What is Avoidant Attachment Style and How is it Related to Addiction?

avoidant attachment style and addiction

Humans seek relationships to receive love, support, and comfort from others, but everyone does it differently. Some people may be very clingy and require constant validation, while others are more aloof and detached from their relationships. Attachment theory was created to explain the differences in how people behave in close relationships.

There are four attachment styles: anxious, avoidant, disorganized, and secure. According to attachment theory, people develop these attachment styles in childhood. They are formed based on how the caregivers of the child contribute to the way the child perceives close relationships.  

Avoidant attachment style is a type of behavior that occurs when a child does not experience sensitive responses to their needs and wants. This causes the child to grow up becoming very independent physically and emotionally. While people can live successful lives as someone with an avoidant attachment style, it can also lead to issues such as addiction. 

What is Avoidant Attachment Style?

The avoidant attachment style, also referred to as dismissive, causes people to behave like “lone wolves.” On an emotional level, these people behave independently, act strong, and are self-sufficient. Additionally, many individuals with an avoidant attachment style have high self-esteem and a positive view of themselves, meaning they do not rely on positive reassurance from others. 

People with avoidant attachment style:

  • Believe they do not need close relationships to feel complete 
  • Do not depend on others or want others to depend on them 
  • Do not seek approval or support in social bonds 
  • Avoid emotional closeness 
  • Hide or suppress their feelings in emotionally-dense situations 

While these individuals display high self-esteem and positively view themselves, their childhood was full of strict and emotionally distant parenting styles. This means they never learn how to properly express their feelings and may not know how to create a healthy relationship. As a result, it is common for people with this attachment style to avoid emotional intimacy. 

Having close relationships is a part of being emotionally healthy, and according to research, it also lowers a person’s risk of mortality.[1] Because of this, when someone with an avoidant attachment style continuously avoids emotional intimacy with others, they may adopt some unhealthy coping mechanisms.

What Causes Avoidant Attachment Style?

Infants and children generally need to form a close bond with their parents or caregivers. When a child’s attempts at forming a secure attachment are rejected, they may learn to suppress their desire for comfort when they are distressed or upset. This is how the avoidant attachment style begins to develop in early childhood. 

Parents who are emotionally unavailable to their children tend to create an avoidant attachment style in their children. Additionally, discouraging or scolding a baby or toddler from crying rather than comforting them is a common cause of avoidant attachment. 

The parent of a child with an avoidant attachment style may:

  • Lack the knowledge on how to emotionally support their child
  • Have a hard time with empathy 
  • Feel overwhelmed by parenting responsibilities 
  • Have an avoidant attachment style themselves 
  • Not have a developed sense of commitment

Because of how they grew up, children with this attachment style may be disconnected from their emotions and feelings. Their parent’s inability to soothe and comfort them causes them to begin learning how to self-soothe. Unfortunately, this causes some individuals to develop negative coping mechanisms, like drug or alcohol abuse.

Symptoms of Avoidant Attachment

Someone with an avoidant attachment style may display no outward desire for closeness, affection, or love because their original attempts to receive love and support were rejected repeatedly. However, deep down they still need attachment with others, they just do not know how to healthily create connections. 

Avoidant attachment style often lasts into adulthood. As an adult, a person with this attachment style may:

  • Avoid emotional closeness in relationships 
  • Feel like their partners are being clingy when they want to be emotionally close 
  • Withdraw and cope with difficult situations on their own 
  • Suppress their emotions 
  • Avoid complaining and begin sulking or hinting at what is wrong 
  • Suppress negative memories 
  • Withdraw from unpleasant conversations or sights 
  • Fear rejection 
  • Have a strong sense of independence
  • Have feelings of high self-esteem and negative views of others 
  • Be overly focused on their own needs and comfort 

How is Avoidant Attachment Related to Addiction?

People need to be close to others. Receiving love, emotional support, and intimacy is a vital part of the human experience. When someone has an avoidant attachment style, they actively avoid partaking in close and emotionally intimate relationships. 

This means that the only person who is supporting their emotional needs is themselves. Additionally, they were never taught as a child how to care for their needs, instead, they picked up self-soothing techniques on their own. While some individuals may thrive at self-soothing, others may fall victim to negative coping mechanisms. 

When someone with an avoidant attachment style has no way to positively deal with their stress or emotions, they may turn to drugs or alcohol. This is because abusing these substances can lead to emotional numbing or blunting, allowing them to continue avoiding their emotions. 

Avoidant attachment style and addiction also have many of the same risk factors, including emotional neglect during childhood and social isolation

Finding Help for Addiction

If you have an avoidant attachment style and turned to drugs or alcohol to cope with your uncomfortable emotions, it’s time to seek help. A professional drug and alcohol treatment center can teach you how to deal with your emotions positively while you heal from the causes and effects of your addiction. 

Contact Moving Mountains Recovery Center today for more information on our emotionally-focused drug and alcohol addiction treatment programs.


  1. https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2017/09/close-relationships
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