RadKid.Org: Reactive Attachment Disorder

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Reactive Attachment Disorder: Adult Attachment Issues

The main reason that people seek therapy are problems with relationships. Such problems might arise at home, at work, or they might appear as a general feeling of not fitting in. Traditionally, attachment disorders have been thought to be specific to children, but there is a growing recognition that attachment issues are a significant problem for adults as well. When attachment issues are not resolved in childhood, the adult is left vulnerable to problems in forming relationships with other people. Simply, the patterns of attachment that were learned in childhood continue throughout the person's life cycle, all too often to be passed on to the next generation of children.

Until someone breaks the chain, attachment problems are handed down through the generations. An insecurely attached adult, as a parent, may be unable to form the necessary strong attachment to his, or her, children, leaving the child without the resources for healthy emotional development, predisposing the child to a life of similar difficulties. A child's first relationship is generally with his parents, and when these relationships are safe and loving, the child learns to connect to others in a healthy way. However, when a child's relationship with his parents are hurtful, neglectful, or absent, the child doesn't form the capacity to form healthy relationships of his own.

Adults with attachment issues may be clinging, co-dependent, and needy, or they may exert a level of anger and hostility that prevents others from getting close, while others might live their lives superficially, unable to access their true emotions, in each case relying upon patterns that may have helped them survive as children, but leaving them isolated as adults.

On the positive side, there is treatment available for adults with attachment disorder.


Depending upon the genetic personality traits of the individual, and their early life experiences, an insecurely attached adult will fall into one of two categories:


  • Intense anger and loss
  • Hostile
  • Overly critical of others
  • Sensitive to blame
  • Lack of empathy
  • Views others as untrustworthy or undependable
  • Views self as unlovable, or too good for others
  • Relationships feel either threatening to one's sense of control, not worth the effort, or both
  • Compulsive self-reliance
  • Passive withdrawal
  • Low levels of perceived support
  • Difficulty getting along with co-workers, often preferring to work alone
  • Work may provide a good excuse to avoid personal relations
  • Fear of closeness in relationships
  • Avoidance of intimacy
  • Unlikely to idealize the love relationship
  • Tendency toward self criticism


  • Compulsive caregiving
  • Feel overinvolved and underappreciated
  • No longterm relationships
  • Idealizing of others
  • Strong desire for partner to reciprocate in relationship
  • Desire for extensive contact and declarations of affections
  • Overinvests his/her emotions in a relationship
  • Perceives relationships as imbalanced
  • Preoccupation or dependence on relationship
  • Views partner as desirable but unpredictable (sometimes available, sometimes not)
  • Perceives others as difficult to understand
  • Relationship is primary method by which one can experience a sense of security
  • Unlikely to view others as altruistic
  • Sensitive to rejection
  • Discomfort with anger
  • Extreme emotions
  • Jealous
  • Possessive
  • Views self as unlovable
  • Suicide attempts
  • Mood swings
  • Tendency toward dependent depression

Note: The above information was derived from a number of sources, one of them being the Evergreen Consultants in Human Behavior, based in Evergreen, Colorado.


Last Modified on: Saturday, August 08, 2009


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