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Link Between Attachment and Addiction

Relationships in Recovery

It is incorrectly assumed that addiction is a personal fault caused only by a person’s lack of inhibitions and self-restraint. The reality is that these issues run much deeper. A person’s childhood experiences, upbringing, and past personal experiences can all play a role in the development of a substance use disorder. One of the most important foundations developed during this time is attachment style, which may also influence coping mechanisms adopted later in life. Banyan Treatment Centers Philadelphia examines the relationship between attachment and addiction.

What Are the Four Attachment Styles?

The four attachment styles are anxious, secure, avoidant, and disorganized. John Bowlby's attachment theory explains how people build emotional connections with others, especially throughout childhood, and how these early experiences influence their patterns of interpersonal interaction throughout their lives. In essence, it highlights the very real effect that early life experiences can have on a person spanning time.1

  • Secure attachment style: These people most often had attentive caretakers who met their needs consistently and with care. They now have a sense of security and confidence in their relationships, and they feel at ease being intimate and creating strong emotional attachments with people. Typically those who have a secure attachment type have happier relationships and better emotional control.
  • Anxious attachment style: These individuals may have had caregivers who responded to their needs in a variable manner. As a result, individuals could experience anxiety or insecurity in their relationships and yearn for reassurance and emotional validation from their partners. They could be prone to being too dependent and clinging, and they might have issues with self-worth and relationship confidence.
  • Avoidant attachment style: These people tend to shy away from intimacy and emotional closeness in relationships. They might have grown up with a conviction that they can't rely on other people for help since they were abandoned or emotionally distant from their caregivers. They might therefore choose to be emotionally autonomous and self-sufficient in their relationships. They could have a hard time being open and vulnerable when they express their emotions to others, and they might be dismissive or judgmental of their partner's emotional needs.
  • Disorganized attachment style: This attachment type is characterized by distinct behaviors, such as freezing or acting in a contradictory manner, as well as a combination of characteristics linked to other attachment styles. They may have grown up with trauma, abuse, or neglect, and their caretakers may have served as both a source of security and terror, which caused the person to become confused and disoriented. As a result, individuals could have trouble controlling their emotions, establishing and maintaining relationships, and feeling a great deal of anxiety, bewilderment, and isolation.

It is also possible to experience a combination of the styles described above. For instance, someone with an anxious-avoidant attachment style. This is characterized by a desire for close bonds as well as a fear of abandonment and rejection. They could fluctuate in their relationships between being needy and clinging and being cold or dismissive emotionally. This makes it difficult to exist peacefully with a partner.

Addiction as an Attachment Disorder

There is growing recognition that addiction is an attachment problem. It has been found that many people who struggle with addiction have a history of disrupted attachment, such as having endured abuse, neglect, or trauma as children. As a result, insecure attachment behaviors like anxious or avoidant attachment may develop. Addiction can then act as a stand-in for connection, with the drug or behavior offering the security or comfort that their previous relationships lacked. A person's capacity to establish and maintain healthy bonds with others can gradually be undermined by addiction, leading to a vicious cycle of addiction and solitude.

How to Deal With Attachment Issues and Addiction

Treating addiction as an attachment disorder can be a successful strategy for healing. Individuals with addiction can develop more secure attachment patterns and lessen their reliance on substance or behavior as a substitute attachment by engaging in therapy that addresses underlying attachment issues, such as enhancing emotional regulation, elevating self-esteem, and encouraging positive social connections. The treatment method can also help people create healthy relationships and encourage long-term rehabilitation by including family and social support. People can create a more thorough and long-lasting approach to recovery by comprehending and treating the attachment problems that underlie addiction.

For those looking to address their attachment and addiction problems, our rehab in Philadelphia offers life-changing therapy options that give patients the opportunity to put their experiences into perspective. We also offer a variety of Philadelphia substance abuse programs that ensure the chemical dependency in question can be addressed.

To learn more about how our drug rehab in Langhorne, PA, can help you recover, call Banyan at 888-280-4763 and speak with a specialist today.


1 - Simply Psychology - John Bowlby Attachment Theory

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Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa is the National Director of Digital Marketing and is responsible for a multitude of integrated campaigns and events in the behavioral health and addictions field. All articles have been written by Alyssa and medically reviewed by our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Darrin Mangiacarne.
Link Between Attachment and Addiction
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