We all have an attachment style. Attachment theory suggests that we form our respective styles in childhood. Our early relationships with our caregivers during childhood form how we build relationships as adults. Our caregivers (parents) are our first examples of social interactions and inform our styles. When a child perceives their caregivers with fear, they might have difficulty trusting others. Those kids will start to behave inconsistently and develop a disorganized attachment style.  

Symptoms Of Disorganized Attachment Style In Adults

Also known as the fearful-avoidant attachment style, it is one of the more challenging attachment styles to overcome. Disorganized attachment leads to inconsistent behavior. It’s sort of the meshing of avoidant attachment and anxious attachment. It stems from when a child no longer feels safe with their caregiver. Parents are a source of safety and calm for children, so when that is broken, the child may fear their parents instead. When parents are inconsistent in their behavior, the child does not know what to expect, leading to even more fear. The inconsistent behavior is usually something traumatizing, such as a parent abusing the child or the child seeing the parent abuse someone else. One moment the parent is nice and safe, they are mean and abusive. 

Disorganized attachment in an adult is confusing. One could call it contradictory. On the one hand, a disorganized attached adult wants to feel love, intimacy, and closeness with another person, but they also are afraid to let that other person pass their walls. They are scared that those closest to them will end up hurting them. This fear of intimacy is similar to the avoidant attachment style, but the biggest difference is that those adults still want relationships and intimacy. Disorganized attachment means you are afraid of intimacy, but you don’t necessarily reject it outright. This fear of intimacy comes from a negative view of themselves and others. It’s a mix of a fear of getting hurt and a fear that they aren’t good enough. 

Wanting To Make A Change

After some research, the best analogy I found for wanting to grow past disorganized attachment is to imagine you are playing a game that you never understood the rules of. You want to play the game with others, but you were never taught how, so you never know what to expect when it’s your turn. And the frustrating thing is you keep losing and don’t know why.

The first step is recognizing where you are in your journey of healing. What trauma has led to your disorganized attachment style? Starting there can make the process easier, but it will be hard. The fear of being hurt by a trusted loved one is hard to overcome. The easiest thing to do is avoid all kinds of attachment, which isn’t healthy, nor will it lead to healing.  

One of the best tools for self-improvement and healing is seeing a therapist. But it can be expensive even if you have insurance. If that’s the case, check out Rise Above The Disorder. They are one of my favorite nonprofits that focus on connecting people to mental health resources and professionals. If you’re not ready to see a therapist, check out some online resources or a self-help book. We truly live in the best time when it comes to gathering information. There is bound to be something out there that can help. (When in doubt, go to your local library. Librarians are the best and will lead you in the right direction.)      

And if you don’t know your attachment style, there are a billion quizzes you can take online. Here is one of that billion. And if you want a small breakdown of each attachment style, I wrote an article on them. 

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