What is Attachment Disorder?


Attachment disorder is where a child or adult is unable to form normal healthy attachments. This is usually due to detrimental early life experiences – such as neglect, abuse, separation from their parents or primary caregivers (after six months of age and before three years of age), frequent change of caregivers, and lack of responsiveness from their caregivers.

Symptoms vary depending on age. In adults, they fall under one of two categories – either avoidant or anxious/ ambivalent personalities. These are summarized below.

1. Avoidant

·         Intense anger and hostility

·         Hypercritical of others

·         Extremely sensitive to criticism, correction or blame

·         Lacks empathy

·         Sees others as untrustworthy and unreliable

·         Either sees themselves as being unlovable or “too good” for others

·         Relationships are experienced as either being too threatening or requiring too much effort

·         Fear of closeness and intimacy

·         Compulsive self-reliance

·         Passive or uninvolved in relationships

·         Find it hard to get along with co-workers and authority figures

·         Prefers to work alone, or to be self employed

·         May use work to avoid investing in relationships

2. Anxious/ Ambivalent

·         Demonstrates compulsive caregiving

·         Problems with establishing and maintaining appropriate boundaries

·         Feels they give they give more than they get back

·         Feels their efforts aren’t noticed or appreciated

·         Idealizes people

·         Expects their partner to repeatedly demonstrate their love, affection and commitment to them, and the relationship

·         Emotionally over-invests in friendships and romantic relationships

·         Are preoccupied with close relationships

·         Overly dependent on their partner

·         Believes that others are out to use them or to take advantage of them

·         Fears rejection

·         Is uncomfortable with anger

·         Experiences a roller coaster of emotions – and often these are extremes of emotion

·         Tends to be possessive and jealous; finds it hard to trust

·         Believes they are essentially flawed, inadequate and unlovable.


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