Many of our emotional and psychological problems and conditions develop in response to issues we experienced in our very first relationships. As adults, we can find ourselves creating relationships that mirror and reflect the relationships we experienced when we were very young.
Attachment theory is a way of understanding our intimate relationships. It is a theory that developed out of John Bowlby’s work that attempted to describe the way in which we, when we were newborns and small children, looked for care and protection in the face of threats.
In Bowlby’s view we are, above all else, care-seeking, and in the face of threat, the child looks for a secure base, an older and more reliable care-giver for support.
do you suffer from attachment disorder?
do you have attachment issues?
The families we grow up in shape us. The quality of emotional care that we experienced as children has a formative influence on how we in turn grow up and develop relationships and attachments with others.
- If you were lucky enough to grow up in a loving and consistent family you may have developed a sense of emotional well-being. If you grew up feeling safe and loved it tends to create a virtuous circle. So you grow up and develop secure attachments.
- The opposite is also true. If as a child your emotional and physical needs were unmet. If your carers were inconsistent in how they related to you, then you may develop into someone who struggles to form quality attachments.
A person with poor attachments may be vulnerable and isolated. A person with a secure attachment style will likely have greater self confidence and greater confidence in relationships.
For a lot of people, leaving home, meeting people, developing relationships that endure and that are predictable comes naturally. For others, it’s much harder.
Perhaps you have reached the point where you can see that your relationships keep going wrong in the same way. Is it time to take a closer look at this, at your mental health, and to give yourself the chance to have a fresh start?
As adults, we can find ourselves having to play ‘catch up’ with our psychologies. We may grow up having an idea that certain social relationships don’t work so well for us, but maybe not really grasp the way in which the attachments we form breakdown and fail in similar ways. We may not understand our attachment patterns.
I found it very difficult to have relationships with other people. Where I could see others were able to be relaxed and enjoy relationships, I was quick to become nervous, unsettled, and suspicious. I found it hard to trust partners. Things would always go the same way. I’d get involved and then become anxious. Sometimes I would become clingy, sometimes I would reject the love and care that I was shown. Then one day I read an article about attachment and it opened my eyes. That was when I started learning more about attachment disorders.
You may have attachment issues that you haven’t properly acknowledged
Attachment disorder tends to stem from our childhood experiences, particularly our childhood relationships.
Some people will develop attachment problems because of traumatic events that happen in later life. For example, a bad relationship breakdown, or a traumatic experience like being in an accident or being attacked can cause us to lose all confidence in the attachments we make. But mostly attachment issues stem from problems in our early experience.
- Typically, attachment disorder in adults is a consequence of a failure of consistent care in our very early years.
- People who develop signs of attachment disorders tend to have grown up with mothers and fathers who were emotionally inconsistent and disorganised.
So a child might have been left on their own for too long, or might find its mother or father sometimes unpredictable or frightening, possibly abusive and traumatising.
The causes of attachment disorder in adults may stem back to:
- neglect, and, or inconsistent care by parents,
- separation from parents due to death or divorce, or
- adoption, being an adopted child
- physical or sexual abuse during childhood
- traumatic experiences
Difficult experiences like these create patterns of detachment in children. Such children may go onto fail to develop lasting and satisfying relationships. They may have problems trusting people, for them, intimate relationships may be difficult.
If these situations are ignored, then these children can develop complicated problems around trust and attachment. Left unchecked attachment disorders can lead to self-destructive behaviour.
Attachment disorder is a term that developed out of John Bowlby‘s work on attachment theory. Attachment theory has proved popular and its ideas and influence have slipped into ordinary language.
How do you develop new ways of managing these insecurities and anxieties so that you can take responsibility for them now?
We tend to form attachments and relationships in the image of the relationships we grew up in. Our early relationships have a strong influence upon us. If we are not careful we may naturally end up repeating those old childhood dynamics, attachment problems and all.
If we experienced attachment problems in our early years we are at risk of repeating it with others later on. It may even influence the kind of partners we choose, so that unwittingly we pick partners who are more likely to let us down.
Treating attachment disorder in adults
People who struggle with attachment disorder may have:
- problems committing to relationships
- struggle to follow through on work and projects
If you suffer from attachment disorder, psychotherapy may be helpful. The essence of a psychotherapy relationship is of work that is consistent, predictable, and organised. This means that you get in your psychotherapy what you didn’t get in your early relationships, namely, consistent care and attention.
In psychotherapy, there is a possibility of
- developing new approaches to thinking about yourself
- coming to understand more about how you tend to respond to other people
- learning more about the way in which you tend to experience problems in relationships and with attachments
Having a confidential and secure place to work on these ideas and experience in psychotherapy, may give you the chance to step back and break out of the repeating cycle of your attachment disorder.
This may give you the chance to take some control over your more disorganised way of relating to people and to start to nurture a more consistent and predictable pattern of relating to yourself and to others.
It takes work and commitment to grasp the way these disorganised attachment styles can be interfering and spoiling your adult relationships, but it can work. These problems developed at a very early age and take time to follow how they are ingrained into your psychology and personality.
People who suffer attachment disorder in adulthood may find themselves:
- particularly quick to feel insecure, possessive, jealous, anxious or paranoid
- being impulsive and regretting their impulsiveness later
- want to have control
- may have problems with empathy
- find it hard to trust others
- quick to feel anger
- may be prone to addictive behaviours; drinking, gambling, sex, drugs
The unpredictable nature of your early environment may have left you as an adult with attachment problems, prone to sense threats and changes in your environment. This is because that is what your early experiences were like.
I have twenty years experience of helping people find ways to engage with attachment disorders. Contact me to arrange a free telephone consultation to discuss how my work might help you.
It is possible to learn more about who we are, and to avoid repeating the same mistakes. With this information, we may become better able to look after ourselves and other people. It can be done.