Another symptom of abandonment issues is difficulty with feeling attached and loving to someone. This person will often be out of touch with their own emotions and may seem generally disengaged from people and experiences.
They may try to avoid being comforted physically or emotionally (for example, being hugged or complimented). They try to hide their true selves, which prevents them from bonding with their loved ones. If they want something from their partner like more physical affection, instead they put their defense mechanisms and pretend they don’t care.
5. Controlling Behavior
Abandonment correlates with a feeling of unpredictability and people who have been abandoned often seek to control every detail so they feel their lives are safe and predictable. Every situation feels one step away from being dire or drastic. Everything needs to go the way they’ve planned, or they feel anxious. In relationships, this can present as being micromanaging.
Sometimes subtle manipulation is used, such as making indirect comments or suggestions in an attempt to control one’s partner or using emotional blackmail to keep your partner in the relationship.
Often, this person is always thinking a step ahead and tries to maintain a facade of perfection to control what people think of them.
Whether subtle or overt, manipulation tactics can become a normal part of this type of relationship, and they’re used to make the partner stay with them and love them. The more conflict there is in the relationship, the more the controlling behaviors increase.
6. Negative Core Beliefs
Those with abandonment issues may have trouble keeping problematic circumstances in perspective; instead, they catastrophize events or possibilities in their minds. If someone is late to meet them, they’ll feel like the friendship is ending. If they sense even a hint of disapproval, they’ll jump to extremes such as, “I’m stupid. I’m always wrong.” If they have any type of argument or disagreement, they’ll think the other person hates them.
These types of thinking patterns are an automatic response to traumatic experiences. Other examples might be: “Everyone will eventually leave me. I can survive on my own; it’s better not to trust other people. I don’t deserve to be loved. I have to work really hard for others to like me. I can’t live without this person. Everything is my fault; why do I mess everything up?”
7. Searching for Flaws
This issue happens when the person has a running list of their partner’s flaws, mistakes, or offenses. The more they can prove something’s wrong with their partner, the less close they’ll feel. This can be seen in a tendency to demand perfection from others because perfection will reassure them that the relationship is safe.
Not only that, but people with abandonment issues often demand perfection from themselves as well. They don’t want others to judge them, so they try to act perfect in their relationship to compensate for their deeply held belief that they themselves are unworthy of love and fundamentally flawed.
8. Fear of Intimacy
Self-sabotage is a frequent issue in these types of relationships, either in smothering behavior that results in anxiety when the two of you are apart or by completely letting go and not being healthfully interdependent.
Self-sabotage can also take the form of purposefully getting involved in an unhealthy or abusive relationship, knowing that you will probably be abandoned eventually.
This may seem highly counterintuitive and difficult for outsiders to understand, but this behavior is simply a way of avoiding genuine intimacy. Intimacy is scary because it requires vulnerability. And vulnerability can lead to being rejected (again).
So people who fear abandonment learn how to turn off their emotions, and this behavior becomes so normal to them that it can happen involuntarily (such as shutting down physically during sex).
Fear drives out love. You will find yourself unable to bond with your partner because you’re holding on to them so tightly, or already expecting that they will leave you.
9. Weak Boundaries
Going out of their way to comply with their partner’s every wish or perceived desire, someone with this abandonment issue will suppress their own needs to try to make their partner happy. Codependency and fear of abandonment are often closely correlated.
The codependent may linger in a destructive relationship, making excuses for how their partner behaves and treats them, and taking on the responsibility for meeting others’ needs and rescuing them from the consequences of their actions.
A strong sense of guilt often pervades the codependent person’s mind and emotions. If something goes wrong in their relationships, they blame themselves. They feel like have they to prove that they are worthy of the relationship, and because they’re so desperate not to lose their partner, they end up losing themselves instead.
An individual may fear rejection so strongly that they end up hiding from relationships. They may feel like an outsider who is always misunderstood. They withdraw to protect themselves from exposure, criticism, or lack of love. Since they already feel inferior, they can’t take more rejection. But this sadly prevents them from the opportunity to have healthy friendships or relationships.
11. Being Overly Sensitive
Overreactions and defensiveness are a common response to the paranoia that everyone you love will eventually leave you. Rejection becomes a specter hanging over the person’s head.
If someone points out their flaws, they immediately interpret it as being rejected for who they are. Refusing to accept negative feedback allows the person to cope with their huge feelings of insecurity.
Christian Counseling for Abandonment Issues in Relationships
Imagine if you could be free to be yourself, and to base your behavior on love instead of fear. Imagine truly trusting someone else without fixating on the possibility of rejection. Talking to a counselor can help you become aware of the ways your fear of abandonment is damaging your current life and relationships.
By going to therapy, you’ll have a chance to unlock the hurts of your past so you can move beyond them to a place of freedom, and be able to experience intimacy without fear. You’ll be able to refute lies with the truth, and gain deliverance from a lifestyle of emotional torment.
“Contemplative landscape,” courtesy of Heidi Sandstrom, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Rhythms in Blue,” courtesy of Stephen Cook, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Searching,” courtesy of Luiza Sayfulina, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Empty,” courtesy of Eddy Lackmann, unsplash.com, CC0 License
San Diego Christian Counseling is an affiliation of professional Christian counselors with many years of experience providing help and counsel to people of all ages and backgrounds as they work through a variety of issues.
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