Have you ever noticed that some people seem to struggle more than others with forming and maintaining healthy relationships? Perhaps you have a friend who always seems to be drawn to partners who are emotionally unavailable or abusive. Or maybe you've noticed that you struggle to trust others or let people get close to you.
These issues can be a result of attachment trauma, something often overlooked or misunderstood.
Attachment trauma occurs when a child does not receive the necessary physical and emotional care during the early stages of their life. This can lead to a host of problems later on, including difficulty forming healthy relationships and coping with stress, or falling into a spiral of substance abuse.
However, there are also several lesser-known consequences of attachment trauma that can affect individuals in different ways.
In this article, we'll explore these outcomes and how they can impact your life.
“When you have a persistent sense of heartbreak and gut-wrench, the physical sensations become intolerable and we will do anything to make those feelings disappear."
Bessel van der Kolk, Psychiatrist, known for his extensive reasearch in PTSD
Individuals who have experienced attachment trauma may have difficulties regulating their emotions. This can result in intense and overwhelming emotions that are difficult to control, leading to impulsive behavior and poor decision-making.
Negative parental behaviors, such as neglect, abuse, and inconsistent care, have been linked to difficulties in emotion regulation in children.
For example, a child who has been neglected may develop a heightened sensitivity to threats and a reduced ability to self-regulate emotions.
All this can cause difficulty regulating emotions, and the child may act out in ways that are harmful to themselves or others. Over time, this can become a pattern of behavior that persists into adulthood, leading to difficulties in maintaining healthy relationships.
Continuing on the negative impact of emotional dysregulation, attachment trauma can make a child feel like they are in a difficult situation with no way out. They may feel anxious, scared, or panicked when they are around their main caregiver, but they still have a strong desire to be close to them for comfort.
This can be really confusing and distressing for the child, as they feel torn between wanting to be close to someone who is causing them pain and wanting to run away from them.
Essentially, attachment trauma makes it hard for a child to learn how to trust others and develop healthy relationships, which can have long-term effects on their emotional well-being, and entangle them in a web of harmful relationships in the future.
Adding on to the difficulty of managing healthy relationships, the suffering individual not only struggles to form healthy relationships but can also sabotage their relationships when they do form them properly.
This pattern of relational self-sabotage is rooted in a cycle of hurting others and then hurting oneself. Those with a history of attachment trauma often operate in survival mode, unconsciously testing or challenging the emotional investment of those in their lives, and then pushing them away out of fear of abandonment. This leads to poor choices based on impulsivity and toxic relationships that replay their trauma.
Depending on the person's unique attachment style, self-sabotage can manifest in different ways. Anxiously attached people may neglect friendships or become smothering in order to spend every moment with their partner. Fearfully avoidant people may test their partner by making them jump through hoops and setting the stage for self-defeat. Avoidantly attached people may push away and stay away, preferring to keep their relationships at an emotionally safe distance.
All of these behaviours prevent emotional intimacy and closeness in relationships.
Many people with a history of attachment trauma experience unexplained physical ailments such as fibromyalgia, headaches, gastrointestinal upset, insomnia, muscle aches, back and neck pain, chest pain, and chronic fatigue.
Chronic pain can be a result of attachment trauma, as unresolved trauma can manifest itself in physical symptoms. When a person experiences trauma, their body goes into “fight or flight” mode, releasing stress hormones and increasing the heart rate.
This response is meant to protect the person from danger, but if the trauma is not resolved, the body may remain in this state of heightened alertness, leading to chronic pain. Chronic pain can also be caused by emotional distress, such as depression or anxiety.
People with unresolved attachment trauma may also experience difficulty forming healthy relationships, which can lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation, further contributing to chronic pain.
People with attachment trauma may have difficulty communicating effectively due to their fear of being rejected or hurt. This can lead to misunderstandings and conflict in relationships, as people may be afraid to express their feelings or needs.
They may also struggle to listen to others and understand their perspectives, as they may be too focused on their feelings. As a result, communication can become strained and difficult, leading to further feelings of loneliness and isolation.
It is important for those with attachment trauma to find healthier ways of communicating, such as talking to a therapist or learning communication skills.
With the help of a professional, people with attachment trauma can learn how to express themselves in a healthy way and build strong relationships.
Attachment trauma is a serious issue that can have long-lasting effects on an individual’s mental and physical health. It is important to raise awareness about the issue of attachment trauma, as well as the importance of mental health and proper parenting.
It is essential for those with attachment trauma to seek help from a qualified professional in order to work through their trauma and learn healthier coping mechanisms.
But they can not do it alone. The strong stigma regarding mental health still stubbornly persists among us. We as a society need to increase awareness about mental health and its issues.
However, no matter what happens remember that it is not our wounds that define us, but how we heal them.