Attachment Issues Vs Attachment Disorders

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Written By:

Clinical Psychologist - National Institute for Empowerment of Persons with Visual Disabilities, Dehradun - M.Phil

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Counselling Psychologist - Ph.D. Relationship Psychology

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Attachment is a very important concept in relationships. It is formed in early childhood and goes on to affect our adult relationships (romantic and otherwise). Attachment refers to the bond and connection that people develop in their close relationships. It is an important framework to understand in order to ensure that you have healthy functioning relationships. 

Just like a well-functioning house needs to have a strong and resilient foundation, attachment is the foundation of every relationship. Attachment issues arise when people have shaky foundations that manifest themselves in unhealthy patterns in relationships. People who have problems with attachment find it difficult to form healthy and stable relationships and might face other problems like severe anxiety, depression, and mood swings. 

What are Attachment Issues?

Attachment issues are the difficulties and challenges that people have in forming healthy and stable relationships. This usually develops in early childhood when children are unable to form secure attachments with their primary caregivers.

According to Ainsworth’s studies, a child with a secure attachment showed distress when separated from their caregiver but was able to regain balance until they came back. However, the children who did not regain a balance (that is, stop excessive crying) went on to develop an anxious attachment style. On the other hand, the children who were indifferent to their caregivers leaving developed an avoidant attachment style. 

Attachment issues usually arise when the caregiver is not paying attention to the child’s emotional and physical needs. They may be unresponsive to their child’s needs (avoidant) or might be inconsistent with their responses (anxious).

Types of Attachment Issues

There are primarily two types of attachment issues that can arise

Anxious Attachment Style

An anxious attachment style is formed when the parents are inconsistent with fulfilling their child’s basic needs. As adults, people with anxious attachment styles experience a need for constant reassurance in their relationships. They have difficulty in building an individuality separate from the relationship and require excess validation. Emotionally, they are very likely to experience negative emotions like anxious thoughts that are caused by their deep-seated abandonment issues.
Avoidant Attachment Style

An avoidant attachment style is formed when the parents are ignorant or unresponsive to their child’s basic needs. As adults, people with an avoidant attachment style are found to be excessively independent. They find it difficult to show emotion and express their vulnerabilities because they are not used to expressing their needs and don’t expect that another will meet them. 

Having a secure attachment allows you to cruise through your relationships without any distress. Having attachment issues can feel like an anchor that makes it difficult to cruise through because there is always something holding you back. However, one important thing to understand is that it is possible to work through these attachment issues and reach a stage of secure attachment. 

What are Attachment Disorders

Attachment disorders, on the other hand, are more severe conditions of attachment that arise as a result of severe neglect of needs, child abuse or inconsistencies between the parent and child relationship. These are rare but usually develop in childhood. It is characterized by an inability to form proper emotional connections with parents. 

Types of attachment disorders among children

According to the DSM, there are two types of attachment disorders that can arise among children, 

Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD)

This is a type of disorder where a child faces immense difficulty in forming a connection with their parents. They have a reduced interest in interacting with others and show little to no emotion and if they show emotion it is often negative emotion like unhappiness, fear, etc. Such children might find it difficult to respond even when their needs are being met and exhibit inappropriate social behaviors like resistance to any affection, anger issues, and impulsivity. 

Disinhibited Social Engagement Disorder (DSED) - 
    DSED is a disorder that is caused as a result of social neglect of the child and a pattern of heavily inconsistent attachment the child has with their primary caregiver. This is the opposite of RAD in that a child with DSED can approach strangers easily and form trust and attachments with them. They seek validation and attention from anyone who offers it to them. They don’t have proper social boundaries and are very hyperactive in nature. This can be dangerous because the child can trust someone who does not have the best intentions in mind. 

To deal with attachment disorders it is best to seek professional help. Professional therapists or Child experts will be able to help your child regulate these atypical behaviors. 

Ms. Priyanka Walia
Ms. Priyanka Walia M.A. Counselling Psychology Counselling Psychologist 05 years of experience

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Ms. Muskan Maheshwari
Ms. Muskan Maheshwari M.Sc. Clinical Psychology Clinical Psychologist 02 years of experience

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Mr. Nishant Sharma
Mr. Nishant Sharma M.Phil. Clinical Psychology Clinical Psychologist 07 years of experience

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Ms. Akshita Bakshi
Ms. Akshita Bakshi Ph.D. Relationship Psychology Counselling Psychologist 05 years of experience

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