Fear of Abandonment Due to Mental Illness

July 19, 2012 Natasha Tracy

Unfortunately, some people are left when others discover they have a mental illness and so they develop a fear of abandonment due to their mental illness.

When people realize they have a mental illness like bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, one of the first feelings they have is fear. And there’s a lot to be afraid of. There are the treatment, doctors, symptoms, side effects and then there’s the illness itself. It’s completely reasonable to feel scared in that situation.

And in that moment, or possibly in a moment shortly thereafter, the fear of abandonment becomes a reality. A very reasonable and realistic fear is that people will abandon you because of the mental illness.

Fear of Abandonment

Fear of abandonment is a real, human fear that happens to just about everybody. If you think about your current partner, right now, leaving you, you’ll feel a fear that is deep-seeded and almost instinctual. The same goes for family members. Just think about your mother or brother turning their back on you. Shivers up the spine.

Fear of Abandonment Due to Mental Illness

And people with a mental illness have a real reason to worry. People do, in fact, leave others because of a mental illness. Sometimes it’s reasonable – the mental illness is out of control and the loved one has no choice but to save themselves – but many times it isn’t reasonable in the least. A person with a mental illness is just left because of the pain and stigma of dealing with a mental illness. Sometimes people just can’t last through the stress of illness and treatment. Sometimes people really are abandoned by those they thought loved them unconditionally.

Self-Sabotage Because of the Fear of Abandonment

And so, this can lead people with mental illnesses to sabotage their own relationships. They would rather push other people away than wait for them to leave. It’s easier to walk than to be abandoned.

This isn’t necessarily a conscious choice it’s just the reaction of a person who is really scared and who likely has been through abandonment before.

Abandonment is Real, But Not Always a Reality

But I think it’s important to remember that while, yes, there is always the possibility that a person might abandon you because of your mental illness, there is a better chance that they will not. Of course, the numbers vary from person to person and from disorder to disorder but I really believe that more people will remain in your life than will abandon you. But you’ll never find that out if you’re too busy pushing them away.

So you have to give people the benefit of the doubt. You have to give a person the benefit of believing in them just as you wish for them to believe in you. Yes, you’re trusting them with something huge, but many people are worth that trust. We all have issues that we have to trust people with and mental illness is just one of them. And while I can’t promise everyone can handle big issues, I can promise you that some people can. And those are people worth having in your life.

When the fear of abandonment strikes, be open about it. Because it’s amazing how much smaller fears look in the light.

You can find Natasha Tracy on Facebook or GooglePlus or @Natasha_Tracy on Twitter.

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2012, July 19). Fear of Abandonment Due to Mental Illness, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 13 from

Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate, and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar. She's also the host of the podcast Snap Out of It! The Mental Illness in the Workplace Podcast.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar BurbleTwitter, InstagramFacebook, and YouTube.

July, 19 2012 at 9:07 am

i feel this x

Thom Slavin
July, 19 2012 at 10:33 am

The tendency to provoke fear and abandonment is very acute in the beginning of the illness. People are frightened of your behavior. They take steps to protect themselves. I will never fault my daughter's mother for changing the locks; I had burned her altar to Yamayah (a particularly evil East African goddess) in the bathtub because I thought it was the source of my torment. The separation that ensued, the rounds of court procedures to secure visitation, the loss of the woman and family I thought I would marry, were all a form of sadness and perhaps, abandonment. The ensuing years were perhaps worse, because I in turn withdrew from my daughter's life, as she grew through her Elementary years and Junior High. I still showed for her performances, though, and sought reunification in 2008.
If abandonment is about withdrawal of support, compassion and courage lead back to Love. I've also had to find Unconditional Self-Forgiveness somewhere in there. It's not easy. She hasn't written me yet this year,
but I have to believe it's not from my absence and abandonment.
I still have faith that both my daughters will one day come back to me.

George Staursky
July, 20 2012 at 10:57 pm

I have strong memories of being abandoned 11 years ago because of my illness. I still strive for some external validation that is unlikely to occur, no matter how successful I continue to be.

July, 24 2012 at 6:02 am

This is the biggest issue in my life aside from my ADD. Because I have the less apparent slow processing skills and other problems associated, people often don't notice I'm different until something glaring happens. And then they're out of there at the speed of a bullet. I try not to take it personally, and just let them go, but sometimes the rage of rejection builds and gets
displaced. I am working on not getting stuck in such thoughts and having some success with ACT and eastern religion, meditation. But mostly I just have to have work in gratitude with what and who I still have in my life. Thanks, and sorry I got carried away here.

Natasha Tracy
July, 24 2012 at 6:41 am

Hi Caroline,
I can understand it being the biggest issue, it is for many and I can understand that the rejection might get displaced. But at least you have that awareness about yourself which means you have the best chance at curbing it. Moreover, you are correct that it's not about you, it's about the (weak) people who would leave.
And you do have the right idea, in my opinion, we need to be grateful for those who are there. Focus on the positive, because there are always people who are strong and will be there.
- Natasha

Michael Puck
November, 5 2012 at 1:43 pm

My girlfriend of only a month or so broke up with me when I was in hospital with mania. It felt like a mutual decision at the time, and certainly she was justified in doing so, given my behaviour. Shortly after that, she fell pregnant to a guy she'd recently met through me. When he proved himself less than honorable (to say the least), she asked to reconcile. Now we are planning the rest of our lives together, with a beautiful baby girl. We are happy and strong together.
And yet, 18 months after all that went down, I am developing deeply painful abandonment and betrayal issues. It's like I have unforgiven her. I am completely committed to this relationship - for life - and yet I know that if I felt this way when she asked to get back together, there's no way known I would. I do not understand this.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

August, 23 2019 at 7:23 pm

It sounds as though you may have suppressed some painful feelings in order to have your girlfriend back in your life. It's best to deal with it in some way, like writing her a letter about your feelings.

May, 19 2014 at 9:42 am

This morning i told my daughter that she better look for a back up babysitter she immediately started yelling at me because she didn't even wait for me to explain why or ask why. i was going to be the reason she would not have money left because she would have to pay someone else . the whole reason i told her to get a back up sitter is i can tell when i may need to be hospitalized and her only concefn was money not that i am overwelmed at fear i won't be able to handle.

May, 20 2014 at 6:43 am

I have that with Borderline personality and GAD never been diag with Bipolar

July, 30 2014 at 5:51 pm

I am trying to be there for my man (PTSD and BP2 - medicated 3 years) - we knew each other only 1 month prior to an episode which has been very severe this time. He was kind to me throughout but this past 10 days when at his worst, he has pushed me away and by all accounts his ill mind has decided to loathe me, when I am the only person who has stood by him. So what do you do then to stand by? It could be months and months if med side effects are there or he's not taking his meds as prescribed, He's on lithium 3 years now plus anti depressants and some other I am not aware of; these days, each text ignored; each logical plea a waste of breath so many people with experience say. He may also never come back to being how he was when we met. I have read books, joined forums,even seen a pdoc to ask questions. I want to be committed to see this through til level however there is obviously fear and abandonment issues but when the ill mind turns it in to a blame game and wants you gone, how do you suggest you fight this to prove you are committed to stay?

Jonathan Ashton
September, 10 2015 at 9:39 am

I've been mental ill all my life, I'm 46 and am only now getting the right help and understanding.
I live a solitary life as I was mentally physically and sexually abused as a child
I also live with a very severe stammer, I was very violent and feared in my 20 and 30 due to anger and frustration of. My childhood abuse which was disgusting what I had to endure , I was married and had a successful business for 13 years, I did disclose my childhood abuse to my ex wife and family and friends, I was offered no help or understanding and was treated as though I was a liar and humiliated and ridiculed, I did not like close effection off my wife her friends and my children,
I have never harmed my children or my ex wife and the my wife would bring her friends round asking me about my childhood abuse when I was drunk and on cocaine to escape the torment .
I was made to feel like a piece of shit.
I spend my days now painting and living a quiet peaceful solitary life which I donate my paintings to charity.
I don't like human contact as I feel people are playing games and laughing at me or conspiring or trying to poison me.
I am under a good mental health team and I have been abandoned by every one else.but I feel safe on my own.
I have tried a to have therapy for my childhood abuse but felt the guy was a two faced bastard asking my ex girlfriend if I had ever raped her and was happy when I got jailed for 18 months after I had a nervous breakdown due to little help or understanding and missing my 3 kids who I have not seen for 8 years.
I just can't wait till I'm dead and out of this world, I'm not suicidal but do not fear death and if they told me I had a month to live id be happy.
My worst regret was disclosing my childhood abuse and being nailed to the cross for it .

September, 11 2015 at 5:15 pm

I know how you feel, I got beat for anything anyone did, got sexually abused at six, had mywholefamily treat me like a slave, and try to murder me since I was seven to Corbett up what they did to me, three spine placed you shouldn't go with anyone. You dont do everything can to destroy someone's confidence then expect them to constantly defends themselves, I have records of foster care . Peipke that dont even know me try to tell me what happened. It's ridiculous. I have severe mdd and severe ptsd.

September, 12 2015 at 12:08 am

I was kicked out of my house at age 14 for drinking and basically being unruly. I have never felt a pain of separation from my loved ones in all my life while in foster care. My mom never called while I was there and I think I was allowed to talk to my sister and best friend one time. It wasn't a real long time but I remember feeling suicidal with no one to talk to. I did end up going home.I was put in a mental hospital 2 years later and have been on medication for a majority of the since. Anyway I'm 39 married and trust my husband with all of my heart but have problems with fears of abandonment with friendships. This keeps me from making new friends. I let friends know right away I have mental problems but the fear they are going to say goodbye never leaves me. I am going to try to find a counselor to help me with this it is ruining my sense of self.

September, 12 2015 at 4:10 pm

I understand the fear of abandonment all too well
I've felt like a reject my whole life. Given up for adoption - reject
Adopted but physically, emotionally, & sexually abused - reject
Unpopular in school - reject
No boyfriend/husband/children - reject
Labelled with a mental illness and stigmatized - reject,
and on and on... It chips away at your self esteem after a while until you have none left. I get very anxious and uncomfortable in social situations, in large part because I have come to expect abandonment or abuse that's why I have few friends and I live alone. They say God puts us all here on this planet for a reason but I have yet to fully realize my God given purpose. I'm always immersed in self help books wondering what the hell is wrong with me. Why can't I seem to get it together and act like normal people. Nothing I try ever seems to work because I feel innately flawed to my core. I wish I could somehow learn to get over that and move on with my life. Therapy doesn't help and medication only masks the problem.

December, 2 2015 at 9:39 am

Dear All,
How can i deal with a guy whom i think has bipolar disorder but he never told me.He kept trying to push me away and i didn't understand why inthought it was because i wouldn't sleep with him tbh.Anyway he was very rude to me even when i tried to be supportive and caring which prompted me to tell him that he doesnt appreciate me,and gis reaction to me was cold and even ruder.Of course i apologized and told him i didnt mean it and that i love and care about him so much but he nevee responded and this was 3 months ago.
I only just realized today that he could be bipolar and i dont know what to do

December, 13 2015 at 11:59 pm

I read most every comment and after doing so I realized I'm not the only one. Almost 50 years old and in the middle of my forth divorce I would like to very kindly say to the author (with very supportive encougement) that I know there are some who can love enough to persevere and consistently help you unconditionally. My mother was blessed to marry one who could, my Dad. But as I said this is my 4th divorce. 3 out of 4 I was left.
And this last marriage I absolutely made life with me a nightmare. I was in a nightmare and as my mind tormented me I in turn did the same to him. I was stable when we meet and had been so for 8 or 9 years. In fact I thought I had overcome my insecurities and I finally was going to have a good healthy and happy marriage. And when the illness began to come out of "remission" as I feel deeper in love with him, he responded as I had watched my father. Thought I was being blessed by God. He promised he would also support me and work with me. Not long after we married he began loosing compassion and any desire to understand why I sometimes be insecure. When I saw that behavior beginning it just about sent me over the edge. I lived in a manic attack for over a year. Suppressing it as much as I could but the more he drew away not caring the worse I got. He never really was supportive. He was tolerant but that's different from support.
My point to the author was this, it's a needle in the hay stack to find a supportive partner and there is not "a lot" or "plenty" of people out there to find. Read the comments and I'm sure 3 times as many people thought about a comment and but couldn't. False hope is false hope wether from a spouse who left you or a supportive article by someone maybe trying to be helpful. My apologies if this sounded disrespectful and for the length of it.

Helene Sugar
March, 9 2016 at 12:54 am

I have a fear of abandonment. My real father committed suicide when I was young, I don't remember him. My step father refuses to adopt me. I ask him to adopt me when I was a teenager. He wouldn't. I do not understand why. Did he not love me. My mother and him had one biological child together (my younger sister) and I feel resentment towards her. We are adults now. I see what a spoiled brat she has turned out to be, and I am constantly left out. Now my step father has recently died and I feel angry with him, my sister, my mother, everyone. I am almost 50 and my life is out of control. Is all of this my fault?

July, 16 2016 at 3:33 pm

I was abandoned by my family and left homeless because of mental illness. It was easier for them if I became someone else's problem. I gave myself the stability I needed and don't get too close to anyone. I will not let myself experience that suicidal feeling of being thrown to the streets while sick by people who are supposed to love you. I got raped, mistreated, and was in and out of the hospital for two years. Needless to say I rightfully have trust issues. My family "allowed" me back after I got stable, but instead of feeling grateful, all I could do was observe the dysfunction, the superficiality, the " fake nice ", the " you need Jesus " crap that just alienates me further. I'm just not the same as I used to be. The medication and the experiences made sure of that. After being forced to be alone I realized that I preferred it. Solitude is peaceful, relaxing, and low stress. I'd rather be alone than in bad company.

January, 23 2017 at 2:28 am

I always have a fear of losing my girlfriend when she's at work, she is so loyal to me and I know it very well, she left everything which I don't like. I abuse her on daily basis and keep spying on her that what she's actually doing. She cooperates a lot but I can't kick that fear out of my mind

February, 4 2017 at 2:23 am

Hello. My english is not quite alright but i will try to do my best. Im bipolar. And since the diagnose my head is a mess.
My ex husband left me with 4 kids. I have an autistic son aswell.
My new husband seems to doesnt uderstand me. Before my diagnose and medication i used to yell at everyone, to hit my husband and i told him to go away a thousand times. I was rude and sinical. And i didnt care if i was alone.
But feeling sad and i fear he will go away. I hate myself. I dont know what to do and who the hell am i.
Im bp with bpd traits. Abandonment now feels like hell to me. My husband seems to live his life without me and im not sure if this is real or my head is just playing games with me. Does he love me? Or he is planning to leave me now he knows im bipolar ? Maybe he will leave me because i am bipolar and have 4 kids with ex husband? Maybe because im getting older??? Damn head..i hate my head and sometimes im brilliant.
I hate this. I would love to be " normal".

February, 19 2021 at 7:17 pm

We almost went out together!
We met in a store she was working in. I was dressed well, and felt great! She caught my eye and literally pulled me over to her register. We wear in masks but her eyes got me! I made her laugh and I said it was go to see you today and she saidL it was good to see you too. Both smiling with our eyes!
A week later I went back to see her but my mood was low, agitated and mixed. She appeared in a place I didn’t expect and I knew I was unwell but didn’t know what I may say so I just ignored her and went to a different register even though her register was completely empty! The look on her face as I did that. It was so sad. It still haunts me. She never forgave me really. I went back again weeks later and gave her my number. We texted but ‘the person‘ I clicked with was gone.
Even after I told her I had a mood disorder in a text and why I had acted that way, she just left me hanging. I specifically said I’ve got something to tell you and she said what? I told her the truth about my bipolar and she just ignored me. I left my phone on, nothing, That was painful...but maybe I was also lucky I never got to know her!
Can you imagine if I really got to know her and she just drop me like a stone when she found out about my bipolar.
Maybe a higher conscience made me walk past her deliberately for that reason!

Leave a reply