How attached are you?

Have you heard of attachment theory before?

I believe it is becoming more popular in the public domain!

Uncovering your attachment style is an excellent way to help you understand why you behave the way you do. It may help you to understand others too. 

This blog is part one of the attachment series where we look at the different attachment types and understand how they impact our lives.

In this blog, we will learn about the history of attachment, the different attachment styles and the symptoms of each type.

The history of attachment:

Psychoanalyst John Bowlby developed attachment theory around 1970. Bowlby wanted to understand why infants became distressed when separated from their parents. 

He defined attachment as the ‘lasting psychological connectedness between human beings.’ 

Attachments can be considered protective from an evolutionary perspective in which the caregiver provides safety and security for the infant. For example, when children are scared, they go to their caregiver for comfort and care. Being close to the caregiver improves the child’s chance of survival.

It makes sense as the closer you are (proximity-wise) to an attachment figure, the more likely you are to survive into adulthood – You need someone to take care of you when you are an infant and can’t meet your basic needs such as feeding yourself and keeping out of danger.

Attachment theory doesn’t only apply to infants and children; it can be seen in adulthood too, including relationships between friends, romantic partners and even in the workplace.

As an adult, your attachment style can influence:

  • The way you communicate your emotions and needs with romantic partners, friends, family, work colleagues and even your children.
  • How you respond to conflict 
  • What you expect from your relationships

Types and characteristics of attachment styles: 

Avoidant – Attachments related to chronic rejection

Avoidant attachments form when our primary caregiver does not fulfil the need for connection and physical closeness in childhood. As a result, the individual stops expressing emotion and seeking intimacy.

Symptoms in childhood 

  • Less likely to explore the environment 
  • Avoid seeking help 
  • Do not react when their caregiver leaves 
  • Shows indifference when their caregiver returns 

Symptoms in adulthood 

  • Feelings of disgust, judgement and scepticism by outward expressions of emotion 
  • Believing everyone around you seems needy 
  • Avoiding commitment and obligation 
  • Seeking solitude and distance when stressed and feeling uncertain.
  • Uncomfortable with asking for help. 

Anxious – Attachments related to inconsistent caregiving

An anxiously attached person is noticeably anxious when separated from significant people in their lives. They may need constant reassurance and affection from their significant other and have trouble being single or alone.

Symptoms in childhood  

  • Appearing generally anxious 
  • Clinginess to caregivers 
  • Trouble regulating and controlling negative emotions
  • Aggressive behaviour and negative peer interactions 

Symptoms in adulthood

  • Low self-worth 
  • Craving closeness and intimacy
  • Being highly emotional, impulsive, unpredictable and moody
  • Overly sensitive to moods and actions of others 

Disorganised/ traumatic – Attachments related to frightening responses from a caregiver in childhood and a minimal sense of safety for managing stress.

Disorganised/traumatic attachments form when the caregiver in infancy creates a fearful environment by not responding appropriately to the child’s distress. For example, shouting at a child for being distressed instead of providing comfort and support. The child may love and care for their caregiver, but they also fear them. 

Symptoms in childhood

  • Constantly ‘on edge’
  • Craving attention 
  • Responding to caregivers’ presence with tears, avoidance or another fearful response.
  • Sad and listless appearance

Symptoms in adulthood 

  • Chaotic or abusive relationships
  • Difficulty regulating emotions 
  • Difficulty forming trusting relationships 
  • Problems at work

Disorganised attachment is the most challenging attachment to live with as you crave intimacy. Still, you are also too scared to get close. If you have one of the above anxious attachment styles, you are more likely to be diagnosed with mental health disorders. Such as, generalised anxiety disorder, depression and panic attacks.

Secure – Attachments related to sensitive and emotionally available caregivers

Those with a secure attachment can depend on their caregivers. Secure individuals show distress when they are separated and joy when they are reunited. Securely attached individuals may feel upset when they separate from their caregivers. However, they feel assured that they will return. When feeling frightened, the securely attached person is comfortable seeking reassurance from others.

Symptoms in childhood 

  • Reacts well to stress
  • Trusts others 
  • Eager to learn 
  • Good problem solver

Symptoms in adulthood 

  • High self-esteem 
  • Enjoys intimate relationships 
  • Seeks out social supports 
  • Able to share feelings with other people 

There is evidence that a secure attachment can protect against psychopathology and improve life outcomes. Therefore, if you have a secure attachment, you are less likely to experience mental health disorders and more likely to excel in life.

The positive effects of a secure attachment:

  • Higher wages 
  • A healthy lifestyle
  • Successful parenting 
  • Educational achievement 

Which attachment style do you think describes you best?

Write your answers in the comment section below

In our next blog, we will look at some in-depth questions to help us decide whether we have an avoidant, anxious, disorganised or secure attachment.

Until the next time 

Best wishes 

Laura 

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