Signs You Have Attachment Issues
The relationships you form with the people in your life can have a profound impact on your health and happiness. We all crave connection with others, but attachment issues sometimes get in the way. If you struggle with attachment issues, you may find it difficult to feel close to your loved ones, open up about your emotions, or establish a sense of trust or security in your relationships.
Attachment issues usually develop in early childhood, but their effects can last a lifetime if you don’t take active steps to overcome them. Fortunately, it is possible to address your attachment issues and learn to relate to those around you in a healthier way. The first step is to recognize the problem. You should understand what attachment issues are and what they look like so that you can evaluate whether or not these concerns play a role in your relationships.
What Is Attachment Theory?
Attachment theory is a psychological theory regarding the bonds babies have with their parents and how those bonds influence behavior later in life. When someone has a secure attachment to their caregivers in childhood, they’re more likely to have healthy, stable relationships and overall better mental health outcomes in adulthood. Those who have unhealthy attachment styles are more likely to struggle with low self-esteem, troubled relationships, or other issues.
Types of Attachment Issues
Attachment issues don’t always look the same because there are varying types of unhealthy attachment styles. Psychologist Mary Ainsworth’s research in the 1970s led to the discovery of four main styles of attachment: secure, anxious, avoidant, and disorganized. While secure attachment is associated with better mental health outcomes, the three negative attachment styles can all lead to different attachment issues.
Anxious attachment is common in people whose parents only provided care sporadically. If you have anxious attachment, you might worry that your loved ones will abandon you or that no one will be there for you. Because you experienced such inconsistency and unpredictability in childhood, you find it hard to trust people as an adult.
Avoidant attachment can develop if your parents regularly dismissed or minimized your needs. From a young age, you may have learned that you can only rely on yourself. Even if you’re now surrounded by people who love and support you, you feel like you have to take care of yourself without ever opening up or asking for help.
A disorganized attachment style might occur when parents act erratically or inconsistently. If you grew up in a dysfunctional and chaotic household, you may not have seen any patterns or rules that shaped your learning and behavior. As a result, you might struggle to find a consistent approach to your relationships in adulthood.
Childhood Attachment Disorders
The DSM recognizes two specific attachment disorders, both of which are usually diagnosed in infants or toddlers. Reactive attachment disorder causes children to withdraw from their parents and avoid seeking comfort if they’re upset. Disinhibited social engagement disorder causes children to act in an overly familiar manner with strangers. However, even if you were not diagnosed with one of these disorders, you may still experience attachment issues as an adult.
Signs and Symptoms of Attachment Issues
Recognizing that you have attachment issues can be very difficult. Because attachment issues develop at such a young age, the behaviors and emotions associated with them can become ingrained in your personality. If you’ve always found it difficult to maintain close and healthy relationships, though, attachment issues may be at play.
The following are 5 of the key signs that you have attachment issues:
1. You often need reassurance that your loved ones care about you.
Worrying that your friends or family will abandon you is one the most common signs of anxious attachment issues. You might fear that the people in your life will leave you even if they’ve shown no intention to do so, and you may frequently seek reassurance from them. Sometimes, people who don’t understand attachment issues will respond to these concerns in annoyance or frustration, which can make your anxiety even worse.
2. You worry constantly about your romantic relationships.
Insecurity in romantic relationships is another major challenge. Everything could be going perfectly in your relationship, but you still fear that your partner will leave you. Because you learned in childhood that people may only offer affection or support sporadically, you feel like you’re always waiting for your partner to turn their back on you.
3. You react strongly to perceived criticism.
People with attachment issues often struggle to handle criticism from loved ones because it triggers their fear of abandonment. If a friend, family member, or partner expresses a concern and asks you to change a behavior, they still love you and want to be around you. However, you may jump to the conclusion that they hate you, you’ve disappointed them, and they now want to leave you. You might respond defensively or withdraw from the relationship to prevent yourself from getting hurt further.
4. You don’t like to depend on others.
An intense need for independence is common in those with avoidant attachment styles. You feel like you can’t rely on anyone else but yourself, so you believe that independence is the most important quality. While it’s great to know that you can take care of yourself, everyone needs support sometimes. Your attachment issues may prevent you from asking for or accepting help from others because you view it as a sign of weakness.
5. You pull away when someone starts to get close to you.
If you have attachment issues, you may crave intimacy yet fear it at the same time. You don’t want to face abandonment, so you prefer not to let people get close enough to hurt you. When someone starts to connect with you on a deep, emotional level, you may respond by pulling away and shutting down. You don’t want to take the risk of opening up to them, so you decide to keep them at arm’s length.
Everyone needs healthy and stable connections with others to feel well, so attachment issues can be devastating for your mental health. If you have attachment issues that stem from your childhood, know that this isn’t your fault. However, as an adult, you now have the power and responsibility to take control of your mental health and begin the healing process. By addressing your attachment issues in therapy, you can get to the root of your concerns and learn how to maintain stronger relationships.
Menachem Psychotherapy Group offers therapy for attachment issues as well as many other mental and emotional concerns. Our licensed counselors are happy to help you address your mental health goals and work toward wellness. You can contact us today to get in touch with a therapist in Los Angeles.