How is Anxious Attachment Style Related to Substance Abuse and Addiction?

anxious attachment style and addiction

Anxious attachment is one of the three insecure attachment styles. Also referred to as anxious ambivalent attachment in children, this attachment style develops in early childhood. When someone is a child, their parent’s behavior towards them will shape how they react to relationships and forms of attachment with others.

When someone has an anxious attachment style, this means that they are constantly concerned that their partner or loved one will not reciprocate their desire for intimacy. People with this style of attachment exhibit a preoccupation with the availability and responsiveness of their significant others, which include parents, friends, and romantic partners.

People with an anxious attachment style are prone to seeking out forms of validation and instant gratification, which could eventually lead to issues like substance abuse and addiction.

What is Anxious Attachment Style?

Everyone craves appreciation, attention, support, and love from the people they are close to. People have an innate need to be loved, valued, and appreciated. It is normal to seek validation from partners, family members, and friends. 

It is also completely normal for individuals to worry about losing their loved ones. But what happens when these fears are so strong that they get in the way of how a relationship functions? The fear of abandonment can be so strong that it controls a person’s relationship. 

This is what happens with people who have an anxious attachment style. They have such a strong fear of abandonment that, while they crave intimacy, they remain anxious about receiving it. 

People with an anxious attachment style often have a negative view of themselves and a positive view of others, causing them to strive for self-acceptance by gaining approval from others. For example, someone with this style of attachment may need constant reassurance from their romantic partner that they are loved.

What Causes Anxious Attachment Style?

The development of an anxious attachment style in children is caused by inconsistencies in parenting. Sometimes, the parent is supportive and cares for their child’s emotional needs while other times they are misattuned to the child. The inconsistencies make it difficult for the child to understand their parent’s behavior and predict what kind of emotional response they will receive.

Another way that the anxious attachment style is developed is due to something known as “emotional hunger” in caregivers. This refers to a phenomenon where the parent seeks emotional closeness from the child to satisfy their own needs, rather than supporting the child’s needs. These parents may appear intrusive or over-protective, or seem to use their child to present themselves as the “good parent” to others around them. 

Other risk factors for the development of an anxious attachment style include:

  • Trauma
  • Neglect
  • Early separation from parents
  • Long hospitalization
  • Inconsistency in parenting and emotional response
  • A caregiver with depression
  • An inexperienced mother

It is important to note that the behaviors of the parents are often automatic reactions, rather than calculated moves. Oftentimes, parents who create children with anxious attachments often have the same attachment style. This is because their parents parented them in the same manner, creating a cycle of behavioral patterns. 

Symptoms of Anxious Attachment as an Adult 

Someone who has an anxious attachment style may have a hard time saying “no” even when they want to. This is because they are afraid of being abandoned by their significant others. These individuals may show the signs of codependency, such as valuing the approval of others more than valuing themselves.

Other signs of an anxious attachment style as an adult include:

  • Being codependent 
  • Experiencing intense emotional discomfort when alone 
  • Having a hard time setting boundaries 
  • Having a strong fear of abandonment 
  • Feeling unworthy of love 
  • Being dependent on others 
  • Frequent need for validation 
  • Having an intense desire for intimacy or closeness 
  • Tendency to feel or act jealous 
  • Displaying people-pleasing tendencies 
  • Having low self-esteem 
  • Being sensitive to changes in how someone speaks, feels, or behaves 
  • Tolerating unhealthy behaviors in relationships 
  • Having a hard time trusting others 
  • Challenges with communicating that lead to frequent arguments
  • Self-sabotaging tendencies 
  • Being referred to as “clingy” or “needy”

How is Anxious Attachment Style Related to Addiction?

People with an anxious attachment style tend to have very low self-esteem. When they aren’t receiving validation from a relationship, they may become depressed, anxious, or struggle with feelings of unworthiness. These feelings can drive them to seek forms of self-medication, causing them to begin abusing drugs or alcohol. 

Another way that anxious attachment styles are related to addiction is they make people more susceptible to tolerating unhealthy behaviors in relationships. This can lead to unstable relationships with romantic partners and put them at a higher risk of being emotionally or physically abused. When someone is suffering from domestic violence, they have a higher risk of developing an addiction to cope with the trauma they are facing. 

Finding Help for Addiction

If you have an anxious attachment style and have turned to alcohol or drugs to cope with your uncomfortable feelings and emotions, it’s time to seek help. 

Moving Mountains Recovery uses a holistic and individualized approach to recovery to help each client embrace a sober lifestyle. We are committed to clinical excellence, which is why every client receives a custom-tailored treatment program that is uniquely designed by our clinical and medical team to meet his or her needs.

Contact Moving Mountains Recovery Center today to start your recovery.

References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2741157/
  2. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00296/full
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