Attachment theory appeared in the 1960s; it was the result of research into the attachment a child forms with their caregivers. Researchers developed this theory for several decades, but it was only applied to children during that period. In the 1980s, research into adult attachment issues and disorders finally resulted in treatments for adults. The best medicine for adults with attachment issues is psychotherapy, otherwise known as talk therapy.
Everyone forms attachments to others, both children and adults. Attachment issues arise when individuals are apart for any period of time. Most people don't like to be separated from those they love, but for those with attachment issues, being separated triggers various problems for them.
The following is a list of signs that indicate the presence of adult attachment issues/adult attachment disorder. A person may:
Adult attachment issues usually originate from a maladaptive childhood. This means the behaviors one learned as a child are not adaptive, so it becomes difficult to interact with one's current environment in a positive, successful way.
During childhood, everyone forms connections in the brain, so they can interact socially, emotionally, and mentally. When a child is raised in an abusive or neglectful environment, the links they make are maladaptive. Children living in an unhealthy home environment make connections that help them "survive," and they learn to rely on these maladaptive survival skills long past the time when they're needed. When these children become adults, the social, emotional, and mental skills they have developed can cause difficulties.
Adults who suffer from attachment issues display behavior and thought patterns that can be destructive to relationships. These adults may not even realize their actions are the reason they cannot maintain healthy relationships. Attachment issues in adults can be complicated to treat because these maladaptive behaviors have been in place since they were children, so they may be challenging to repattern.
Source: Charles Whitfield, M.D., Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [Public Domain]
Psychotherapy is also known as talk therapy, and research and personal stories both show that therapy can be a powerful tool in healing from attachment issues. The therapist and patient talk through problems to identify and heal troubling issues. The best therapeutic technique for adult attachment issues depends on the individual and the professional opinion of the therapist. Therapy tends to be successful in dealing with attachment issues because healing is achieved through the patient/therapist relationship. As therapy progresses, the patient learns that relationships can be stable through the developing relationship with their therapist. The patient begins to trust the therapist, and as the trust builds, the relationship becomes beneficial.
Once trust is established, the therapist addresses symptoms by talking to the patient through the events/situations that triggered the symptoms. They work together to uncover and understand the basis of maladaptive behaviors. As mentioned above, therapy is a proven treatment method for attachment issues. Confronting and identifying behaviors driven by attachment issues is a significant step to healing, and there are many ways to achieve this through therapy. Read on to learn about the various techniques that patients find helpful.
Couples Therapy - Couples therapy is a technique that incorporates a significant other into treatment. When someone is experiencing any mental, emotional, or social issue, it also affects their partner. Including your partner in therapy helps to heal problems that are present in the relationship as well.
During couple's therapy, the therapist will work with both individuals to recognize problems. Once the issues are identified, the therapist can begin providing targeted therapy, including any of the following techniques.
Experiential Therapy - Experiential therapy is all about action. This type of treatment uses role-play, art, and other activities to deepen the patients understanding of the underlying issues that are provoking specific attachment-related behaviors.
Gestalt Therapy - Gestalt therapy is an experiential type of psychotherapy that is all about personal responsibility. This is an exciting approach for dealing with adult attachment issues because many of the problems stem from a denial of personal liability. This type of therapy aims to help the patient recognize their responsibility in everyday interactions by focusing on why their behaviors trigger specific events.
Cognitive Therapy - Cognitive therapy works on a model that says feelings, behaviors, and thoughts are all related. With that in mind, a person can learn to identify issues and work toward overcoming these obstacles. The therapist helps the individual to see faulty logic and unwanted behaviors, so they can work toward modifying belief. The theory has shown that changing these thoughts patterns leads to more desirable behaviors.
As the patient gains greater awareness, the therapist helps them acquire the skills to overcome the issues. A therapist teaches the individual to test their beliefs and learn new ways of understanding situations that have triggered maladaptive behaviors in the past. A person's internal reality can be very different from actual reality. Learning to tell the difference can help many with adult attachment issues.
Behavioral Therapy - Behavioral and cognitive therapy are used together by many therapists, but they can be used independently as well. Behavioral therapy focuses on identifying maladaptive behaviors and using specific techniques to control unwanted behavior.
This type of therapy is useful for many who deal with adult attachment disorders. Once the patient can correctly identify the actions that lead to maladaptive behaviors, they can use specific techniques to overcome them. Behavioral therapy notes that practices may be independent of any obvious trigger, but there is always an underlying trigger that can be addressed, controlled, or eliminated.
Holistic Therapy - Holistic therapy is not about herbal medication or meditation. Instead, a holistic therapist will use multiple psychotherapy techniques at once. This method allows the therapist to test out all of the different methods available to create a custom therapeutic approach.
A holistic therapist will combine techniques such as cognitive and behavioral therapy to help a patient move forward. For instance, one or more psychotherapy techniques may be used to identify the issues, and completely different methods may be used to create a plan for healing. A holistic therapist cares only about the result, so they're comfortable pulling from many different modalities.
Working with a holistic therapist is not for everyone; some people are more comfortable with one specific technique. However, a holistic approach may provide more opportunities for healing: the more resources available, the better the outcome. If one method doesn't work, there are others available. This is an excellent technique for dealing with adult attachment issues because it is so flexible.
Humanistic Therapy - The humanistic approach to therapy centers on the therapist-patient relationship. All psychotherapy depends on the bond between therapist and patient, but this approach puts both the therapist and patient on equal ground. The therapist helps the individual to work through their issues by discovering answers together.
Humanistic therapy drives the patient to acquire more profound wisdom and a new understanding of themselves. This is very beneficial for those who suffer from adult attachment issues. Adult attachment disorder begins to develop in childhood, but the results appear in adulthood. The humanistic approach involves reaching back to those past events and discovering new ways to change maladaptive behaviors.
The answer to this is personal; the only way to find the best type of therapy for you is to find a good therapist. Your comfort level with your therapist is just as important as their skill set. The right therapist will make you feel at ease, and a relationship will develop naturally. As the therapist gets to know you and your problems, they will be better equipped to choose the technique that will work best for you.
Psychotherapy/talk therapy has many different ways to help individuals get on the road to a happier, healthier life. The relationship between therapist and client should be an open and honest one. If you are not satisfied with therapy, it is essential to tell your therapist. Sometimes it takes some trial and error to find the perfect fit, but the right treatment with the right therapist can change your life.
No matter how long you have been struggling or how impossible recovery may seem, you can overcome adult attachment issues. A licensed counselor with BetterHelp is ready and willing to help you take those first steps today. Using one of the methods above, you can lead a life free of attachment issues. The best thing about BetterHelp is its online platform. You have someone ready to help you at your fingertips, so you don't even have to leave your home to put these problems in your past. Read below for reviews of BetterHelp counselors, from people experiencing similar issues.
"Margaret is simply fantastic. She's really easy to talk to and she offers insights and advice and support that really help me feel I'm in more control of the issues I'm facing and working on. She constantly positively reinforces my progress and helps me set and manage personal development goals. In any given session we cover issues of trauma and abuse, as well as practical applications of practicing assertiveness and setting boundaries for healthy relationships. I would highly recommend working with Margaret. Thank you so much for everything, Margaret."
"It's like having a completely unbiased friend who never tires of hearing me out and never tires of helping me sift through the stories I tell myself. Julie has helped me see a lot of things in my life and in my relationships that I would never have seen without her insights."
Adult attachment issues can seem like a huge thing to conquer alone. The problems you're experiencing probably started in childhood, but even after all of this time, they can be overcome. With the right tools, you can build a truly fulfilling life with enriching relationships. Take the first step today.
What are the signs of attachment disorder?
Your child may have a reactive attachment disorder. Here are some of the symptoms they may display if they have reactive attachment disorder.
What are the four attachment styles?
The four styles of attachment are secure, avoidant, anxious, or disorganized.
This is a form of healthy attachment. People who are securely attached like a relationship that is close and emotional. They aren't too clingy to their partner and realize that people need to have some space. A secure person is trusting, shows empathy, and isn't afraid to speak their emotions. If they have been slighted in the past, a secure person will usually forgive the person. Someone who is securely attached makes for a great parent whose children become secure as well. This attachment style is one that is desirable for most.
This insecure attachment style is founded in people who are distant. A relationship that's intimate can be difficult for them, and they tend to be independent. In fact, independence is a must for most avoidant attachment style people. Someone who is avoidant is great when there's a crisis, as they can lead the way without any emotions taking over. They tend to be the calm, cool and collected type. However, they do tend to be avoidant as a parent, and this can lead to children with attachment issues.
This insecure attachment style involves worry. Someone who is anxious may worry about the end of a relationship. They may fear like they will die alone, and because of this, they're always needy and clingy, much to their detriment. They may think about any past issues they had, and this can bleed into their current relationships. Because of this, they can be hostile, argumentative, and don't know the meaning of boundaries. They may blame others and rarely themselves.
Disorganized attachment can focus on the past. There are many parts of their past they are traumatized by and want a resolution to. Being close to someone is a challenge, as they can't keep their emotions together. Someone who is disorganized may be abusive and lack any empathy. They tend to be antisocial.
How do you get rid of attachment issues?
If you have an attachment pattern or attachment problems, you may wonder how you can get rid of it. Since attachment issues are developed in childhood, many people with attachment problems may have a hard time getting rid of it. Here are some ways to help with any problematic attachment patterns that you may have.
Awareness is Half the Battle
If you're aware of your attachment issues, then you're making progress. Many people who have attachment issues, or other mental disorders, tend to be those who don't understand what they have. They may think that nothing is wrong with them and instead think that everyone else is the problem.
Seek People With Healthy Attachment Patterns
If you're someone who has reactive attachment disorder (RAD) or any form of attachment pattern that is unhealthy, seeking people who enable your patterns isn't a smart move. Instead, you should look for people who are healthy.
While every person is going to have their problems, there are people with overall healthy attachment patterns who can help you. Someone who has a secure attachment may rub off on you, helping you with your problematic attachment patterns, such as your clinginess.
Practice Mindfulness and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Another way to help with your attachment patterns is to be mindful of it. Patterns often form due to self-defeating thoughts and behaviors, and by being in the present and not worrying about the future, it can reduce the anxiety caused by some attachment patterns.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is a technique that finds the link between our thoughts and our behaviors. By taking note of them and working to change how we behave and think, it can help with reactive attachment disorder (RAD) and other problems.
Mindfulness can be accomplished by anyone. Through meditation and breathing techniques, along with staying aware of the present and your surroundings, you can learn how to be mindful
Seek The Help You Need
If you have reactive attachment disorder (RAD) or another issue, it's important to seek the help of a professional. If you have an undesirable attachment pattern or any problem, it's important that you talk to a therapist and see what they can do for you.
What does insecure attachment look like?
If you want to know what an insecure attachment style looks like, just think of AAD, or avoidant, ambivalent, or disorganize attachment. These make up most types of insecure attachment.
These are people who dismiss anyone. They are very standoffish and will have a hard time being intimate.
These are people who may be referred to as clingy. They always need reassurance, and when their partner is gone, they may feel anxious. Everyone needs validation and has their own needs, but ambivalent people tend to be too much for most people.
Someone who is disorganized cannot cope with life's problems. Often, this is when someone is both avoidant and ambivalent. It's hard for them to know what they want and how they can handle life, and they may need to seek help to do so.
What causes attachment issues?
There are many reasons why someone may have attachment disorders or attachment problems. For example, someone with reactive attachment disorder may have grown up in a family that's poor and didn't have time to take care of the child. Someone may also develop reactive attachment disorder or any other form of attachment disorder if they had inconsistent guardians or were shuffled around in orphanages. Basic trauma can lead to a problem with attachment as well, and so can feel betrayed. When one has attachment problems, it can have an effect on their adult relationships and be a problem.
How common is attachment disorder?
Attachment disorders are quite common, especially reactive attachment disorder, which is found in young children who are abused. Any child who has experienced a bad or inconsistent attachment pattern could develop attachment disorders as a result.
One of the most serious forms of attachment disorder is reactive attachment disorder (RAD.) Let's take a look at what it is.
Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD)
Reactive attachment disorder involves a baby or young child. The child doesn't have any attachments, and children with reactive attachment disorder may have problems. Usually, a child with an attachment issue like reactive attachment disorder comes a lack of needs being fulfilled.
Reactive attachment disorder is still a developing condition, with not much known about its symptoms. It's also not known if there are children with reactive attachment disorder beyond the age of 5. It's unknown if children with reactive attachment disorder can develop into adulthood. So what are its symptoms?
Symptoms of Reactive Attachment Disorder
Children with reactive attachment disorder can have quite a few symptoms, but the most notable one is the lack of any childhood attachment. When one thinks of childhood attachment, they may think of a smiling baby who enjoys being picked up. Meanwhile, children with insecure attachments such as reactive attachment disorder may not smile or like being picked up. They may look sad, withdrawn, and not want to play any games. They may not be sociable, either.
Some of these symptoms that children with reactive attachment disorder can have overlap with other disorders, such as autism. Always go to a doctor and see.
What Can Cause It?
RAD may be caused by quite a few reasons, not all of them known. Usually, it's due to a child with an attachment issue. A baby or young child who wasn't given enough care may develop it, especially one who was passed around due to foster care or another reason. This can lead to an unhealthy attachment pattern, among other problems.
Treatment for reactive attachment disorder can involve therapy. With that said, prevention is important in any child with an attachment pattern or disorder. Being mindful of the categories of attachment can help you. Always be there for your child and support them whenever you can.
What does secure attachment feel like?
Secure attachments are found in people who are comfortable being alone or together with someone. When you develop a secure attachment, you can be affectionate and interested in someone without feeling the least bit secure about it. However, if you have to be alone, you're okay with that as well.
Someone with a secure attachment knows their boundaries. When they want to be alone, they make those boundaries clear. They can respect other's boundaries as well. If someone needs space, a person with a secure attachment will respect that and not constantly worry that it's something they did.
What is attachment anxiety?
Attachment anxiety is an attachment disorder where you feel anxious over certain aspects of your relationships. For example, you may be someone who always feels insecure about the relationship. You may feel as though no one likes you and that everyone is going to leave you one day. This can be a result of attachment experiences as a child, or it can be due to a bad relationship that made you feel insecure about everything.
Sometimes, attachment disorders like attachment anxiety can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. You think your partner is going to leave you, and your behaviors end up driving your partner away from you. If you have attachment anxiety, it's important to be mindful of your thoughts and behaviors, and seek help if possible.
What is an unhealthy attachment?
If you're unsure if you have an attachment disorder, just look at how you're attached to your partner, friend, or another person you live with.
For example, you may have an unhealthy emotional attachment disorder. Your partner can make you feel happy, and you depend on them to some degree. However, if you're away from the partner, a person with an attachment disorder may feel like they're unable to function.
Another sign of an unhealthy attachment disorder is when you're too occupied with your partner's emotions and problems. Again, if you're in a relationship, have a strong friendship, and live with someone, their problems may be a concern. However, someone with an unhealthy attachment disorder may stress over someone else's problems 24/7.
On the other hand, having little attachment to your partner may be a sign of an attachment disorder, too.
How do I know if my baby is securely attached?
When you're raising a baby, having a strong attachment with them is important. You may worry if your baby is attached to you or not. Luckily, there are ways to know if your baby is attached. Here are a few ways you can know.
How do you fix insecure attachment style?
If you were a child with an attachment issue, you might grow up to feel insecure. Getting past an attachment disorder, particularly insecure attachments, can be a challenge. Here are some ways you can move past it.
What happens when a child is deprived of attachment?
A child with an attachment deprivation may experience various problems and attachment disorders in their life. For example, a child who has no attachment may grow up to be excessively clingy to someone else. A child may also be a lot more aggressive with people. Some children with attachment disorders may come across as socially inept and unable to solve any problems.
What is attachment trauma?
When you think of trauma, you may think of something awful that's happened, such as abuse. However, attachment trauma can be caused by factors that are a lot less dramatic than you think.
Children with attachment trauma can be a result of abuse, but many are a product of much more subtle ways of trauma. For example, children with attachment trauma may be a product of inconsistent responses to needs. If the needs were fulfilled one time, and neglected to another, you may see symptoms of attachment issues.
Messing up on a child's needs once is probably not going to cause attachment problems, but if you largely neglect or are inconsistent, then the attachment disorders and trauma can show themselves.
How do I make my child securely attached?
First, secure attachment starts with you. You need to make sure that you're healthy. Get plenty of rest, work out, eat healthily, and practice meditation. By displaying a healthy appearance, you're on your way to being healthily attached to your kid.
Besides appearance, you just need to be a good parent. Here are some ways you can be a better parent.
What are the signs of attachment disorder?
Children that have not had their basic needs met or suffer from abuse and neglect may experience reactive attachment disorder. Signs and symptoms of this type of disorder include withdrawing from everyone, fear, being irritable, not smiling, refusal to seek comfort, and they will not want to be social with others. These children may not feel comfortable with parents or caregivers. Children with rad do not have a secure attachment bond with their parents. You can always check out medically reviewed articles for more on attachment disorders and attachment theory.
What are the 4 attachment styles?
The 4 attachment styles coved by attachment theory that a child or adult may experience are secure, anxious avoidant, anxious resistant, and disorganized. Secure attachment style occurs as a child gets upset when their mother leaves and wants to be picked up when she returns. Anxious avoidant will cause a child to be upset and stay away from other adults, even if they need help. Anxious resistant style will cause a kid to be upset when a parent leaves but ignore them when they come back. The final style, disorganized can cause a child to be upset when their caregiver leaves and will still be upset when they see them again.
What are the signs of attachment disorder in adults?
Children with attachment disorders may have a hard time with intimate relationships as an adult. Some of the signs and symptoms of attachment in adults are issues with control, not being able to receive love, poor impulse control, withdrawing from others, and they may also be unable to have meaningful romantic relationships. If you have symptoms of rad as an adult, you can still seek treatment for it. You can also find out more about treatment options through reading medically reviewed articles.
What causes attachment issues in adults?
Causes for attachment disorder in adults are the same as the causes for children. If you experienced unhealthy attachment styles as a child and you didn’t get therapy to help treat it, you will likely still experience it as an adult. Causes of attachment issues in children are a baby having more than one caregiver, a child being taken from their parents, abuse, or not having their needs met. For example, some children within the foster care system have this type of attachment style from instances in their early childhood.
What does insecure attachment look like?
According to attachment theory, there are three different types of insecure attachment styles. These include anxious preoccupied, anxious avoidant attachment, and disorganized attachment styles. With an anxious preoccupied style, a child will immediately notice when a parent leaves and become angry when they return. With anxious avoidant attachment, a child will probably be unable to form relationships with others that last. They may also be unaware of their feelings and how to express them. Disorganized attachment can cause a young child to not be able to take control of their emotions. They might begin to withdraw from social interactions.
How do you fix attachment issues?
Attachment issues are generally treated through the use of therapy with a mental health professional. No matter if you are seeking treatment for your child or if you have experienced attachment issues long term, you can get treatment for this issue. It may require family therapy as well, if your parents are the cause of your attachment style concerns. You can refer to medically reviewed articles to find out the latest developments when it comes to research and treatment for attachment disorder.
What does avoidant attachment look like in adults?
Avoidant attachment in adults is referred to as a dismissive avoidant attachment in adults. This means they will be dismissive of relationships when someone gets too close to them. If a person is experiencing a dismissive avoidant attachment style, they may push someone away and treat them poorly, in order to keep from getting hurt. Adults may also experience fearful avoidant attachment, which means they don’t want to get too close to other people. However, those with fearful avoidant attachment also do not want to be alone. You can read medically reviewed articles on this subject online to find out more about adult attachment styles.
Do avoidants fall in love?
Adults with avoidant attachment styles are able to fall in love. When they are able to find someone that will love and support them, they may start to understand that they can be vulnerable around another person. With the right person and the proper therapy, an avoidant can have meaningful relationships and improve their mental health overall.
What is attachment syndrome?
Attachment syndrome or reactive attachment disorder occurs whenever a child doesn’t develop a healthy attachment bond with their primary caregiver during their early child development. Children with rad will usually have long term issues when it comes to relationships because of these childhood experiences. In many cases, a child suffers from abuse or neglect, which leads to an unhealthy attachment bond with their parents. Consider reading medically reviewed articles on this topic to learn more about attachment theory.
Do avoidant partners cheat?
When a young child does not develop the proper attachment bond with their primary caregiver, this can lead to a litany of issues with relationships long term. Depending on the type of relationships attachment they develop as they grow up, they may cheat or push people away. There is medically reviewed research that suggests that those that are avoidant when it comes to attachment styles are likely to cheat on their partners. This may be because they are apprehensive about getting close to others.
What can attachment disorder lead to?
Attachment disorder can lead to long term problems for children and adults. There are two major attachment disorders recognized by the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders that a child may develop, which are reactive attachment disorder (RAD) and disinhibited social engagement disorder. Children with RAD don’t develop healthy attachments with their primary caregiver. Children with DSED are not scared to interact with adults, even strangers that they do not know. Disinhibited social engagement disorder (DSED) will also cause a child to be comfortable talking to strangers, and they may even wander off with them. These attachment styles can lead to relationship issues, even as adults. Read medically reviewed articles to learn more about these disorders and their long-lasting effects.
How does insecure attachment affect adulthood?
When a child doesn’t develop secure attachment because of childhood experiences, this can be an issue that affects them throughout their life. For example, a person with symptoms of rad may be unable to have meaningful connections with others because they didn’t have a bond with their parents. This can affect their mental health negatively and may lead them to develop substance abuse issues, or other mental illnesses that need to be addressed. People that experience insecure attachment styles as children should seek therapy, even if they are unable to until they are an adult.
How does insecure attachment develop?
In terms of attachment theory, an insecure attachment develops as a result of a child’s needs not being met early in their life. For example, they might not have bonded with their mother or caregiver properly, which can lead to issues with relationships well into adulthood. It can also lead to other issues, as well as learning or behavior problems. Medically reviewed articles can tell you more about the warning signs to look out for in relation to insecure attachment.
What does anxious attachment look like in adults?
When it comes to anxious attachment styles, an adult that is experiencing this type of attachment will be wary of people becoming too close to them romantically. Moreover, other signs and symptoms are that they will be afraid of a partner’s infidelity and will become jealous easily. They may also cling to their partner. If you notice warning signs of this type of attachment in your partner, you should do some research on articles about reactive attachment disorder medically reviewed articles, so you can gain further knowledge.
What is attachment anxiety?
When someone is experiencing attachment anxiety, this means they have anxiety about their relationships, which may have stemmed from childhood. They might have problems knowing how to act in any type of relationship, whether they be romantic or not.