Content Reviewed by Jennifer Wheeler, Clinical & Community Outreach for New Life

Human connection and social support are among the most critical contributors to our mental and physical wellness. The relationships we have with others help frame our relationship with ourselves and vice versa. There is no question that we experience hundreds if not thousands of different types of relationships throughout our lifetime. Have you ever wondered what factors play a role in these relationships that we have with one another?

Attachment Theory Stems from Childhood

To better understand how relationships work in our lives, we must look back at our earliest attachment experiences. Attachment is recognized as emotional closeness that allows each relationship member to feel secure and stable. Childhood attachment sets the tone for all of the relationships that we will have throughout our lifetime.

What do you notice when you look back on your earliest attachment experiences? First, consider your relationship with your parents when you were young. Childhood attachment patterns are deeply influenced by parent-child bonds and the relationship one’s parents had with one another. These attachments affect a child’s development in nearly all ways, including:

  • Physical development
  • Psychological development
  • Behavioral development
  • Social development

Types of Infant-Parent Attachment

There are four types of infant-parent attachment. Generally, there is one secure attachment style and three insecure attachment styles. These attachment types bring attention to how you were cared for as a child by recognizing the qualityof your attachment with your parent(s).

#1. Secure Attachment

Secure attachment is considered the healthiest attachment style. It develops when your caregiver or parent is responsive and attuned to your needs as a child sensitively and lovingly. If you had a secure attachment style with your parent as a child, you would be able to form safe and loving relationships with others as an adult. You can trust others and be trusted, love and accept love and depend on others without becoming dependent.

#2. Anxious Attachment

Anxious attachment develops from inconsistent and unpredictable parenting. As a child, you may have developed this attachment style if your parent was sometimes overly loving and, other times, excessively withdrawn. In other words, your parent had unpredictable fluctuations between being emotionally available and emotionally distant. As an adult with this attachment style, you likely have a deep fear of abandonment and may be insecure about your relationships with others. Anxious attachment may surface as needy or clingy; however, you may just need extra validation compared to someone with a secure attachment style.

#3. Avoidant Attachment

Avoidant attachment develops from unresponsive, dismissive and distant parenting. As a child, you may have lacked an emotional connection with your parent and, as a result, had unmet childhood needs. Adults with avoidant attachment styles often experience a fear of intimacy and fear emotional closeness with others. As an adult, you may seem emotionally unavailable or prefer to be independent.

#4. Fearful-Avoidant Attachment

Fearful-avoidant attachment is a combination of avoidant and anxious attachment styles. It develops from having a parent or caregiver that is frightening or traumatizing, which causes a child to have a deep sense of fear of emotional closeness with others. As an adult, you may not understand the boundaries necessary to have healthy relationships with others. In the same way, you may crave affection and emotional closeness but simultaneously fear close relationships with others.

Attachment Styles and Addiction

There is no question that there are childhood risk factors that contribute to the development of substance use and addiction, including our relationship with our caregivers. While having one of the three insecure attachment styles can put you at higher risk of developing an addiction, that does not mean that individuals with a secure attachment style are exempt.

Treatment Options

Individuals who experience insufficient attachment styles often develop negative views of themselves and the world around them. As a result, they are more likely to seek out unhealthy strategies for navigating interpersonal conflict that they may experience as an adult and associated distress. It is important to recognize that these situations are not uncommon. Suppose you find yourself fitting in this category. In that case, it is essential to understand that treatment is available to help you address your substance use and the underlying attachment issues that may have contributed to it.

Attachment insecurity can be overcome through various methods of psychotherapy. Trauma-informed care and trauma-focused interventions can help both children and adults heal from traumatic childhood experiences. These interventions will help you to explore the relationships you have had in the past and acknowledge how those relationships influence your current relationships. Treatment will also help you discover and challenge unhealthy patterns of thought, emotion and behavior, leading you to become more secure in yourself and your relationships with others.

New Life Addiction Counseling & Mental Health Services is a treatment center that understands the many different ways trauma can manifest during adulthood. We can help you work through your insecure attachment, as well as any co-occurring substance use, and help you to feel safe and secure in your own body. We offer a host of individualized treatment programs for all of our patients. To learn more, give us a call at (877) 929-2571.