Attachment Disorder: What is it and How Can Therapy Help?

From birth, we develop a close bond with our main caregivers (usually parents). This attachment provides a healthy and trusting environment in which to learn and develop.

However, for some children, this bond is not formed. There are many reasons that this could happen, but typically it is a situation where the caregiver is unable to provide care and attention to the child, either physically or emotionally. The child may have been abused, neglected, or separated from their parents.

The effect of not forming this bond can lead to attachment difficulties and at its worst, a condition called reactive attachment disorder.

Some signs of attachment problems in children include:

  • Problems expressing anger
  • Poor eye contact
  • A need for control
  • Problems with self-monitoring
  • Difficulty showing affection
  • Seeks affection from strangers
  • An underdeveloped conscience

Attachment disorder is typically thought to be specific to children and young people. There is, however, a growing understanding that unresolved attachment issues can cause significant problems in adulthood.

The biggest issues in unresolved attachment disorder is forming relationships and bonds with others. Adults may become co-dependent or, alternatively, exert a level of hostility that prevents others from getting close.

Some of the behaviours you may see in an adult with attachment problems include:

  • difficulty trusting others
  • a need to control their environment
  • anger issues, often lashing out at others
  • impulsive
  • negative thinking, potentially provoking others to feel the same
  • difficulty connecting to others
  • resistance to accepting guidance or advice
  • addictions may become a coping mechanism
  • isolating themselves and withdrawing from social activities

Counselling can help to release mental and emotional blocks, explore issues around trust, anger, isolation, problematic thinking, and so on.