The attachment theory, developed by John Bowlby has become increasingly popular. You may have seen social media posts or other articles regarding disorganized attachment specifically and either resonate with this yourself or know a loved one that fits this category. This article is an educational tool outlining the definition of disorganized attachment and some possible treatment options. Please note that this is not a diagnostic tool and to contact your therapist or physician for more information.
What is disorganized attachment? Disorganized attachment stems from childhood
experiences and happens when the child's emotional needs are inconsistently met during childhood (Robinson et al., 2021). Children who experienced abuse or trauma throughout their development also learn that their caregiver is not safe or predictable (Moore, 2022). Disorganized attachment can also be attributed to having a caregiver with mental health problems, substance abuse issues or the child being separated from a primary caregiver and/or general emotional, physical and mental inconsistency from caregivers (Robinson et al., 2021). Individuals with disorganized attachment often report high anxiety and high relationship avoidance (Moore, 2022). Moreover, people with disorganized attachment are also more susceptible to mental health disorders and substance abuse (Bockarova, 2019).
Ways to identify Disorganized-Attachment (not a diagnostic tool):
Fear of emotional intimacy with loved ones
They are more likely to self-sabotage relationships because they assume that the partner will eventually hurt them
They may choose avoidant or abusive partners because they are used to loved ones inducing fear in them
Poor emotional regulation
Poor perception of themselves and the world around them
More likely to be untrusting towards their partner, controlling, and selfish in relationships
Ways to Overcome the Disorganized Attachment Style:
There is hope that those with disorganized attachment styles can adjust their mentality to slowly become more secure in their attachments. First, the individual can work to rely on people who provide safety, positivity, and reassurance in their daily life (Moore, 2022). In addition, attending therapy can help them establish a trusting and reliable environment where they can freely express concerns in their other relationships (Bockarova, 2019; Robinson et al., 2021). Small ways to cope with disorganized attachment can be by improving communication skills, understanding why/when emotional triggers come forward and becoming friends with those with secure attachment to expose oneself to different thought patterns, and also work to co-regulate with them (Moore, 2022). Most importantly, learning self-regulation skills through therapy such as mindfulness can help the individual with emotional regulation.
An individual's attachment style is not a life sentence. Identifying one's attachment with the help of a therapist (book your initial consultation here: https://blissfulbalancecounsellinggroup.janeapp.com/) and working through shifting one's mindset, learning coping skills and new ways of connecting with others can result in a more secure attachment style.
Bockarova, M. (2019). The forgotten attachment style: Disorganized attachment. Psychology Today. from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/romantically-attached/201909/the-forgotten-attachment-style-disorganized-attachment
Moore, A. (2022, September 12). Disorganized attachment: 9 signs of the lesser-known attachment style. mindbodygreen. from https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/disorganized-attachment
Robinson, L. (2023, March 22). How attachment styles affect adult relationships. HelpGuide.org, from https://www.helpguide.org/articles/relationships-communication/attachment-and-adult-relationships.htm