Mervin Smucker. Conceptualization of Abandonment Panic

Clinical observations suggest that a state of „abandonment panic“ may be triggered in borderline and narcissistic individuals when a here-and-now threat of abandonment is associated with earlier experiences of abandonment depression. The fear of abandonment depression is sufficient to trigger a panic response, as the individual feels the threat of being overwhelmed by the traumatic affect associated with memories and experiences of early abandonment. Thus, when borderline or narcissistic individuals experience the threat or signal of abandonment depression, they are often propelled to activate their seemingly dysfunctional, acting-out behaviours, in order to ward off the overwhelming feelings of abandonment depression (e.g., by outbursts of rage, suicide gestures or other self-injurious actions) which may then lead them to re-connect with care-givers, therapist, or significant others (e.g., via hospitalization, emergency therapy session) and a temporary remittance of the abandonment panic.

Dr. Mervin Smucker is an international trauma consultant and author of numerous articles and books on trauma and cognitive-behavioural therapy interventions.