6 Little Ways Your Childhood Abandonment Issues Tragically Affect You Now

It's time for you to heal and let people in again.

woma la ying in bed feeling abandoned Darina Belonogova | Pexels

Did you suffer abandonment as a child? Were you neglected?

Perhaps you were a child of divorce, in foster care, or left to figure things out on your own. If so, you may still be suffering the effects of abandonment issues.

It’s never too late for help or healing. But that often takes a kind of trust that’s hard to come by if your childhood was hard. And it also means being able to grieve.

Yet, sadness can seem immense, like you might drown in it. It’s hard to grieve alone.


If you can’t grieve, it affects your whole life. You’re living with a broken heart and might not even know it. Maybe you keep telling yourself, “Get over it.” Or, not to trust again.

There are good reasons to think this way. But you have to admit, you aren’t very happy.

If you haven’t had help, it’s not at all uncommon to still be suffering. You’re doing nothing wrong.

Children need secure love, not broken promises, or betrayal. When you don’t have secure love, it can have lasting effects. But it’s not impossible to heal.

RELATED: Read This If You're Trying And Struggling To Overcome Emotional Trauma


Here are 6 little ways your childhood abandonment issues tragically affect you now:

1. You have problems with love and trust

Children need someone to count on, and at least one parent to turn to when something hurts. Being left by a parent, or both of them, for whatever reason, is very traumatic.

Abandonment as a child leaves scars. And it’s even more devastating when no one notices how sad you are.

You feel completely alone. You have no one to count on. What do you do with all the hurt?

You have no choice but to go away from your feelings and shut them down as if they don’t exist. Living with all the hurt and heartbreak is just too much.

Sometimes, you’re scared and lonely, though. But who can you trust? You don’t want to need anything from anyone. It seems like you can only count on yourself.


You have no control over people leaving. So, how can you trust that others won’t? Deep down, you believe they will.

2. There's a negative voice in your head

A voice inside your head is on you all the time... “Don’t open up. You’ll get hurt. It’s your fault if they leave. You always say the wrong thing. Don’t show any needs. You’re too much.” That voice goes on and on and on.



The only way to “get rid” of that harsh voice is not to believe it. That’s easier said than done. The voice started a long time ago — maybe even before you were abandoned as a child.


There are three major reasons for it being there.

First, that voice declares what you believed was mirrored about you as a child. When you’re abandoned or traumatized early, it’s hard to feel it wasn’t your fault in some way, even though it wasn’t.

So, that voice in your head that is always finding fault with you, comes from never feeling good enough. Maybe even echoing ways you were criticized, yelled at, or treated cruelly.

Children believe it. Confidence and good self-esteem can’t grow that way, nor can trust.

Second, sometimes that voice intends to drive you to “make you better,” more "lovable," and “good” in others' eyes. It thinks if you are “perfect,” that’s what will make people stay.


No one is perfect. You can’t feel good about yourself in such a negative space in your mind, any more than you could as a child.

But you don’t know another way. Abandonment as a child hurts and getting help scares you.

So, that negative voice has another purpose: It thinks it’s protecting you.

Sound strange? It’s not, although it’s questionably helpful. But you believe it.

It screams out warnings, rules, restrictions, and dangers. “Don’t trust. Remember, better not open up. You know what will happen if you do — it’s happened in the past.”

It can be loud. It’s hard to block out the past — and your feelings. Things remind you of being abandoned as a child.


Sometimes you feel sad and don’t want to. Or, you want love and don’t know how to find it.

Sometimes, this leads to self-destructive behaviors. Those take many forms.

RELATED: My First Childhood Trauma Happened At Five

3. You have self-destructive behaviors

When you don’t know what to do with your feelings, you’ve got to find some way to channel your emotions. Sometimes, those ways aren’t healthy, or they end up with you turning against yourself.

You might try to blot out your feelings with alcohol or drugs. And sometimes you have to use too much, trying to keep them down.

You develop an addiction. You don’t know any other way to manage.


You have thoughts of ending your life, or you self-mutilate. Harming your body or wanting it all to end is the only way you can imagine stopping your emotional pain. A therapist who knows the trauma of abandonment as a child can help.

You turn to intimacy, more with strangers or people you don’t get too close to. Intimacy might also involve drugs or alcohol.

It’s a way to have some form of “love,” which often backfires. You want love, but can’t risk it. That’s what happens when you are abandoned as a child. Yet, when your attempts at some form of love don’t work, it can also leave you hurt (if you mistook it for love), or with a lot of shame.

4. You choose the wrong friends

When you’ve been hurt by love, abandoned as a child, or kids have bullied you, it’s hard to know who's a friend and who's not. Trust isn’t easy to come by. You live with hard edges and high walls.


You have to protect yourself, but you don’t know how. You also live with a lot of anger. That anger makes you tough, banishing the sensitive kid that you were before you were abandoned.



Maybe you befriend people just as tough as you are — the ones that get their power by being bullies. Since you’ve shut out all your needs, you find people in your life who need a whole lot in a way that you can’t give.

Since you can only rely on yourself, you also give too much. You can’t be yourself. You have to give what you think people want or deny your needs and feelings in one way or another. You don’t think people will like you for the real you.


RELATED: The Sad Reason Why Childhood Trauma Is Holding You Back As An Adult

5. You build self-protective walls

Maybe you aren’t one for drugs, alcohol, or self-destructive thoughts and behaviors. Yet, you’ve had to protect yourself from the fear there isn’t anyone to count on.

You’ve built hard walls around yourself and closed down to love. Or, you don't trust it completely when love does show up.

Maybe you’ve let very few people in. Because usually, having to be tough means not letting yourself be “needy.”

You think there’s something wrong with any kind of dependency. There’s not, but if you’ve been abandoned and hurt, there are reasons for thinking that way.


Walls intact, no one can hurt you again. Yet you know what the biggest problem is? You end up abandoning who you are — the real you — the “you” hidden inside.

6. You're tired of "toughing it out" alone

You were alone as a child. You didn’t have a choice back then.

Now, you don’t know how — or where — it’s safe to open up. You might find yourself wanting to. Maybe you’ve tried.


Maybe, in your trying, you’ve chosen the wrong people and been hurt again. That only confirms what the negative voice in your head tells you: “Watch out. You can’t trust anyone.”

When you’ve been hurt as a child, the possibility of love can feel lost, even when it isn’t.

There might even be love in your life that you can’t fully let in. Maybe you’re so wary of the past, that actions are misconstrued and become betrayal in your mind.

Then, you feel there’s no other choice but to turn away and stay shut down. Is that true?

Not everyone is like those who abandoned you, even though it might seem like they are. Remember places where there was (and is) love. That can’t be taken away unless you stop letting it into your heart.


If you’re tired of being alone and you can’t get out of this conundrum on your own, reach out for help. Some therapists understand what you’re going through.

And, also, how much sadness and fear you live with every day.

Children need enough care to be healthy and enough supervision to be safe.

Child neglect is when a parent or caregiver does not give the care, supervision, affection, and support needed for a child’s health, safety, and well-being. Adults who care for children must provide clothing, food, and drink. A child also needs safe, healthy shelter, and adequate supervision.

If you or somebody that you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, there is a way to get help. Call SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or text "HELLO" to 741741 to be connected with the Crisis Text Line.


RELATED: 5 Horrific Ways Your Abandonment Issues Are Ruining Your Relationship

Dr. Sandra Cohen is a Los Angeles-based psychologist and psychoanalyst who specializes in working with survivors of abuse and childhood trauma.