The past has a powerful influence over our lives. Many of the challenges that we face with depression and anxiety stem from our relationships. The patterns we see in our relationships are things we learned as children from the people around us. When our early childhood relationships are unstable or abusive, they serve as an anchor that keeps us tied to the past instead of forging new, healthier patterns.
Attachment Trauma is the term we use for those wounds formed by our earliest relationships. Most commonly, these wounds are formed as the result of neglect, abuse, and inconsistency. Today’s post will cover various types of attachment trauma, and how it may be affecting your relationships.
How Does Attachment Trauma Form?
We’re born into this world without the ability to protect or care for ourselves—from a very young age, we rely on our caregivers to feed us, keep us safe, and teach us about the world. As children we’re still forming ideas about how to love, how to trust, and how to connect with people around us. Childhood is when we learn how to love ourselves. Trauma is created by the destruction of our sense of safety. Our uncertainty about what to expect causes us to put up defenses that protected us as children, but hold us back as adults.
Common causes of attachment trauma include:
- Abandonment or Rejection by Caregivers
- Chronic Stress \ Unsafe Environments
- Inconsistency in Caregivers
- Emotional or Physical Abuse
- Emotional or Physical Neglect
- Death in the Family \ Loss of Caregivers
- Family History of Mental Health Issues
- Poverty \ Financial Hardship
- Separation from Caregivers
- Substance Abuse in the Home
It’s worth noting that trauma is subjective and it is physiological. Don’t be quick to write off your trauma as a personal failing. Give yourself the kindness every child deserves.
Signs of Attachment Trauma
Attachment Trauma is closely linked to depression, anxiety, borderline personality disorder, and complex PTSD. Stormy relationship dynamics are a sure sign of attachment trauma.
Common signs of attachment trauma in adults include:
- Anxiety issues
- Emotional dysregulation/anger management issues
- Feeling broken or ashamed
- Fear of Abandonment/Rejection
- Inability to form relationships
- Lack of trust
- Low self-esteem
- Self-destructive behaviors
- Sexual promiscuity
- Substance abuse
Attachment Styles & Trauma
Our traumatic early childhood experiences often color how we conduct ourselves in relationships as adults. There are four main attachment styles. Individuals and couples should look at their history in order to understand where their behaviors stem from.
People with an anxious-preoccupied attachment have an intense need for validation and love which often makes them particularly sensitive in relationships. Neglect, inconsistency, and rejection may have been common in their household growing up. As such, individuals with an anxious-preoccupied attachment style are often on high alert for signs of danger and need constant reassurance.
Individuals with an avoidant attachment style learned early to regard emotional connection as dangerous. They may protect themselves by putting up emotional barriers, engaging on a strictly surface level, and actively sabotaging their relationships when they begin to feel a sense of closeness. People with an avoidant attachment style put independence first.
Disorganized (Fearful-Avoidant) Attachment Style
These individuals crave close emotional connection while simultaneously fearing those relationships. As children, they lacked clear structure and consistent care. Caretakers were a source of fear and insecurity in their lives.
People with a secure attachment style are unlikely to let worries about their relationship drive their behavior; they know they’re worthy of love and expect respect and kindness.
Reach out today if you’re ready to move on from the past. Working as a team, we can cut loose any anchors that might be holding you back so that you can move forward. The little kid who needed safety and love is still alive inside you, and with the right guidance, it’s possible to help them heal with trauma therapy.