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Attached: What Are Attachment Styles and How Can They Affect My Adult Relationships?

By: Bridgette W. Gottwald, LPC, NCC 

Your attachment style was developed with your primary caregiver when you were an infant. Before understanding attachment, we must know how to recognize it and how it affects relationships and connections amidst our lives. 

What is Attachment? 

Attachment, also known as attachment bonds, is the “emotional connection you formed as an infant with your primary caregiver – probably your mother.” Typically, the quality of bonding you experienced during this first relationship often determines how well you will relate to other people and respond to intimacy throughout your life.

For example, if your caretaker made you feel as if you were safe as a small child, they probably did this by responding to your cries and appropriately and accurately interpreting your emotional needs. If they did this successfully, then you likely developed a sense of secure attachment. Typically, as an adult, this translates to being self-confident, trusting, and hopeful, with an ability to healthily manage conflict, intimacy, and appropriately navigate the natural ups and downs of romantic relationships. On the other hand, if you were someone who experienced confusing, scary, or inconsistent emotional communication during infancy, you are more likely to have developed a sense of insecure attachment. Once you hit adulthood, you may have noticed having a hard time understanding your own emotions, as well as the feelings of others. This may or may not have limited your ability to build or maintain stable relationships. Often, if this is the case, it’s more challenging for the person to connect to others, they may shy away from intimacy, be clingy, fearful, or anxious in a relationship.

The Infant Brain 

Do you behave in puzzling ways within some of your relationships? Or perhaps you repeatedly make the same mistakes over and over again? Are you someone who struggles to develop meaningful connections in the first place? All of this may be due to how your infant brain was influenced by the attachment bond. Understanding your attachment style will give you the ability to understand why you may be having problems. Rest assured that whatever problems you may be experiencing; the brain can change throughout life. 

Types of Attachment

There are four main attachment styles and understanding them may help you to “identify patterns, help you clarify what you need in a relationship and how to overcome problems.” The different attachment styles are listed below with brief descriptions on how to understand and differentiate between them. Are you able to determine which one fits you best?

  1. Secure attachment
  • Empathetic and able to set appropriate boundaries
  • Typically, they feel safe, stable, and more satisfied within relationships
  • Although they do not fear being on their own, they thrive in close and meaningful relationships
  1. Ambivalent (or anxious preoccupied) attachment
  • Needy, anxious, uncertain, lacking in self-esteem
  • Crave emotional intimacy but fear that others do not want to be with them
  1. Avoidant-dismissive attachment
  • Avoid emotional connection with others due to wariness
  • Prefer to not rely on others and not have others rely on them
  1. Disorganized attachment
  • Stems from fear and is often the result of childhood trauma, abuse, or neglect
  • Feel as if they do not deserve love or closeness within relationships

If after reading this blog, you realize that your attachment style is not where you would like for it to be, there are things you can do to transition to a more secure attachment style. Improving your communication skills, boosting your emotional intelligence, developing relationships with people that are securely attached, and resolving childhood trauma are good places to start, and a therapist can help you get started. Give us a call today at Symmetry Counseling (312-578-9990) to get matched with one of our talented clinicians! 

Reference: 

  1. Robinson, J. Segal & J. Jaffe. (2021). How attachment styles affect adult relationships. Help Guide. Retrieved from: https://www.helpguide.org/articles/relationships-communication/attachment-and-adult-relationships.htm
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