What Are Attachment Disorders?

attachment disorders

Children may experience in inability to develop healthy emotional attachments if they are abused, neglected, or in any other way have not had their needs met by their primary caregiver. This inability to form healthy attachment is called insecure attachment – attachment is measured on a spectrum, from healthy to disorganized and insecure. Children exhibiting significant signs of insecure attachment are sometimes diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder. Attachment disorders are exceedingly common amongst children who have been separated from their biological parents, who have undergone abuse or neglect, who have lost one or both parents, who have been placed in foster care, who have been adopted, or who have undergone major medical procedures at an early age. Attachment disorders that begin developing in childhood will carry on into adult life, affecting numerous components of healthy and effective functioning.

Attachment Disorders – Signs and Symptoms

Some of the telltale signs and symptoms that may point towards an attachment disorder are:

  • A history of abandonment, abuse, neglect, or unstable and inconsistent placement
  • Seeks attention and comfort from strangers – may also seek affection from strangers (pseudo-attachment)
  • Inappropriate clinginess or a complete lack of physical closeness or affection (usually one extreme or the other)
  • Anti-social behaviors – may include stealing, lying, overt aggression, starting fires, cruelty (to people or animals), destructiveness, or manipulation
  • An inability to maintain eye contact
  • An apparent lack of empathy or authenticity
  • A lack of flexibility or spontaneity (rigidness in routine)
  • Difficulties with self-monitoring and self-regulating
  • Difficulties with learning and attendance (showing up on time, consistently)
  • Abnormal patterns of eating and elimination (hoarding food, wetting the bed)

Insecure Attachment is Always Serious

Although not all children who are exhibiting severe symptoms of disordered attachment will be diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder (or Disinhibited Social Engagement Disorder, the newest related diagnosis), all forms of insecure attachment are serious, and cause grave issues later on in life if left untreated. Not only with the emotional health of an individual be harshly stunted, but his or her ability to develop and maintain meaningful relationships will be severely compromised. The vast majority of professionals agree that attachment disorders occur as a direct result of early childhood trauma. Because disorders concerning healthy attachment are often trauma-related, it is usually necessary for afflicted individuals to undergo intensive, trauma-related therapy. Many young adults and adults who suffer from attachment disorders will simultaneously suffer from a co-occurring disorder, such as drug addiction, alcoholism, or a behavioral addiction such as compulsive gambling or sex addiction.

When treating attachment and any co-occurring disorders, it is important to thoroughly understand how trauma affects the still-developing brain. We at Next Chapter Treatment focus on addiction through the lens of trauma and attachment, providing our patients with a multi-faceted, comprehensive approach to treating unresolved, underlying trauma and all related disorders. For more information on attachment disorders, trauma, or our program of addiction and trauma recovery for men, please feel free to contact us today at info@nextchapteraddiction.com.