Attachment disorder is a broad term intended to describe disorders of mood, behavior, and social relationships arising from a failure to form normal attachments to primary care giving figures in early childhood. Such a failure can occur because of an unusual early experiences of neglect, abuse, or from abrupt separation from caregivers between 6 months and three years of age. Frequent changes or excessive numbers of caregivers or lack of caregiver responsiveness to child communicative efforts will disrupt or breakdown a child’s basic trust.
The attachment styles that develop in childhood stay with us for a lifetime, unless amended and changed by therapeutic intervention. These styles influence our feelings of security, the personal meaning given to our experiences, and the ability to develop and maintain intimacy with others. We all have perceptions and behaviors across the continuum of attachment styles; however, we tend to adopt one primary style based on early attachment relationships. These include healthy or secure attachment or one of the following when injuries or early trauma have occurred.
Avoidant Adults/Dismissing Style: These individuals have a dismissing state of mind with respect ot attachment. They often have vague and non-specific early childhood memories. They avoid intimacy and close affective involvements. These individuals experienced caregivers as unnurturing, dismissive and critical. Avoidant adults are uncomfortable with closeness and intimacy. They are emotionally distant, uncomfortable expressing needs or asking for help. They can be cool, controlled, ambitious and successful. They avoid conflict and tend to be passive-aggressive and sarcastic. They don’t want to rely on anyone, fearing dependency or a perception of being weak.
Ambivalent Adults/Preoccupied Style:These individuals have a preoccupied with respect to attachment. They have over-detailed stories and continue to reexperience past hurts and rejections in a manner suggesting a lack of resolution. These adutls had parents who alternated between warmth and availability and coldness and rejection for no reason. Ambivalent adults are bossy and controlling and do not like rules and authority. They are impatient, critical and argumentative. They like to “stir the pot” and often sabotage getting what they want. They also can be creative, exciting, adventuresome, and charming.
Disorganized Adults: These individuals have a disorganized state of mind with respect to attachment. They do not have an organized approach to relationships. They run very hot and cold and are quite mecurial They have histories of abuse, neglect, or severe loss. Their parents were unresponsive, inconsistent, punitive and insensitive. They learned to view others as unavailable, threatening and rejecting. Afraid of genuine closeness, they see themselves as unworthy of love and support. They can lack empathy and remorse. They are selfish, controlling, refuse personal responsibility for their actions, and disregard rules. Their experience of severe attachment trauma makes them much more vulnerable to a variety of emotional, social and moral problems.
Hope: Attachment styles learned in our early years can be changed provided appropriate therapy to teach and facilitate corrective emotional experiences whereby more “secure” attachment styles can be learned. These modifications can redefine relationship in many significant ways. Learning to create a healthier relationship provides an arena to heal old wounds and to establish a meaningful bond for the future.