Children who are raised in secure environments typically display a secure attachment style. Conversely, if a child’s parent or primary caretaker is unpredictable, neglectful, or abusive, it can result in attachment trauma. Unfortunately, children lack the language skills to describe what they feel. Therefore, it’s not until adulthood that such trauma is recognized and addressed.
Unhealed attachment trauma impacts adults in a variety of negative ways — emotionally, mentally, and physically. It also can be related to complex (ongoing) trauma. The key is learning how to identify the signs such healing can begin. With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at causes, signs, and recovery.
Common Causes of Attachment Trauma
As a young child, what you know about connecting with others is very dependent on the adults (and older siblings) in your life. Thus, the most common possible causes of attachment trauma might include:
- Your basic needs were neglected during childhood
- Your parents were divorced when you were young
- The death of a loved one
- Illness, injury, or disability in the household
- Domestic violence
- Substance use in the household
- Physical, sexual, or emotional abuse
Less obvious causes could involve controlling behavior, poor boundaries, and the child’s feelings not being validated.
What Are the Common Signs of Attachment Trauma in Adults?
All forms of trauma can be connected with mental health issues like anxiety, depression, borderline personality disorder, complex PTSD, and dissociative disorders. Thus, the presence of such conditions could be your first clue. In addition, attachment trauma often manifests in signs like:
- Self-blame, guilt, and shame
- Inability to manage stress
- Relationship issues (caused by an insecure attachment style)
Other potential red flags to look for:
On some level, you know traumatic symptoms are influencing your life, so you opt for counterproductive coping mechanisms. These can range from numbing one’s emotions to self-medication (e.g. alcohol or other forms of distraction).
Another form of avoidance can be in the form of control. An unpredictable upbringing can leave the child feeling out of control. As a result, they grow into the kind of adults who are euphemistically called “control freaks.” They “make up” for the pain of the past by over-controlling their lives and everyone in them.
Since no one was protecting them from harm at their most vulnerable age, adults with attachment trauma may unconsciously mimic that behavior toward themselves. The cycle involves making unhealthy choices and then feeling guilty about how that makes them feel.
Unexplained Psychological and/or Physical Symptoms
- Mood swings
- Anger outbursts
- Debilitating anxiety
- Chronic aches, pain, and tension
- Sleep disturbances
- Gastrointestinal problems
Simply put, if chronic symptoms arise for which there is no clear explanation, they require your full attention.
Healing from Attachment Trauma
Trauma-focused therapy has a stellar track record for helping people with attachment trauma learn how to have healthy relationships. It’s not a simple or linear process, but making a commitment to such a treatment approach can garner positive outcomes, like:
- Deeper, more healthy communication
- Setting and enforcing boundaries
- Accept the circumstances of the past and thus, move forward
- An increase in self-esteem and self-confidence
- Accepting yourself and others — imperfections and all
- Developing meaningful relationships
Yes, despite the unfair events that transpired during your childhood, you can thrive again. You can begin to prioritize yourself while still honoring others. The confused child inside you can recover and experience peace and safety.
If any of the above resonated with you, I suggest you reach out to learn more. Choosing to address attachment trauma is a path toward a more enriching and fulfilling life. Let’s connect for a free consultation soon for trauma therapy.