What are the Meanings of Attachment Disorder?

More and more people do not want to enter into a fixed and long-term relationship. When the first fall in love disappears and unpleasant characteristics of the partner come to light, many flee back to being single. Attachment disorder is a typical characteristic of today’s society. Is that why most singles have relationship disorders?

What is an attachment disorder?

A disorder is far from being a disease. Only when the affected people suffer from their limitations can one speak of a pathological disorder. People who want to bond, but cannot, suffer from attachment disorder.

Everyone else may just be scared, so be careful when labeling people who seem disaffected. According to psychological teaching, attachment disorders are mostly founded in childhood and are diagnosed in two different forms: reactive attachment disorder in childhood and attachment disorder in an uninhibited form.

  • The former is defined by multiple fears, aggression against oneself and others, i.e. social disorders and emotional abnormalities.
  • The second shows up through attention-seeking behavior and clinging of the children to their caregivers, but mostly not through emotional abnormalities. The causes of attachment disorder are almost always found in earliest and early childhood.


In extreme cases, an attachment disorder can be triggered by a premature birth or trauma in the womb (such as the mother’s drug addiction). Almost always, however, the cause is severe neglect of the child in the first three years of life. Reasons could be that the mother cannot take care of the child due to psychological problems.

Frequent changes in caregivers, death of parents or loss of caregivers, long hospital stays, stays in nursing homes or sexual abuse can also justify this. In general, it can be said that 70 percent of all children have secure attachments. Of the remaining 30 percent, many have an insecure relationship with their most important caregivers.

For them, this means a higher probability, but not with certainty, of developing an attachment or other mental disorder. Children with secure attachments are later not afraid of entering into attachments themselves – even if they are at risk – and of being a real attachment partner in a partnership.

Symptoms, ailments & signs

Children with attachment disorder suffer from anxiety, are overly cautious and unhappy, they rarely have relationships with their peers, rarely play, and are not properly socialized. Attachment disorder in adults usually develops from a child’s form of attachment disorder. Adults who like to allow a short-term relationship, then quickly withdraw and run away, are by no means disrupted in their attachment.

This only applies when they long for a bond but cannot allow intimacy. Affected people have no choice as to whether or not they want to have a relationship with another person. A distinction is made between different bonding patterns. The most problematic is that of those who are disorganized and bound. Even in childhood, they were unable to establish a bond with caregivers, so they do not believe in emotional security and do not show any needs.

They appear indifferent and cannot respond to their partner either. Adults suffer from BS when any of the following symptoms are true: desire for control, inability to accept love and guidance, strong inexplicable anger and hostile behavior, lack of empathy and trust, fear of responsibility. Feelings of confusion, fear and sadness are usually added.

Diagnosis & course

To properly diagnose the disorder, autism, Asperger’s syndrome, disability, and schizophrenic disorders must be ruled out. In attachment disorders, in contrast to other psychosocial disorders, the ability to speak is normal, intelligence is not reduced and there are no delusions.

Even if a reactive attachment disorder was not previously recognizable in an adult, it can be reactivated from childhood by a traumatic event that hits him or her in his or her adulthood. Unconsciously or consciously, the person concerned decides not to enter into painful relationships any more.

In adults, the final diagnosis is reserved for specialists after several discussions. It is important to know: Not every person who is unwilling to bond is disrupted!

Due to their limited play and social behavior, children who suffer from an attachment disorder are often outsiders. The spectrum ranges from voluntary demarcation to incidental exclusion by the other children to bullying.


A common complication of attachment disorder is misunderstanding about the child’s needs. Loving caregivers also find it difficult to correctly interpret the child’s contradicting behavior. For example, when the child withdraws, they may still have emotional needs for closeness and affection.

For this reason, caregivers should be patient and seek professional advice. Attachment disorder is most often diagnosed in childhood, but it can continue into adolescence and adulthood. In particular, lasting emotional ties such as love relationships and long-term friendships are often a challenge.

Other psychological disorders that develop from the attachment disorder are possible. Anxiety disorders, depression or somatic disorders, for example, can occur as complications. If the outcome is unfavorable, personality disorders such as borderline personality disorder are also possible, although these can only be reliably diagnosed in early adulthood.

Depending on the cause of the attachment disorder, further complications and accompanying illnesses are possible – for example in the form of post-traumatic stress disorder, if the attachment disorder is due to abuse or mistreatment.

When should you go to the doctor?

As a rule, in the case of an attachment disorder, a doctor should be consulted if the disorder leads to severe restrictions in everyday life and in the life of the person concerned. In many cases, this disorder also leads to severe psychological complaints or even to depression and can thus significantly reduce and negatively affect the quality of life. A doctor should be consulted if there are social difficulties or the loss of friends and contacts, which are definitely necessary for the well-being of the person concerned.

A doctor must also be consulted with other psychological complaints. It is not uncommon for an attachment disorder to lead to fear or to permanent sadness and confusion. If the person concerned should therefore have these feelings, a doctor should also be consulted. A visit to a doctor is necessary, especially if these feelings persist. As a rule, a psychologist can be consulted for this. Talking to friends and acquaintances about the symptoms and causes of the disease often helps with an attachment disorder.

Treatment & Therapy

An attachment disorder can worsen over the course of life if, for example, the most important caregiver disappears or dies, or if there is a hurtful betrayal. But it can also improve through a healing relationship or therapy. For children, the only form of therapy is a constant environment.

Regardless of which developmental steps the child takes, this must not change in order not to jeopardize any successes. Loving, understanding interaction is more important than any psychotherapy. Eventually the child can undergo play therapy. Most importantly, the child learns to build trust.

Often times, caregivers need expert advice and support. In extreme cases, the child must be given medication to get the aggressions against themselves under control. Psychotherapy is strongly recommended for adults. In order to cope with this successfully, it is necessary to take a look at your own biography: Many people suppress a loveless, unrelated childhood because it hurts too much to deal with it.

They immediately throw away relationships that challenge them or threaten to end the relationship if something is directly asked of them. Those affected have to learn to be very critical of themselves and, step by step, with the help of the therapist, to apply actions other than resignation.

Outlook & forecast

The prognosis of attachment disorder depends on many factors. Basically, attachment styles prove to be stubborn in psychological studies: In adulthood, in most cases, the attachment style that was learned in childhood continues.

An attachment disorder in childhood may increase the likelihood of developing a personality disorder later. However, no specific prognosis can be given, as most studies on this topic only deal with this question in retrospect. As children, borderline personalities suffered above average from attachment disorder or had an insecure attachment style.

Targeted measures, for example with a child and youth therapist or a parent counseling service, can have a positive effect on the attachment style. If the affected child finds a new caregiver and can build a stable bond with this person, the attachment disorder does not have to continue later in life. In general, treatments are considered to be particularly promising if both the child and the attachment figure are involved.

A stable bond is seen as a protective factor for many mental illnesses. Not only the biological parents come into question as potential attachment figures, but also adoptive or foster parents, other family members, educators, nannies and other people who have a constant relationship with the child.


The real prevention is in childhood. Our society has to exemplify love and relationships for our children. A child needs a stable environment. But that does not mean that children from divorce, from homes, from traumatic pregnancies or orphans are necessarily disrupted.

There just has to be at least one relationship person for each child who will not leave them under any circumstances, ideally a parent, but an aunt or grandfather can also take on this role. To all those who were not so lucky and therefore have developed attachment disorders, I recommend that everything flows. Nothing is final and everything can be converted for the better.


An attachment disorder is usually treated if the person concerned finds it troublesome. In contrast, aftercare often has a preventive character. After successful treatment, she wants to prevent recurrence or rule out complications in general. A basic distinction must be made between adult and child diseases.

Adults often drag attachment disorders from childhood into adulthood. A psychotherapist is commissioned to deal with the psychological problems. Even after a single recovery, the typical symptoms can reappear.

External causes such as the loss of a caregiver often justify treatment. The fears that have arisen are reduced in conversations and through social training. Sometimes partial complaints can be remedied with medication. Most often children are affected by attachment disorders. Since they are not yet able to create their own social environment, neglect is particularly detrimental.

You will be treated permanently, if the causes, which mostly control adults, do not disappear. Re-treatment should be done in a known setting. Once children have built up trust, results can be achieved more quickly. Inpatient therapies are the exception. An attachment disorder can extend to most of life. Some patients end up in long-term treatment. Your therapist then becomes a central support in life.

You can do that yourself

Those who suffer from an attachment disorder usually only experience an unsatisfactory social life. In everyday life, those affected find it difficult to bond with others and to approach people openly. Since contact with other people is usually accompanied by fear and feelings of insecurity, many people with disrupted ties avoid other people and try to keep them at a distance.

In order to make everyday life more bearable, the immediate environment should take into account the problems of the person concerned and allow them their individual freedoms. In a relationship, the partner should always be aware that he must have sufficient patience, love and freedom for the long-term functioning of the relationship.

Visiting self-help groups, where you can exchange ideas with like-minded people, can also be of enormous help. The realization that you are not alone with your attachment disorder gives comfort and relieves the personal pressure of those affected. Among like-minded people, you usually find understanding for your problems and you can find ways out of fear and mistrust together so that you can enter into satisfying relationships in the future.

Attachment Disorder