The Challenges Teens Face as a Result of Early Abandonment

Abandonment is a strong psychological experience that can influence a teen’s perception and experience of life. Because adolescence is a time for finding one’s identity in the world, feelings of being abandoned can get in the way of this necessary and important psychological task.

What Causes Feelings of Abandonment?

A teen might have feelings of abandonment with one or more of the following experiences:

  • Parental divorce
  • A parent left the household
  • A parent disregarded a teen’s reaction to a traumatic experience
  • Parents did not meet a child’s emotional or psychological needs
  • Parents who were abusive
  • A parent did not protect a child from harm

What are the Effects of Abandonment?

If teens perceive themselves as being abandoned in their lives, they may face certain emotional and psychological challenges. They may experience:

  • Self-loathing
  • Chronic unworthiness
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Eating disorders
  • Other psychological illnesses

In fact, one of the characterizing symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder is the tendency to avoid abandonment, having been hurt by being abandoned and rejection early in life. The consistent feelings of rejection cause an adolescent to continue to avoid being rejected or abandoned by others. In fact, avoiding abandonment at all costs becomes necessary for survival. If the possibility of abandonment is present, a teen might make attempts at suicide, engage in self-harming behavior such as cutting, or manipulate the person whom they feel abandoned by in order to feel in control.

The pervasive sense of abandonment and forever having to avoid it might stem from early childhood experiences, and more specifically, from the relationship that individual had with a caregiver. For this reason, researchers have begun to look closely at the types of relationships caregivers have with their children and how that plays a significant role in that child’s later life. For instance, attachment theory describes the long-term relationships between individuals by looking the relationship an infant has with its primary caregiver. It explores the results of a child’s early experiences with caregivers and the psychological states that happen as a result. Abandonment can lead to feelings of loss, rejection, denial, and depression for teens. Later in life, these feelings can continue to resurface.

Abandonment and Teens

The dangers of abandonment are particularly true for teens. During adolescence, a teen is attempting to discover who he or she is. Teens are uncovering their interests, passions, and a sense of purpose. However, with an early abandonment, teens might not be able to achieve this psychological task.

If you are a caregiver of a teen who has been abandoned in some way, consult with a mental health professional on how to best support your teen. In fact, one primary way to begin to heal abandonment is to take your teen to a therapist or psychologist.

Of course, if your teen is facing challenging symptoms of a psychological illness, such as depression or anxiety, then it’s important to tend to those symptoms first. When a child is abandoned, it’s likely going to affect his or her psychological health as a teen and later in life.

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