What Is Attachment Theory?
According to an article from Frontiers in Psychiatry, attachment theory is the motivational, behavioral, and interactional system of security you develop in childhood. Through the attachment system, the distance and closeness between parents and children can be seen. With secure attachment, a child will seek comfort from a caregiver and when the caregiver provides that comfort, it makes the child feel secure.
When an individual experiences security in early childhood, it helps them regulate their emotions and develop coping strategies when faced with fear or distress. Moreover, experiencing secure or insecure attachments in early childhood plays a role in relationships in adulthood as well.
Research has shown that the style of attachment you form in infancy impacts your relationships in adulthood. There are four different attachment styles in attachment theory:
- Physical and emotional needs are fulfilled by the caregiver
- The child feels calm in the presence of the caregiver
- Forming healthy long-term relationships
- Ability to trust partner(s)
- Can be emotionally available
- A primary caregiver is unable to consistently meet needs
- You learn you may not get the attention you need
- You feel less comforted in the presence of caregivers
- May be seen as clingy, needy, or untrusting
- Often concerned that loved ones will abandon you
- May seek consistent reassurance in your relationships
- The caregiver meets your physical needs
- A caregiver does not provide enough emotional support
- You learn not to rely on others for your emotional needs
- May be seen as self-reliant and emotionally guarded
- Unlikely to seek emotional comfort from partner(s)
- Less likely to understand how to comfort partner(s)
- Experienced a childhood filled with fear and trauma
- An erratic or incoherent relationship with the primary caregiver
- Difficulty developing healthy relationships
- More likely to experience mental health disorders
- Craving close emotional connection
- Pushing others away when they try to show you attention
Attachment and Substance Use Disorder (SUD)
In Frontiers in Psychiatry, researchers note a relationship between SUD and attachment, specifically insecure attachments. Insecure attachment patterns are a risk factor for the development of SUD and mental health disorders as you form negative perceptions and expectations of yourself and others. Therefore, negative thinking patterns can lead to increased feelings of insecurity, issues regulating emotions and stress, and difficulties forming and maintaining healthy relationships.
Moreover, when your early experiences with relationships in childhood are insecure, it impacts your ability to learn and use coping and attachment strategies for healthy thinking and behavior patterns. When you do not have access to the tools you need to build healthier thinking patterns, you may develop SUD as a form of self-medicating in an attempt to make up for or ignore the absence of mental health tools. Additionally, the use of substances can also lead to the impairment of attachment and inhibit the development of healthy relationships.
An Attachment Approach to SUD Treatment
The correlation between difficulties forming healthy attachments in early childhood and the development of SUD has led to more attachment-focused care treatments. According to Doctor Philip J. Flores, in his book, Addiction as an Attachment Disorder, you remain vulnerable to SUD until you can start forming healthy relationship attachments. In this way, attachment theory can help form a broader understanding of the significant role relationships play in the development of SUD and the space for recovery.
From an attachment approach, you must first detach from your maladaptive relationship with substances before you can start learning how to form healthy interpersonal attachments. Therefore, the recovery process acts as a space in which you can find support from your peers and clinicians through the therapeutic alliance to build life skills and coping strategies for your long-term recovery.
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8 Positions of Care for Attachment
An attachment approach to care has eight positions:
- Attachment is a motivator for close interpersonal connections.
- Real-life events are important for attachment.
- Early attachment impacts emotional regulation.
- Individualism and self-sufficiency are not sustainable long-term.
- Maintaining relationships is necessary for healthy development.
- Forming healthy attachments is a lifelong process.
- Emotional regulation skills must be nurtured in adulthood over social norms of self-isolation and autonomy.
- Attachments formed with caregivers and affiliative relationships are separate developmental stages.
- The individual should have a balance of healthy attachment and personal independence.
- Emotionally engaged psychotherapy creates neuropsychologic changes that help emotional regulation.
Secure Attachment at Emerge Recovery TX
At Emerge Recovery TX, we believe in taking an attachment approach to care. We are invested in helping you develop and form the capacity for secure attachments in your life. When you are struggling, we do not judge or shame you, but rather we work on getting closer and digging deeper into what traumas have led you to unhealthy thinking and behavior patterns. Moreover, we are dedicated to teaching you what it looks like and what it means to have secure attachments in your life.
Tools for Secure Attachment in Recovery
- Provide honest constructive feedback
- Meet you where you are with love and kindness
- Acknowledge and reflect on dysfunctional family systems
- Learn how attachment styles impact your relationships
- Discover how insecure attachment styles harm connections
- Identify patterns of attachment disorder in your SUD
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An attachment approach to care can support you in building skills and strategies to form and maintain healthy relationships. At Emerge Recovery TX, we use attachment theory to show you how forming secure attachments in your life can support you on your recovery journey. To learn more, call us today at (737) 237-9663.