The Traumatic Effects of Abandonment!

An Electronic Mental Health Newsletter from Joel I. Kimmel, Ph.D., P.A. & Associates
Volume 10, Number 7
We are currently in the dog days of summer where the weather is hot and sultry. The term, dog days, comes from the Romans who associated the hot weather with the star Sirius or the “dog star” because of its brightness in the constellation Canis Major or Large Dog. In any event, it usually refers to the long, hot days of July and August. Possibly because of this, July is also National Ice Cream Month. It is also a time when many of us pursue our leisure interests such as traveling, vacationing, catching up on our reading, or just cutting back and taking it easy. We encourage you to make time to relax, recharge, and re-evaluate how you are living your lives.

We would like to thank those readers who sent us their comments about our last E-Letter: Self-Esteem: High or Low? We are also pleased to tell you that our E-Letters are currently being used in a course at St. Petersburg College in Florida. This month’s E-Letter focuses on Understanding the Traumatic Effects of Abandonment. Our email of the month is about an Organic Chemistry final, and our Ask the Doc question is about possible depression. We hope you find the enclosed information helpful.

Practice News

Hypnosis. Dr. Terry Newell, a certified hypnotherapist and board member of the Florida Society for Clinical Hypnosis, is offering one complimentary session of clinical hypnosis to aid in habit control and reducing symptoms of stress and anxiety. Unlike stage hypnosis, clinical hypnosis is an effective tool which can be used to augment ongoing therapy, as well as to assist in changing habits, managing pain and reducing stress and anxiety. This session is being offered as an opportunity to experience the clinical hypnotic state at no charge and to decide whether this is something you are interested in pursuing. Please call 954-755-2885, to schedule an appointment.

Depression groups.Ongoing weekly depression therapy groups meet regularly in our office. A men’s support group and a women’s support group are run by Dr. Jim Kaikobad and meets for one and one-half hours. The group is educational, supportive, and confidential and is limited to 8 people. If you are interested in attending, please contact Jillian at 954 755-2885.

Research Study.If you are overweight, you might consider participating in a research study. Our practice has been asked by Life Extension Institute to participate in research assessing the effects of cognitive therapy, nutritional supplements, and medications on weight management in overweight individuals. Early results show continued weight loss for those subjects who are in the study. For more information about the study, contact Jillian, at 954 755-2885

Handouts from previous E-Letters can be found on our website, We invite you to read and download them if desired.


Our E-Letter this month focuses on on Abandonment and its potentially traumatic effects. Many of the patients we see in our office have a sense of abandonment as a core issue in their lives. Whether they were abandoned by parents who were not present, parents who were present but emotionally unavailable, or have been abandoned in relationships later in their lives, the effects can be quite devastating. Abandonment by a significant person leads to a sense of loss of love and connectedness. In early life, being cared for, being important to others and being wanted is critical. When rejection or abuse occurs, the message to the person is that they are not important and that they have no value. In children, this loss of psychological and physical protection leads to internalized chronic fear and shame. Imagine, if you will, growing up and living your life with the belief that you are not wanted and that you are worthless. How do you go on in life with these beliefs? In many adopted children, the ability to attach to others during the formative years is corrupted and many grow up to be adults who are untrusting of others and believe that they don’t matter. Often, they develop a “me against the world” attitude.

Abandonment can occur throughout the life-cycle. Other examples although perhaps not as devastating include; grown children going off to college leaving parents with an “empty nest, divorce, being fired from a job, the death of a loved one, the death of a pet, retirement, and a serious illness and loss of bodily function. Abandonment also includes an aloneness not by choice, feeling isolated even in relationships, feeling deserted by others, feeling not accepted by society because of gender or race, and being left by the suicide of another.

Being abandoned is a situation that is taken personally. Those who have been abandoned believe that the abandonment was made by a person important to them who CHOSE to leave them, to reject them. It causes a person to feel that they are unwanted, unimportant, and basically don’t matter. Shame and low self-esteem accompanies abandonment. Consequently, it can be lifelong as many individuals spend their lives trying to disprove those beliefs. They often enter into poorly chosen relationships which either ultimately end in rejection or dependence upon the person to whom they are looking for acceptance. However, they basically don’t trust others and have difficulty being open and intimate. They will often turn to addictive behaviors such as drinking and drugging to numb themselves to feel better. Abandoned people often become depressed and anxious with many fears as they lack confidence and a sense of identity. Many constantly look for any signs of potential rejection and can make excessive emotional demands in relationships. Some even become enmeshed with Facebook and other social media in order to keep a sense of being connected and can become quite upset when defriended.

Healing this sense of loss and feelings of not being wanted can be a very difficult process. Not feeling threatened by others and being able to trust can be extremely hard for a person who basically feels they are unworthy. Yet psychotherapy can be very effective with those who want to overcome the experiences of abandonment. Working with a supportive and caring therapist can help the individual develop trust over time. They can come to see themselves as having value and importance. In therapy, the effects of childhood abandonment can be neutralized and the person can develop self-esteem. In therapy, the client can learn to separate childhood fears from who they are today. Their thought patterns will change when they recognize who they are today and allow the past fears and thoughts to remain in the past. This would include not seeing oneself as a vulnerable and helpless child but rather the stronger and more capable adult of today. Often, the attentiveness, caring, and empathy from a therapist can alleviate abandonment fears.

If in reading this, you are concerned about your own abandonment fears, consider psychotherapy with a caring and empathic therapist. Recognize that you are important and do have worth despite how you may have been treated. You did not cause it and you are not invisible to others. Realize that you don’t have to feel isolated or lonely in relationships. See yourself as a survivor of the trauma of abandonment and allow yourself to feel stronger. Rather than look for others to accept you, consider whether you would accept them, Take the risk of trusting yourself as well as significant others. Change your thinking to see yourself as who you are today and give yourself unconditional acceptance.

We offer the following information on Understanding the Traumatic Effects of Abandonment:


Since the earliest period of our life was preverbal, everything depended on emotional interaction. Without someone to reflect our emotions, we had no way of knowing who we were — John Bradshaw


  • Abandonment is a core human fear and is related to the loss of love and connectedness
  • Abandonment can ruin a person’s ability to trust others, be intimate, or feel worthy and it can lead to codependence, addiction, depression, and anxiety
  • Abandonment creates a devastating psychological injury due to a sense of being rejected, a feeling of not being important enough, a withdrawal of any love and caring, and a self-criticism of not being good enough
  • Abandoned people have been so traumatized by rejection that they often have little sense of who they are and look to others to define them
  • Abandonment is often accompanied by shame, very low self esteem, and unworthiness
  • In relationships, abandonment by one person can include indifference, apathy, lack of intimacy, coldness, invisibility, and ignoring the other
  • Abandonment can occur from the death of a loved one, from the moving away of a close friend, from being adopted, from feeling isolated in a relationship, from negligence and abuse by others, from being betrayed, from the breakup of relationships, and from the emotional unavailability of family members
  • Feelings of abandonment can also come from losing a job, retiring from a job, children leaving home for college or work, divorce, and serious illness
  • An abandoned person is likely to encounter serious and long term psychological issues and may unconsciously seek out partners who reinforce their negative self-beliefs
  • The impact of abandonment can be so traumatic as to adversely affect every relationship the person who has been abandoned has throughout their entire life
  • People who have been abandoned when a child often have current relationships where they replicate the emotional abandonment with new partners
  • In these new relationships, abandoned people often look for flaws in others, tend to be reserved and shy, get bored with their partner, and let their partners define them
  • Because of their trust issues, abandoned people often look to be rescued and can make strong demands upon others to prove their loyalty to them
  • Therapy for abandoned people often focuses on developing an empathetic relationship with a therapist who can help them distinguish the helpless and traumatized child from the stronger and more capable adult who the person is today
  • Therapy for people who have been abandoned also involves learning to care for oneself, developing a sense of calmness and safety, being able to communicate in intimate relationships, and developing trust in others


  • Recognize and accept that you have a fear of abandonment and you did not cause it
  • Allow yourself to grieve the rejection or loss and then let go of it
  • Rather than shame, see yourself as a survivor and give yourself unconditional love
  • Become emotionally self-reliant rather than looking for others to accept you
  • Take the risks of trusting yourself and significant others
  • Change your thinking to view yourself as a competent and capable adult
  • Seek professional help to develop a caring, accepting, and trusting relationship with a supportive therapist who can help you heal from your feelings of abandonment
  • We Can Help!

    Call us at (954) 755-2885 or email us at

    Joel I. Kimmel, Ph.D., P.A. and Associates 5571 N. University Drive, Suite 101 Coral Springs, Florida 33067

    Copyright © 2015; by Joel I. Kimmel, Ph.D.

    As always, we would like to welcome new readers to our e-Letter. We hope that you find it informational and enjoyable. We invite you to share this e-Letter with others. If you have received this from a fellow reader, please send us your email address to include you on our list.

    Ask The Doc

    TW writes: In the morning, I just can’t seem to get started. I manage and can get myself to work and feel fine. Once the work day is over, I am exhausted and just want to watch television. My wife wants me to do more such as fix things around the house or do something with her. I usually do but I feel tired. Nothing seems to excite me. She says I am depressed. What do you think?

    Dr. Joel Kimmel replies: Yes, TW, you may be depressed but I certainly wouldn’t jump to that conclusion without looking at some other possibilities. First, I would suggest you get a complete physical including a thyroid test. It is possible that you may have a medical problem that is causing your situation. An underactive thyroid could account for the way you are feeling but a physician needs to examine this possibility. Secondly, I suggest that you look at what you are eating and make sure that it is a good and healthy diet. Eating the proper foods will give you the energy needed for your day. Third, consider your sleep habits. Are you getting enough restful sleep? Sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, and REM Sleep Behavior Disorder could also account for feeling tired. Fourth, you may just be bored with your lifestyle. Are you getting enough exercise? Do you find you home life and work satisfying? Do you feel that you just repeat every day with nothing to look forward to? If so, you need to make some changes

    Finally, depression does need to be considered. If everything else can be ruled out, you may be suffering from depression. There are many causes of depression as well as different types of depression. Consider if you find your work and your life meaningful? Do you feel helpless and hopeless? Are you pessimistic and gloomy? Do you feel anger that you suppress and keep to yourself? Is there a family history of depression?

    If you have no medical problems, and your eating and sleeping behaviors are fine, I would suggest contacting a therapist and discussing the possibility of being depressed and ways you can ameliorate the depression.

    Email of the Month

    We thank James W. for sending us the following email:

    Which Tire?

    This past fall semester, at Duke University, there were two sophomores who were taking Organic Chemistry and who did pretty well on all of the quizzes, midterms, labs, etc. Going into the final exam, they had solid “A’s.”

    These two friends were so confident going into the final that the weekend before finals week they decided to go up to University of Virginia to a party with some friends.

    So they did this and had a great time. However, they ended up staying longer than they planned, and they didn’t make it back to Duke until early Monday morning. Rather than taking the final then, they found Professor Aldric after the final and explained to him why they missed it. They told him that they went up to Virginia for the weekend, and had planned to come back in time to study, but that they had a flat tire on the way back and didn’t have a spare and couldn’t get help for a long time. So they were late getting back to campus.

    Aldric thought this over and agreed that they could make up the final on the following day. The two guys were elated and relieved. So, they studied that night and went in the next day at the time that Aldric had told them.

    He placed them in separate rooms, handed each of them a test booklet and told them to begin. They looked at the first problem, which was something simple about free radical formation and was worth 5 points.

    “Cool” they thought, “this is going to be easy.” They did that problem and then turned the page.

    They were unprepared, however, for what they saw on the next page.

    It said: For 95 points “Which tire?”

    Till August…

    The information provided in this electronic newsletter is not a substitute for professional treatment. It is the opinions of the writers and is provided solely for educational purposes. For mental health care, seek a qualified professional.

    If you no longer wish to receive future E-Letter reminders, please send an email to requesting to be removed from this list.

    If you find this information interesting or helpful, please forward this E-Letter to your contacts and friends. Copyright © 2015 by Joel I. Kimmel, Ph.D. P.A. and Associates.