Disorganized Attachment – Causes, Symptoms, And How To Heal

Written by Harini Natarajan

Children depend entirely on their caregivers or parents for survival. They instinctively develop a sense of strong emotional connection with them. And how caretakers create a secure base for their children becomes a crucial factor in their mental, social, and emotional development.

If parents fail to respond or address their kids’ distress or fear, it might lead to disorganized attachment. Lack of true connection, support, kindness, and love from the caregivers can make the child experience this issue. A person with disorganized attachment might also undergo a feeling of abandonment, rejection, and low self-worth.

In this article, we have compiled everything to need to know about disorganized attachment – causes, symptoms, and ways to heal. Scroll down for more information.

How Is Attachment Formed?

According to John Bowlby, a British psychologist, and the first attachment theorist, attachment is a “lasting psychological connectedness between human beings”. Attachment theory talks about the fact that primary caregivers who are available and responsive to an infant’s needs allow the child to develop a sense of security. The infant is aware that the caregiver is dependable, which creates a secure base for the child to explore the world.

Depending on parenting, the type of attachment varies, and a child can develop one of these four attachments:

  • Secure Attachment

Secure attachment is a bond that meets the child’s need for security and understanding, allowing for optimal development of the child’s nervous system. As the child’s brain develops and organizes itself, they build empathy, trust, eagerness to learn, and healthy self-awareness.

  • Avoidant Attachment

Avoidant attachment occurs in children who do not receive sensitive responses to their needs or distress. During the early years of childhood, kids who experience avoidant attachment may become very independent emotionally and physically.

  • Ambivalent/Anxious Attachment

Ambivalent attachment is a form of insecure attachment that occurs due to inconsistent responses of the caregivers. As a result of this unstable attachment, a child develops anxiety and preoccupation about the caregiver’s availability.

  • Disorganized Attachment

It is primarily found in people who were physically, verbally, emotionally, or sexually abused in their childhood. As adults, people with this attachment style are inconsistent in their behavior and have difficulty trusting others. They often suffer from substance abuse, depression, or borderline personality disorder.

What Is Disorganized Attachment?

A child develops an organized attachment with their caregiver when they provide a safe and secure base for them. The child knows that they have a safe place to return to and someone who will always strive to meet their needs. They become confident to venture out independently and explore the world.

But, when the caregiver has not created a safe and secure base, a child develops disorganized attachment. Disorganized attachment occurs from fright without solutions. The child may love their caregivers but stays in constant fear of rejection and abandonment.

Parents can frighten their children unconsciously in various ways. It may be through abuse, violence, or some unresolved past issues in the parent’s life that leave him or her feeling afraid. This unintentionally scares the child, and they become unsure how the caregiver will respond to their needs. A child’s instincts are thus conflicted as they seek support and security from their caregiver, but they are also scared.

Now that you know what attachment is and how it is formed, let’s look at the causes of disorganized attachment.

Causes Of Disorganized Attachment

Disorganized attachment develops due to a parents’ or caregivers’ consistent failure to respond appropriately to their children’s distress. It happens due to perceived fear. A child knows subconsciously that their safety is dependent on their caregivers and the problem arises when the source of security becomes the source of apprehension.

A few common causes that might lead to disorganized attachment are:

  • Ignoring the child’s cries for a long time.
  • Never responding to the child positively.
  • Yelling or mocking the child’s fears.
  • Using fear or intimidation to stop crying.
  • Avoiding physical contact or genuine connection.
  • Not providing enough support during vulnerable situations.

One of the primary causes of disorganized attachment is often the result of intergenerational parenting patterns. This means parents respond to their children in the same unhealthy ways their parents responded to them when they were kids.

A person with disorganized attachment might experience a life of crisis and chaos. Check out the next section to explore some of the common signs of disorganized attachment.

9 Signs Of Disorganized Attachment

  1. Constant fear of rejection and difficulty in connecting with and trusting others.
  2. Chaotic, unpredictable, or intense relationship patterns and behaviors.
  3. Extreme need for closeness with the tendency to avoid intimacy and push others away.
  4. Aggressive behavior towards caregivers or partners.
  5. Latent fear of caregivers or partners.
  6. Negative self-image, low self-esteem, and a pessimistic view of the world as untrustworthy or chaotic.
  7. Deep-rooted shame.
  8. Depression and anxiety issues.
  9. Feeling unlovable, unworthy, or inadequate.

A few practices can help you recover from a disorganized attachment and establish a secure relationship. However, the best solution to heal from such a traumatic experience is to seek help from a professional therapist.

Healing From Disorganized Attachment

  • Seek Professional Help

Professional therapy can help develop a safe, secure, and stable relationship. It will help a person with disorganized attachment develop effective communication skills and set boundaries in other relationships. Therapy can also address other mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and fear management. Your counselor will provide many examples of caring and acceptance to make you feel lovable and worthy.

  • Recognize Your Triggers

Disorganized attachment often leads to a feeling of abandonment – you feel disconnected from others and yourself. The constant fear and anxiety can lead to questioning your self-worth. So, take a moment to reflect on the factors that caused such feelings. Recognizing the triggers will help you understand the root cause of certain behavior. It will enable you to get rid of the feeling of abandonment. You can develop a sense of security within yourself and the people around you.

  • Learn Ways To Self-Soothe

Focus on your interests and the things you like to do. This will help make you feel calm and healthy. Self-talking is also a primary way of self-soothing. Speak gently to yourself the way a loving person would speak to a child. Remind yourself that you deserve love and connection. Slowly picture the wonderful people of your life in your mind and repeat their names.

  • Communicate About Your Needs

Healing from disorganized attachment has a lot to do with being honest and communicative about your emotional needs. You must talk openly and make yourself heard by your loved ones. Also, remember to be gentle, patient, and forgiving to yourself.

Conclusion

A stable attachment is formed when the child gets a sense of security from the caregivers. If the child’s needs are not met, and their caregivers are not emotionally available or responsive, the connection might break. As a result, the child finds it difficult to form a secure bond and might experience disorganized attachment. Go through the methods listed in this article and take your time to heal.

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As Chief Editor, Harini sets the tone and editorial direction for StyleCraze to deliver engaging, interesting, and authentic content revolving around women's health, wellness, and beauty. She has over 14 years of experience in content writing and editing for online media. She specializes in the areas of Beauty, Lifestyle, and Health & Wellness and is proficient in Medical Sciences (Biology, Human Anatomy and Physiology, and Biochemistry). Her background in Biomedical Engineering helps her decode and interpret the finer nuances of scientific research for her team. Harini is a certified bibliophile and a closet poet. She also loves dancing and traveling to offbeat destinations.