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Attachment Disorders in Adults and Its Comorbidity With Mood Disorders, Personality Disorders, and Addiction Issues

Your attachment style has a significant effect on your Mental Health and emotional well-being. While insecure attachment is not a Mental Health Disorder, it relates to the symptoms and risk factors of a range of Mood Disorders, Personality Disorders, Addiction Disorders, and other conditions. Understanding the role attachment issues play in various Mental Health Disorders is crucial to understanding the importance of developing a successful therapeutic relationship with a Licensed Clinical Psychologist that is well-trained in Attachment Disorders, childhood traumas, Mood Disorders, and relationship/intimacy issues.  

Learn more about the relationship between attachment styles and Mental Health Conditions with this overview of Attachment Disorders in adults and their comorbidity with Mood Disorders, Personality Disorders, and Addiction Issues. 

What Is Insecure Attachment? 

Attachment issues stem from an insecure attachment style. Your attachment style refers to how you relate to and trust others in intimate relationships. Attachment style is a direct result of your childhood relationship with your parents, caregivers, or other guardian figures during infancy and early childhood. Secure attachment styles stem from reliable relationships where the child can consistently rely on their primary and secondary caregiver for support, protection, and comfort. If a child lacks these essential requirements in their caregiver relationship, they will subsequently develop an insecure attachment style. There are different forms of insecure attachment styles, but all hinder the development of mental, psychological, emotional, social skills, and cognitive processing. These include an inability to modulate stress, difficulty with emotional regulation, lack of self-esteem, poor sense of self, a need to control/manipulate relationships, an inability to trust others, paranoia about intimate relationships, and poor interpersonal relationship skills. 

Avoidant Attachment 

Avoidant attachment is an insecure attachment style wherein an individual dismisses emotional and physical closeness in relationships in favor of strict independence. People with avoidant attachment grow up with the certainty that they cannot rely on others for support, care, or comfort. They struggle to trust others and find it difficult to form and maintain close relationships, to the point that they may even see others’ attempts for emotional closeness or intimate bond as a threat to their sense of self. Avoidant individuals struggle to appropriately express emotions, show vulnerability, and establish necessary trust with others in social relationships or intimate connections. As a result, individuals with avoidant attachment styles often isolate themselves, leading to a lack of emotional and social connections, support, guidance, and care in their lives. Instead, they surround themselves with meaningless, shallow, and superficial associations, activities, addictive behaviors, or bodies to numb their inner void and chronic emptiness they have been suffering from throughout their lives. 

Ambivalent Attachment 

Ambivalent attachment stems from an intense fear of abandonment due to insecure relationships with their caregivers in infancy and childhood. Those with ambivalent attachment styles become clingy or needy due to this fear of abandonment and rejection. This fear leads to an increased sensitivity to rejection, the need for constant reassurance, praise, admiration, and heavy reliance on partners or other intimate relationships for support and validation. Many individuals with an ambivalent attachment style struggle with codependency in their intimate relationships and romantic partnerships. 

Disorganized Attachment 

Disorganized attachment stems from inconsistent caregiver relationships in infancy. The result is inconsistent relationship behaviors in adulthood. Someone with a disorganized attachment style swings between an intense desire for close relationships and an equally intense fear of emotional intimacy. It is this conflict of emotions and behaviors that sets disorganized attachment apart from other insecure attachment styles. Other characteristics of a disorganized attachment style include fear of rejection, inability to properly express thoughts or emotions, fear of vulnerability and difficulty trusting others, and severe anxiety. 

Comorbidity With Mood Disorders 

Insecure attachment styles are commonly comorbid with Mood Disorders such as Depressive Disorders, Anxiety Disorder, Bipolar Disorders, and more. One reason for this is the poor self-representation that occurs due to insecure attachment. Those who grew up with a caregiver who was not responsive to their needs tend to develop an unreliable view of themselves. This view causes poor self-esteem and an unhealthy dependence on validation and approval from others.  

The resulting low self-esteem and high levels of self-criticism go hand in hand with the negative self-image that comes from or leads to Depressive Disorders. Furthermore, this poor self-representation often leads to perfectionism and the tendency to hold yourself to an impossibly high standard, which in turn makes you more sensitive to failure. This trait is also common among Depressive Disorders, Bipolar Disorder, and other Mood Disorders. 

Another link between attachment issues and Mood Disorders is that insecure attachment hinders emotional regulation skills and negatively affects mindfulness, stress management, and emotional regulation. This, in turn, harms one’s emotional balance, which contributes to the low energy and negative emotions of Depressive Disorders, Anxiety Disorders, or the severe depressive periods of Bipolar Disorders. 

Comorbidity With Personality Disorders 

Many of the factors that cause insecure attachments are also common risk factors for Personality Disorders such as Borderline Personality Disorder, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and Antisocial Personality Disorder. For example, unresolved childhood trauma can contribute to the frequently fluctuating emotions and behaviors of Borderline Personality Disorder, but unresolved trauma goes hand in hand with unresolved attachment issues. Similarly, difficulty forming strong relationships is a common symptom of Personality Disorders, but it also commonly stems from not seeing relationships as secure, safe, trustworthy, valuable, or reliable because of insecure attachment. These individuals do not feel any self-worth, nor do they find others as worthy, valuable, or reliable. 

Common Personality Disorder symptoms such as fear of abandonment, unstable relationships, paranoia, shifting goals, unstable self-image, and intense mood swings are also symptoms of poor self-representation, lack of emotional regulation, poor insight, poor judgment, and lack of interpersonal skills. This similarity makes it difficult to separate the effects of insecure attachment styles and Personality Disorders in many individuals. 

Comorbidity With Addiction Disorders 

Insecure attachment styles make it more difficult to regulate emotions and manage stress. These challenges make you more likely to develop severe anger management issues, turn to addictive substances, and develop maladaptive behaviors as unhealthy and misguided forms of dealing with those negative feelings in the hopes of escaping and running away from their painful realities. Many maladaptive coping strategies—including substance abuse, traveling, shopping sprees, gambling, gaming, social media, unsafe sex, and pornography—are also related to Addiction Disorders. 

Another link between attachment issues and Addiction Disorders is that insecure attachments make it difficult to form attachments or maintain strong relationships and meaningful connections. This difficulty can lead to individuals trying to replace intimate relationships and meaningful partnerships with addictive substances and destructive behaviors. As a result, they will turn to substance abuse or other similar addictive behaviors instead of repairing the ruptures of their past childhood traumas and insecure attachment styles by seeking clinical interventions from a Licensed Clinical Psychologist. 

There is also a cyclical nature to the relationship between insecure attachment and Addiction Disorders. Parental Addiction Disorders such as Substance Abuse Disorder lead to an inability to reliably care for an infant. This distance instills an insecure attachment style in the infant, which increases the chances of developing an Addiction Disorder as an adult, thus continuing the vicious cycles of which poor self-esteem remains an integral part. 

Insecure Attachment in the Therapeutic Relationship 

Another noteworthy issue relating to Attachment Disorders in adults and their comorbidity with Mood Disorders, Personality Disorders, and Addiction Disorders is that insecure attachment also challenges the client-psychologist relationship. Factors such as distrust, fear of rejection, and difficulty appropriately expressing emotions or allowing oneself to be vulnerable and practice surrender with humility can hinder the ability to communicate properly and adaptively with a Licensed Clinical Psychologist without deploying maladaptive defense mechanisms stemming from negative childhood experiences. This, in turn, creates additional challenges when treating Mood Disorders, Personality Disorders, Attachment Disorders, and Addiction Disorders.  

Healing from Mental Health Disorders requires building secure attachments through the interventions by your Licensed Clinical Psychologist. By cultivating, maintaining, nourishing, and nurturing a secure relationship with your Clinical Psychologist, you will learn to build key emotional skills like emotional regulation, stress management, and healthy self-representation. 

Work with a Licensed Clinical Psychologist who knows how to address the unique link between insecure attachment and Mental Health Disorders. Book an appointment with your Licensed Clinical Psychologist in Irvine, Beverly Hills, Newport Beach, Bel Air, Century City, Brentwood, Westwood, Huntington Beach, Mission Viejo, Aliso Viejo, and the surrounding areas to begin your personalized, evidence-based treatment plan with a Licensed Clinical Psychologist. 

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