How Can Attachment Style Affect Substance Abuse and Addiction

how can attachment style affect substance abuse and addiction

Millions of people across the United States live with substance abuse and addiction. These conditions put people at risk of severe mental, physical, and social harm. Without treatment, the effects of the addiction are likely to worsen or become life-threatening.

People living with addiction often feel isolated and may work to disconnect from concerned friends and family. While addiction is a complex condition with biological, emotional, and environmental roots, many experts know that people often begin to abuse drugs and alcohol when their stress overwhelms their ability to cope. 

Mental health specialists believe that often, stress can have deep roots that span back to a person’s childhood. Attachment theory is the idea that what happens in childhood–especially within a person’s relationships with their parents–can affect you in adulthood.

Attachment theory examines the relationships between children and their parents or caregivers and evaluates how healthy they are. The theory proposes that people tend to recreate the relationships they had with their parents as adults and that our ability to have a healthy attachment to others is based on our childhood interactions with our parents. 

Understanding how attachment style, substance abuse, and addiction are related may help people stop thinking of addiction as a failure or character flaw and more as an issue that deserves compassionate treatment.

Contact the Moving Mountains Recovery specialists today if you or someone you love require substance abuse treatment or support during recovery. 

Exploring Attachment Theory

Attachment theory is the idea that the kind of attachments children have with their parents influence our behaviors and beliefs in our adult relationships. There are three main factors that attachment theory experts look at. They are:

  • Dependence or avoidance: The level of comfort people experience depending on another person or having others depend on them. 
  • Anxiety: The level of fear someone has about being abandoned or rejected by their partner. 
  • Closeness: How comfortable a person is with emotional vulnerability and intimacy within a relationship.

Humans are born dependent on their parents, and it is a parent’s job to meet their child’s changing physical and emotional needs throughout childhood. Attachment theory suggests that people learn how to exist in relationships from the examples set by their parents or caregivers.

In short, how safe and secure you feel in your adult relationships–and your ability to manage stress and challenges–can depend on the relationship you had with your parents. The inability to manage stress and life challenges is also a major risk factor for substance abuse, so an unhealthy attachment style and addiction often coexist.

What are the Attachment Styles?

There are four primary attachment styles. Every relationship is unique and complex. The style of attachment may likely change throughout any relationship. However, consistent patterns of attachment may exist within a relationship.

Secure attachment

In a relationship governed by secure attachment, a person would keep their identity and independence but feel comfortable trusting another person and having others depend on them. 

Avoidant attachment

In avoidant attachment, people value independence over connectedness. Communication lacks compassion and focuses solely on logic. Parents may ignore their child’s emotional cues or withhold emotions.  

Anxious attachment

Anxious attachment is ruled by anxiety and a need for closeness without appropriate emotional boundaries. A person with an anxious attachment may have a difficult time accepting blame or responsibility. They may fear abandonment or rejection and be emotionally needy or volatile. Children in this relationship may feel confused or anxious about their parent’s emotional inconsistency. 

Disorganized attachment

People with disorganized attachments avoid intimacy or closeness because they do not trust others. They may suffer from unresolved trauma or PTSD and be argumentative or abusive towards partners and children.

Attachment theory suggests that the attachment style you had with your parents or caregivers can affect your well-being and ability to function for the rest of your life, including your adult relationships and the way you parent. Some mental health and addiction specialists believe that it may also make people more susceptible to developing substance abuse or addiction.

Understanding the Connection Between Attachment Theory and Addiction

Attachment theory suggests that people’s relationships and interactions with their parents can dictate how they exist in future relationships. If a child is raised with anxious, avoidant, or disorganized attachment, they may carry this stress and lack of coping skills with them into adulthood. 

Substance abuse and addiction are complex conditions with many environmental, biological, and behavioral roots. When faced with stress or challenges that overwhelm their ability to cope, some people may attempt to manage these by any means, including using drugs and alcohol. Without addressing their trauma and learning other coping skills, they will likely continue abusing substances, which can lead to addiction.

Treating Attachment Style and Addiction

Because addiction is such a complex condition, addressing the emotional, physical, and environmental factors that contribute to it during treatment is essential. Comprehensive addiction treatment combines therapies for a person’s mind, body, and spirit. After completing detox, people must engage in whole-person treatment, including:

  • Individual therapy
  • Behavioral therapy
  • Group counseling
  • Education
  • Medications
  • Mental health and medical care
  • Family therapy
  • Holistic treatments, such as nature therapy, nutrition counseling, mindfulness, massage, and more

Comprehensive, compassionate substance abuse treatment allows people to identify and heal trauma from unhealthy attachment styles, learn to cope with stress, and develop and sustain healthy relationships in the future.

Get Help Now

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.

Our approach stands out from the average substance abuse treatment center because we make recovery rewarding and fulfilling.  While receiving individualized care to heal from addiction, clients also engage in adventure therapies, therapeutic recreation, and other hands-on activities.  The goal of this type of dynamic, immersive treatment is to help you find a new life that is so full of passion that there is no room left for drugs and alcohol.

If you or someone you love requires addiction treatment, reach out to the caring specialists at Moving Mountains Recovery today. 

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