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  • Writer's pictureThe Hammonton Gazette

Abandonment trauma: Effects and symptoms

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When looking into a mirror, how do you see yourself (is your inner child staring back smiling or crying)? When others are celebrating a holiday that you do not have personal connections (Mother’s or Father’s Day), how are you processing being around people who do not understand why you have no reason to celebrate? How are you coping with your hidden trauma? Significant abandonment incidents can cause you a great deal of emotional stress that can impact the way you relate to others and how you perceive yourself.

With the increased number of suicides around holidays, children being removed from families and placed into foster care or a group home or must be raised by a grandparent/relative, abandonment trauma becomes a fact. Physical or emotional abandonment may lead to signs of trauma, like insecure attachment, isolation, misdiagnosed disabilities (AD/HD, OCC), legal problems, and/or self-sabotaging behavior (increase in youth suicide, cutting oneself, drug/alcohol abuse, episode of psychosis, fear of being abandoned, inability to socialize with others, risk-taking, aggressiveness, learning difficulties, pain, etc.). Trauma effects and experiences can be managed, and healing is possible.

Abandonment trauma results from experiencing or perceiving any type of abandonment that may have been extremely painful for you. It may be related to instances when you felt neglected, abused, assaulted, threatened, or left behind. Trauma can be difficult to explore without the support of a mental health professional and/or support. They can offer a safe space to talk about your experiences and emotions and can work with you in deciding the best therapeutic or daily living strategies for abandonment trauma.

Effects of trauma or abandonment in elementary-age or younger children:

• nightmares or difficulty sleeping

• crying or screaming for no apparent reason

• separation anxiety

• performance difficulty in academic settings

• changes in appetite or relationship with food

When untreated, childhood trauma can affect teenagers and adulthood.

• substance use abuse and/or disorder

• eating disorders

• self-harming behaviors and thoughts of suicide

• difficulty forming and maintaining stable relationships.

• self-sabotage

• codependency

• fear of intimacy

• behaviors that may be interpreted as “needy”

• trauma denial

• being left in a physically dangerous position by a friend or caretaker

• having your physical needs for food and water unmet

• processing the death of a loved one as abandonment

• growing up with an emotionally detached or dismissive parent

• ghosting from family members, romantic partners, or loved ones.

• experiencing emotional abuse at any age

• can impact the way the brain functions and makes decisions.

Research supports that children who cannot rely on caregivers to meet their emotional or physical needs early in life can develop certain mental health conditions, i.e., “reactive attachment disorder.”

Healing from trauma is possible, regardless of the traumatic incident experienced or exposed to prolonged traumatic stress. Recovering from trauma is a complex process, it is highly advisable to seek the support of a mental health professional. (no age limitations).

Professional guidance can assist with strategies to use when the trauma impairs the ability to manage daily living tasks, academics at school, working, self-care, caring for others,

maintaining a healthy relationship, etc. Seeking help is a sign of strength and wanting to live a happier life.

Remember, when you look into your mirror, encourage yourself, love yourself and support yourself. Take time to find joy in life, laugh more because you have the right to be happy. Reaching out to people around you that want to support you is an open door towards changing how you think and function as you embrace a positive future. Volunteering to assist others or with a support group or network allow you to help someone else and enables you to share your experience of ways to cope and move forward in life. Remember, You Can Make It!

Dr. Pamela Cooper, MA, MBA, PhD. is a learning disabilities teacher-consultant in the Winslow Twp. Public School District, Camden County. She can be reached at


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