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Attachment disorder in adults

Addressing Attachment Disorder in Adults

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Attachment disorders are typically associated with children. But if someone doesn’t get the care they need at a young age, their symptoms can persist, which can lead to an attachment disorder in adults as well. These conditions can have a highly detrimental impact on a person’s quality of life, but they are treatable. With effective professional care, adults who have attachment disorders can learn to manage their symptoms and take greater control of their thoughts and actions.

What Is an Attachment Disorder?

Attachment disorders are mental health conditions that are characterized by an inability to form healthy connections with other people. 

These disorders are typically diagnosed in children who have had problems forming an emotional attachment with their parents or other caregivers. However, children who do not receive effective treatment for an attachment disorder may continue to struggle throughout their adolescence and adulthood.

Types of Attachment Disorders

The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), which is the standard reference book for clinicians in the United States, includes entries for two attachment disorders:

  • Reactive attachment disorder (RAD): Characteristics of RAD include not seeking (or responding to) comfort when distressed, minimal responsiveness to others, limited positive affect, and episodes of unexplained sadness or fear. The DSM-5 reports that these symptoms should be evident before the individual has reached age 5.
  • Disinhibited social engagement disorder: Symptoms of this disorder include exhibiting little to no hesitance about interacting with unfamiliar adults, behaving in an overly familiar manner, and failing to check back with caregivers, even in unfamiliar situations. As with RAD, disinhibited social engagement disorder is typically diagnosed at a very young age.

The DSM-5 also notes that both of these attachment disorders are related to traumatic or other highly stressful experiences, such as being neglected or failing to have one’s basic emotional needs met during early childhood.

Signs & Symptoms of an Attachment Disorder in Adults

The following signs and symptoms could be indicators of an attachment disorder in adults:

  • Difficulty forming and maintaining relationships (including friendships and romantic partnerships)
  • Having a hard time demonstrating or accepting affection
  • Failure to recognize and respect personal boundaries
  • Rigidity or other types of awkwardness in social situations
  • Inability to express positive emotions
  • Poor anger-management capabilities
  • Distrust of others
  • Impulsivity

The cumulative impact of these and similar symptoms – which can be exacerbated by the continued negative influence of untreated trauma – can cause adults to adopt the following dysfunctional attachment styles:

  • Ambivalent: Also sometimes referred to as anxious attachment, this style is often dominated by jealousy, guilt, and a persistent need for reassurance. People who adopt this attachment style can appear to be “clingy” or overly obsessed with their partner. These characteristics can be similar to the behaviors of someone who has borderline personality disorder.
  • Disorganized: Also similar to borderline personality disorder, the disorganized attachment style can involve dramatic changes in a person’s feelings toward their partner, swinging from intense love to disinterest or even hatred. People who develop the disorganized style may have a deep desire to be loved while simultaneously believing that they are unworthy of affection or compassion.
  • Avoidant-dismissive: This maladaptive attachment style is characterized by a lack of meaningful attachments. People who adopt avoidant-dismissive style will be uncomfortable expressing their emotions. They may also appear to be disinterested in others’ feelings, which can cause them to be described as distant or cold. They will seem to value their independence above all else.

The distress of an attachment disorder in adults has been associated with several additional problems, such as the following:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Substance abuse and addiction
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Social isolation

How Can Adults Treat an Attachment Disorder?

Several forms of therapy have proved to be beneficial for people who have attachment disorders. However, there is no single path of treatment that is ideal for every adult who has one of these conditions. This is why it is so important to find a provider who can assess the full scope of your needs, then develop an individualized plan just for you.

Depending on a variety of personal factors, attachment disorder treatment may include services such as the following:

Treatment for attachment disorders in adults may occur at either the inpatient or outpatient level. Inpatient care may be the best choice for someone who has been experiencing severe symptoms that have significantly impacted their ability to function. After completing an inpatient program, a patient may step down to outpatient care for additional support as they progress in their recovery.

Individuals who do not require 24/7 support may enter treatment directly at the outpatient level. Options at this level include partial hospitalization programs (PHPs) and intensive outpatient programs (IOPs). 

Contact Our Treatment Center for Attachment Disorders in Los Angeles, CA

If your life has been negatively impacted by the pervasive symptoms of an attachment disorder, Montare Behavioral Health is here to help. Our attachment disorder treatment center in Los Angeles, California, offers personalized care and comprehensive support at several convenient locations.

At each of our facilities, you will have the opportunity to work in close collaboration with a team of experienced and compassionate treatment professionals. At both the inpatient and outpatient levels, your care will feature an array of evidence-based services, customized according to your unique needs. As you approach the end of your treatment, we’ll also develop a detailed plan to guide your continued progress in the weeks and months to come.

The time you spend at Montare Behavioral Health may be relatively brief, but the care you receive here and the skills you develop are designed to yield lifelong benefits. To learn more or to schedule a free assessment, please visit our Contact Us page or call us today.