Attachment Issues – Letting Go for Simpler, Happier Living

Attachment issues are deeply rooted in our childhoods and can be pretty elusive-yet destroy our relationships.  So how did we get to this place-and how can we fix it?  We’re going to talk about what attachment issues look like and how we can improve our situations.

Attachment issues result from issues in childhood and have a great effect on relationships as we grow.  Dealing with attachment issues can done through education, communication and therapy.  From over attachment to emotional attachment, these issues can change as we age.

Have you ever wondered why you feel connected to one of your parents, but not the other?  What effects do you think your upbringing had on your ability to form relationships with others?

What Are Attachment Issues?

Attachment issues are when there are inappropriate levels of caring and emotion directed toward a person, place, or thing.  These are usually the result of childhood trauma, abusive relationships, and other unhealthy relationships.  Attachment issues also occur as a result of stressors including parental relationships, psychological issues, and contextual factors according to researchers Fearon of University College London and Belsky of the University of California.

Family playing outside - Attachment Issues - Gone Minimal
Family playing outside

How to Deal with Attachment Issues

It can be really challenging to deal with attachment issues when you don’t understand them.  The first tool to put in your toolbelt is education.  Do some research and learn about attachment issues, thinking back to your childhood and any trauma you may have experienced.  This can help you better understand the whys of attachment issues.

The second tool to help you better understand attachment issues is communication.  Talk to your partner about what you’ve learned, what you’re feeling, and what you’d like to see in your relationship.  Be clear about what you want and need from your partner.  If you have fears about this, there’s another tool available.

The third tool is therapy.  Talking with a professional can help you and your partner better understand attachment issues, where they came from, and how you can work through them together.  There are exercises and activities that can help with keeping those lines of communication open and being expressive in what you need and what you feel you’re lacking.

Therapy - Attachment Issues - Gone Minimal

Types of Attachment Issues

Attachment issues can present themselves in many different ways and influence someone’s ability to form secure and healthy relationships. It’s important to note that attachment issues can vary in severity and complexity and often stem from early life experiences. Professional support can help address attachment issues and promote healthier relationships.

 Over Attachment Issues

When we form an attachment to another that is too strong and too fast, it’s known as over attachment.  It’s a hard situation to be in when you’re over attached because it will always feel like rejection or a mismatch of emotion.  This can also lead to the development of emotional attachment issues.  Some of the best ways to deal with over attachment issues is to communicate, don’t question the behavior, and demonstrate caring and love for them.

Emotional Attachment Issues

Emotional attachment occurs when there is closeness and affection in a long-term, meaningful relationship.  It’s what helps maintain a relationship, but it’s not the same as love.  Emotional dependency is when it becomes unhealthy and can break down a relationship.  Emotional attachment issues occur when you depend on the other to validate and approve you, which can put strain on the relationship.  Communication is always key here-if your needs are not being met, tell your partner about what you need and how they can demonstrate their feelings.

Emotions - Attachment Issues - Gone Minimal

Types of Attachment Issues by Age

Attachment issues usually develop because of childhood issues, but they can look very different in different stages of life.  Let’s review what these can look like at various ages.

Attachment Issues in Adults

Adults are unique in how they express themselves with others and this is largely based on their upbringing.  As adults, we form relationships or attachments with significant others, coworkers, friends, and even neighbors based on previous experiences and sometimes to fill voids.  Sometimes these attachments work out fine, but other times they can be unhealthy.  Attachment issues in close relationships can look like communication challenges, substance abuse, physical or emotional abuse, depression and anxiety.  Communication is key at any age, whether it’s with the other person or a professional, in order to sort through the problems at the source and find better ways of dealing with them.

Attachment issues in close relationships can look like communication challenges, substance abuse, physical or emotional abuse, depression and anxiety.

Attachment Issues in Teenagers

The teenage years are a crucial time in exploring the world, emotions, and relationships with others.  If there have been issues in their upbringing, this can have a great effect on how willing (and able) teenagers are to explore their worlds.  Attachment issues in teenagers can look like rebellious actions, romantic involvements that progress too rapidly, depression, issues at school, and even avoidance of others. 

This can be easily confused with some normal teenage behaviors that are just part of the transition to increased independence and questioning authority.  The most important thing is to keep an open line of communication with your teenager and make sure there is trust.

Group of teenagers in class - Attachment Issues - Gone Minimal
Group of teenagers in class

 Attachment Issues in Children

Children depend upon parents and caregivers to meet their physical as well as emotional needs, and when there are issues with this then attachment issues develop.  Researchers from University of Fukui, Harvard Medical School, and McLean Hospital found that reactive attachment disorder develops as the result of poor treatment in early childhood and leads to emotional withdrawal from caregivers, and structural changes in the brain can even be seen in these children on MRI.  It’s paramount that children receive early treatment and intervention if there have been issues with caregiver relationships to prevent challenges that can last their lifetime.

Attachment Issues in Relationships

Relationships are often at risk of attachment issues when there is a history of abuse or parental issues.  There’s an old saying that we tend to look for someone like our parents or their relationship because it’s what we were raised with as our potential “ideal” relationship.  Take a look at the relationship of the people who raised you-was it healthy?  Did you feel supported and safe?  If not, there is a risk for attachment issues. 

When there are attachment issues in an adult, it can be really difficult to find and maintain a relationship.  The anxious-resistant person will desire intimacy, but feel like people don’t desire intimacy with them.  The avoidant person will also desire intimacy but fears getting hurt.  The disorganized-disoriented person will want a loving relationship, but not be consistent in engaging with or communicating with others what their needs are, while having abandonment fears.  These attachment issues can all be overcome with communication and couples’ therapy.

Newborn - Attachment Issue - Gone Minimal

Attachment Issues with Pets

Pets are a wonderful source of companionship, caring, and love.  When people have attachment issues with other people, they’re more likely to have attachment issues with pets as well.  In some instances it can get to be too much, and attachment issues with pets can lead to other, more complicated problems. 

Attachment Issues with Dogs

Simply stated, we don’t deserve dogs.  They love us unconditionally, they’re always there for us, and they can be the sole source of constancy for some.  This can lead to some dependence and even unresolved grief when the dog passes as it’s such a huge loss.  Dogs are with us for such a short time it’s easy to create a strong attachment to them, although if there’s an attachment issue at the other end of the spectrum (avoidant) then it’s not such a huge loss when they die.  Either way, dogs are great companions and there’s always one in need of a loving home like yours.

Attachment Issues with Cats

Cats may not be as loving and affectionate as dogs, but they can be a source for attachment issues all the same.  Cats are always around, they occasionally demonstrate their love for us, and they can be a companion.  It’s also a big loss when a cat passes if there’s a strong attachment to them as it creates an absence.  Good thing is-there are plenty of cats in need of homes that can help fill that gap.

Find out what your attachment style might be in this helpful video.

Related Insights

 What Are Signs of Attachment Issues?

Signs of attachment issues include anxiety, depression, aggression towards others, avoidance of others, refusal of support or care, being overly clingy towards someone, low self-esteem, and substance abuse disorders.

What Leads to Attachment Issues?

There are many things that can lead to attachment issues including parental depression, emotional abuse from parents and/or caregivers, traumatic events, and not having basic needs such as safety and affection met as an infant or toddler.

What Are the Four Types of Attachment Disorder?

The four types of attachment are secure, anxious-resistant, avoidant, and disorganized-disoriented.  There are two types of attachment disorders: reactive and disinhibited social engagement.

Dog on a leash - Attachment Issues - Gone Minimal
Dog on a leash

How Familiar Are People With Attachment Issues

I asked 5 friends/family if they have 1) Heard of attachment issues 2) Would be interested in learning more about attachment issues. Here is what I found out:

Hear of/Interested In LearningTally of Family/Friends
1) No 2) No2
1) No 2) Yes3
1) Yes 2) Yes3
1) Yes 2) No2

Other Resources:

Relationships are hard, and losing people and animals who are special to us is even harder.  Attachment issues can be challenging in any relationship, human or animal, but they can be overcome.  Communication is the key to creating and maintaining healthy relationships and working through any issues big or small.  

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