Attachment styles are central to the way humans perceive security in relationships. As an adult, you can gain clarity about why you feel and behave a certain way in a relationship by identifying the four major styles. This understanding can also help you determine whether you are at risk of developing a substance use disorder. This article will explain how attachment styles develop, what types there are, the impact they have in relationships, and the role attachment styles play in addiction.
Understanding Attachment Styles
An attachment style describes the kind of relationship you formed with your primary caregiver as an infant. A study of infant-parent attachment explains that this attachment “is where the child uses the primary caregiver as a secure base from which to explore and, when necessary, as a haven of safety and a source of comfort.”
You developed your attachment style as the result of how a mother, father, nanny, or other caregiver responded when your feelings of safety and security were threatened (i.e., when ill, physically hurt, emotionally upset, or frightened). Note that this is not the same process as “bonding,” although the two terms are often confused.
At about six months of age, you began to anticipate your caregiver’s response to your distress, and your own behaviors started to take their form accordingly. The main attachment styles include the following:
#1. Secure: the caregiver is sensitive/loving, and the child seeks close contact with the caregiver when feeling unsafe.
#2. Dismissive-avoidant (insecure): the caregiver is insensitive/rejecting, and the child avoids them when stressed and limits the expression of negative emotion.
#3. Anxious-preoccupied (insecure): the caregiver is insensitive/inconsistent, and the child expresses extreme negative emotions to draw attention to their caregiver’s inconsistency.
#4. Fearful-avoidant (insecure): caregiver behaves atypically (i.e., frightening, dissociated, sexualized), and the child does not use any of these above strategies consistently for coping with insecurity.
Attachment Style Influences Relationship Patterns
Why do attachment styles matter, anyway? Understanding what kind you developed as a child can help you understand your behaviors as an adult. Attachments tend to stay with you throughout your life and impact how you form, maintain, and end relationships.
For instance, do you become overly clingy or needy in close relationships? When relationships are threatened, do you behave in selfish and manipulative ways to maintain them? On the contrary, do you avoid intimacy altogether and cringe at the thought of being needed?
Individuals who have insecure attachments tend to experience turbulent relationships and have difficulties trusting and observing boundaries. Depending on the specific style, an insecure attachment can also manifest as coldness, intolerance towards a partner’s feelings, and withdrawal when things get too emotional.
On the other hand, you might not relate to this and instead experience security and independence in relationships. You can set healthy boundaries, comfortably share your feelings, and work with your partner on issues in a healthy and productive way. Whichever style you have, being aware of these behavioral patterns can help you identify what you need in a relationship and effectively resolve the problems you are having.
Insecure Attachments Are Common in Addiction
Over the last few decades, the impact of attachment style on substance use outcomes has increasingly come into the spotlight. Thus far, research indicates that insecure attachment, as opposed to secure attachment, is a risk factor for developing a substance use disorder.
In this study, the specific kind of attachment style varied based on the substance being used. For example, heroin use disorder was frequently associated with fearful-avoidant attachment, while alcohol use disorder was associated with more than one pattern.
Drug and alcohol use is thought to be influenced by the inherent nature of an insecure attachment. Chronic stress and anxiety can develop from a lack of meaningful social relationships. Maintaining a supportive and loving partnership can feel like a rollercoaster of emotions and struggle. In addition, you might not realize your own self-worth and have a dysfunctional self-image.
You Are Not Alone in Feeling Lonely
Frequent emotional distress and interpersonal problems can be really difficult to work through on your own. It’s understandable that you might just want a break from all the drama. However, turning to alcohol or drugs to manage stress is not the answer. Because you are in a vulnerable state, you are at risk of overdoing it and developing an addiction.
Although a better alternative is to lean on a friend, family member, or partner, this might not be an option for you at this time. If you feel alone right now and are struggling to manage your addiction, addiction treatment programs are available to help get you back on your feet. Experienced therapists and clinicians know exactly what you are going through. Don’t be afraid to get the help you deserve today.
The attachment style you develop in infancy follows you throughout adulthood and influences the way you feel and behave in relationships. Learning more about your attachment pattern can help you identify what you need in relationships and whether you are at risk of developing a substance use disorder. If you are struggling with an addiction as a result of your attachment pattern, we can help. Oceanfront Recovery is a fully licensed clinical facility that specializes in addiction and co-occurring mental health conditions. Our clients have the chance to dig deep into childhood and uproot unresolved conflicts that are triggering substance use. Oceanfront Recovery’s programming is intentionally small but is designed to maximize space for comfort. This allows our clients to focus on healing in a safe and home-like environment. Our goal is to provide high-quality care to each and every client at an affordable cost. Please don’t hesitate to call us with questions at (877) 279-1777.