Attachment disorders are frequently linked to experiences in infancy and childhood; however, the impact of these early life experiences can reach well into the future and affect a person in adulthood. Signs of secure or insecure attachment disorders are often visible before an infant even reaches their first birthday with behaviors and interactions directly affecting the types of relationships formed. There are various forms of attachment disorders that may have a profound impact on the nature of future relationships. As a result, it is not uncommon to find that as a result, rates of addiction can be higher in those who struggle with attachment disorders.

The Development of Attachment Disorders

Interactions between infants and caregivers can have a profound impact on the development of relationships. Having needs met quickly, such as feeding, cleaning, and providing comfort can lead to the development of secure attachments. This means that as children grow older, relationships are more likely to be viewed in a positive way. Relationships tend to be close and trusted, and they feel as though people will be there for them when needed. Conversely, in situations where needs are not met, an insecure attachment style may develop in which the person experiences difficulty forming meaningful, intimate, close relationships. Trust can be difficult to build and it can have a profound impact on the way they interact with the world around them.

There are sub-types of insecure attachment disorders that are observable in adults. These include:

  1. Anxious-preoccupied attachment: This form of attachment is typically characterized by the following:
    • Spending a significant amount of time thinking about relationships
    • Increasingly needing to feel wanted
    • Needing frequent reassurance from loved ones regarding how they feel about you
    • Experiencing jealousy or idolizing partners

    These feelings can cause a person to frequently doubt how loved ones feel about them. A person might believe that their romantic partner wants to leave them and is upset with them. This can cause behaviors or actions to be interpreted as “signs” that their worries are coming true.

  2. Dismissive-avoidant attachment: This attachment disorder can display the following:
    • Preferring to be alone
    • Experiencing difficulty depending on those closest to you
    • Fear that close relationships will take away from your independence
    • Feeling that close relationships are not worth the trouble or effort

    These behaviors develop as a defense mechanism which can make it difficult to form meaningful relationships. People may have trouble feeling close to the person and when someone puts in extra effort to connect, it can cause them to close themselves off completely. While it may come across as if the person does not care about others, in reality, it comes from a desire to maintain independence and protect oneself.

  3. Fearful-avoidant attachment: This form of attachment disorder may cause the following:
    • Feeling conflicted about relationships or intimacy
    • Wanting to develop romantic relationships, but feeling fearful that the person will leave or hurt you
    • Actively separating oneself from feelings or emotions to try to not feel them
    • Feeling as though you are not good enough for the type of relationship you want

    A person may be able to suppress their emotions for some time, but it generally does not last forever. This causes them to feel overwhelming periods of highs and lows in relationships.

Attachment Disorders and Addiction

Relationships can play a significant role in the development of issues later in life. Some attachment disorders are rooted in early experiences of childhood abuse, neglect, or traumatic losses. In addition to the plethora of behavioral and emotional issues that may arise as a result, addiction commonly develops as an attempt to self-medicate or cope.

Many studies suggest that attachment disorders can lead to the development of personality disorders later in life. Attachment disorders do not simply go away on their own and when left untreated, can become problematic later in life. Because there is a high correlation between mental health disorders and addiction, attachment disorders can often be found as an underlying influence in the development of addiction.

Attachment disorders should be addressed in conjunction with any other underlying needs of those with an addiction. In treatment, much of recovery focuses on addressing the aspects of a person’s experiences that influence the development of addiction. In order to effectively treat attachment disorders, significant time should be dedicated to exploring childhood experiences, identifying reoccurring patterns and behaviors present in relationships, and developing new methods of creating and nurturing healthy relationships with others.

Although you may not have control over the aspects of your life that led to the development of an attachment disorder, you do have the ability to address it in the future. Therapy is a vital part of the recovery process. Not only does it help you come to terms with the past, but it also helps you cultivate healthy coping mechanisms to support the development of positive relationships with others and promotes the benefits of sober living in the future.

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, we are here to help. Give us a call at 888.855.6877 or send us a message below and one of our admissions counselors will do their best to get you the help you need.

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