The key to happiness is our healthy emotional relationships. But, what if your spouse, parent or sibling can’t seem to maintain positive relationships for long? They may struggle to connect with other people, unable to express their emotions or empathize with what others are going through.
It’s not that they don’t want to socialize and connect with others. They just may not be able to or lack the ability to build relationships because of an attachment disorder from their childhood.
What is Attachment Disorder?
It’s like a wall they can’t seem to climb over. They know they could be loved by others and feel a sense of belonging, but they can’t find a way over the trauma or neglect experienced as a child.
An attachment disorder is a type of behavioral health disorder that negatively impacts an individual’s ability to create and nurture relationships with others. Children typically learn how to interact with other people based on healthy interactions with parents or other caregivers. However, replacing those healthy connections with abuse, neglect or trauma can stifle this ability and result in an attachment disorder diagnosis.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), there are two types of attachment disorders:
- Reactive attachment disorder (RAD): RAD is often caused by early childhood maltreatment or neglect, resulting in irritability, sadness, little to no emotion during social engagements and little to no interaction with other people.
- Disinhibited social engagement disorder: This attachment disorder is triggered by social neglect in the first two years of life, resulting in a lack of social boundaries, too much trust in strangers and hyperactivity later on in childhood.
While the DSM-5 doesn’t recognize attachment disorder in adults, it’s possible for the disorder to manifest in adulthood and make it difficult to maintain healthy relationships.
What are the Symptoms of Attachment Disorder in Adults?
Adults who were diagnosed with attachment disorders growing up typically have low self-esteem and struggle to process their emotions and succeed in social situations.
If your loved one had reactive attachment disorder as a child, they may be resistant to affection and come off cold and distant with family and friends. They may be unable to pick up on the emotions of others, act out impulsively and find it difficult to manage their anger.
On the other hand, your loved one most likely struggles to respect social boundaries if they had been diagnosed with disinhibited social engagement disorder. They may come off intrusive, too social with people they barely know or exhibit a lack of inhibition when in social scenarios.
Many adults with a history of attachment disorder know that they’re pushing their loved ones away or being overly zealous with new acquaintances. Oftentimes this can trigger depression or anxiety, or even lead to substance use to try to cope with the symptoms.
How to Treat Attachment Disorder
Symptoms of a childhood attachment disorder don’t have to haunt your loved one for the rest of their life. It is possible for them to learn how to build healthy relationships and manage social situations appropriately.
If your loved one is struggling with a manifestation of their attachment disorder, the most effective form of treatment is psychotherapy, or talk therapy. Personalized individual therapy can help them face their trauma from childhood and learn how to cope with it.
At The Raleigh House, for example, our team of licensed behavioral health professionals can guide your loved one in therapy and help them address their disorder. Of course, we know that those who were diagnosed with attachment disorder may not be able to communicate their emotions well. This is why we offer alternative therapies like equine therapy, so your loved one has a way to recognize and process their emotions without needing to talk.
As your loved one makes progress in treatment, there may be opportunities to bring you and your family into therapy with them. We offer weekly family education sessions to help you understand what your loved one is going through, and parenting and marital therapy sessions are available, if deemed appropriate.
Find Behavioral Health Support at The Raleigh House
There’s hope for your loved one to finally establish the loving relationships they’ve struggled so long to build. At The Raleigh House, we offer an east to west approach that includes evidence-based treatments like individual therapy and experiential therapies like equine therapy and rock climbing.
Our team is committed to helping your loved one address the remnants of their attachment disorder so they can build healthy, fulfilling connections with others. Contact our admissions team today to learn more about how we can help your loved one heal.