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Types of Attachment

A person’s attachment style is determined in early childhood, and it impacts the types of relationships they have throughout their life. Insecure attachment styles can lead to problems with intimacy, trust, and emotional support in adulthood.

Children develop healthy attachments in a consistent, loving environment that meets their physical and emotional needs. If they do not experience this, it can be challenging for them to form relationships later in life, which can affect their emotional and physical wellbeing. People with attachment difficulties often feel like they are unworthy of love or security, but with time, consistency, and repetition, they can learn to believe in the love of others and build trust.

Some children are unable to bond with their caregivers due to severe abuse or neglect in their early life. The abuse or neglect can be physical, emotional, sexual, or both. Children can be affected by these experiences, regardless of whether they are adopted or biological. Having multiple caretakers or living in foster care can also make forming healthy attachments difficult, as it’s hard to establish a bond with multiple people.

Reactive attachment disorder (RAD) is a form of attachment difficulty that can occur when children do not bond with their primary caretakers, usually because of emotional neglect or abuse at an early age. Children who have RAD often struggle to regulate their emotions, which can cause them to be fearful or anxious around their parents or other caregivers. They may also exhibit a pattern of pushing away and pushing in with their relationships, seeking independence but then turning to those close to them for comfort. Children with RAD may also have trouble with expressing their emotions, which can cause them to act out in a variety of ways, including bullying or acting out against their parents.

Disrupted attachment is another type of attachment disorder that occurs when a young child experiences repeated traumatic losses or separations from their primary caretakers. This can include being placed into several foster homes, losing a parent or guardian through death or divorce, and other situations that disrupt the development of a healthy attachment. Symptoms of interrupted attachment are similar to grief reactions, which includes sadness, anger, despair, and withdrawal from communication and play.

Anyone who has attachment difficulties should seek mental health support, as this can have a serious impact on their relationships and quality of life. Psychotherapy can help a person identify and understand the negative thoughts that are contributing to their relationship challenges, and teach them healthy coping strategies to address these. Additionally, couples therapy can be helpful for those who want to improve their relationships with each other. Individuals who experience insecure attachment can benefit from specialized treatment programs that incorporate cognitive behavioral therapy, which can help them change the way they think and act, and build healthy, supportive connections with others.

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