Understanding Disorganised Attachment Style 

You are likely to have heard of attachment styles, the most common are secure, avoidant, anxious attachment style. Disorganised attachment is a subtype of an insecure attachment. The other types of attachment are all organised because they those who have them are pretty consistent in their approach to relationship. It is most commonly caused by childhood relational trauma but anyone who is isn’t neurotypical might also have a higher probability of developing a disorganised attachment pattern. This is a highly complex subject so I have tried to summarise below a bit of an overview

What it means

Attachment theory is focused on the assumption that all humans have attachment needs from early relationships as an infant throughout their lives. The experience of these early attachment relationships with primary caregivers set a blueprint for future relationships – but the good news is that an attachment pattern can be changed. Attachment is essentially the way we interact with those around us based on our historic experiences.

We need to feel valued, validated, emotionally and physically responded to, appreciated and respected, and confident that emotional care will be available from the other when it is needed.

Evidence shows that those who are in securely attached relationships experience lower stress levels, more life satisfaction, less arguments and can navigate rupture with repair more easily than those with a disorganised attachment style. Those with a disorganised attachment work exceptionally hard to regulate their distress and confusing state of being whereby they often feel a conflicting desire for relationship and deep rooted fear due to shame. They go to great lengths to hide their distress due to fear of rejection from other. The solution to their distress is often to avoid relationship but this doesn’t last long because innately we are all drawn back to relationship. This is where a push / pull cycle can emerge of the individual seeking relationship but when they get too close to others or they feel the other person is too close to them this is frightening so they push them away. This is because the person has learnt in early life relationships that others cannot be trusted, they will hurt them, abandon them so its understandable that there would be a sudden push away so to protect themselves. Except this pattern continues, the solution is not to push away but to stay still in the relationship.

Further difficulties emerge because someone with a disorganised attachment style often struggles to self-regulate their emotions which often can lead to unpredictable impulsive behaviours such as self-harm, drug use, alcohol misuse, binge / purge cycles and other self-damaging behaviours.

What causes it

Childhood relational trauma – growing up in an environment with unpredictable primary care givers and attachment figures which leaves them craving and fearing love and connection, this leaves them in a perpetual state of trying to meet two conflicting needs at once; the need to connect with others and the protective need to avoid rejection, abandonment and actual harm.

How to heal / recover:

Awareness is always the first step towards change – noticing and taking accountability for what might be going on inside of your relationships which you are contributing towards.

The best way in my opinion which is also backed by significant evidence from multiple psychotherapists is to heal in healthy relationship. This is tricky though if you have never had that modelled to you to even begin to know what is healthy Vs what is not. Unfortunately there is truth in the statement that we attract what we project into the world.

  1. Relational / attachment focused therapist who specialises in trauma
  2. Getting reading and pull on all the resources out there around attachment pattern and theories, my go to book at the moment is ‘Secure Love: Create a relationship that lasts a lifetime’ by Julie Menanno.