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Attachment Disorders

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Attachment Disorders

Humans are social creatures. We spend our whole lives interacting with other people. At NYCFL, we understand that not everyone finds relationships of any kind easy. Very often, this has roots in our childhood. When this is disrupted, it can lead to attachment disorders.

Attachment disorders are common among many types of clients. They can lead to many mental, emotional, and behavioral difficulties.

Understanding attachment is an important part of recovering and living a healthy life. We offer treatment options for adolescent clients with attachment disorders at NYCFL. We use evidence-based treatments to promote successful recovery. Skilled mental health professionals lead all of our programs.

First, it is important to state that attachment disorders are treatable. Scientific research has led to many evidence-based therapies and techniques. These help those with attachment disorders better manage their condition. At NYCFL, we use compassionate, non-judgmental, and solution-focused healing approaches. We offer our clients a real opportunity for positive change.

At NYCFL, we focus on providing a non-judgmental environment. We know that it can be difficult for parents to come to terms with their teen’s attachment issues. There is often a stigma attached to attachment disorders. They usually have their roots in the early child-parent relationship.

We include families in treatment to help everyone understand the roots of attachment. This also helps us create understanding and compassion within the family.

Understanding Attachment Styles

Attachment disorders develop following ruptured attachment in early childhood. It is based on John Bowlby’s Attachment Theory. This was first developed in the 1960s and further developed by Mary Ainsworth. There are four main attachment styles:

  • Secure Attachment
  • Avoidant-insecure Attachment
  • Anxious-ambivalent Attachment
  • Disorganized Attachment

Each of these attachment styles has its own characteristics. A child with a secure attachment style will be generally healthy. They are able to form healthy, trusting relationships. They exhibit a regular level of self-esteem and self-worth.

A child with an avoidant-insecure attachment will tend to shut down. They have learned that their caregiver needs will not meet their needs. They will hold back negative emotions. In later relationships, an avoidant-insecure person will struggle with vulnerability and trust.

In anxious attachment, a child will struggle to rely on their caregivers for security. This child will exhibit clinginess and anxiety related to the parent’s closeness. They fear separation from the parent because the parent’s return is unpredictable.

Disorganized attachment in early childhood leads to fearfulness or resentment for their caregiver. They crave the attention of the caregiver but are not soothed when given that attention.

What Causes Attachment Disorders?

The exact cause of attachment disorders varies between individuals. Often, attachment-related difficulties stem from inconsistent care from a parent or caregiver. Risk factors for attachment disorders as a child enters adolescence include:

  • Physical, emotional, or sexual abuse
  • Neglect
  • Psychiatric conditions in a caregiver
  • Inconsistent parenting
  • Emotional dysregulation in a caregiver
  • Exposure to alcohol or drugs in the womb

Children who have been living in many foster homes are at a high risk of attachment disorders. Too many caregivers can compromise healthy attachment. This can lead to the onset of mental and behavioral difficulties.

The style of parenting that a child receives will shape their attachment style. Parental behavior can hurt a child’s mental health if it is inconsistent or in any way harmful.

Enmeshment is one potential cause of attachment disorders in children. This happens when a parent does not adhere to healthy parent-child boundaries. A caregiver enmeshes a child by making them take on a role far beyond the maturity level. This includes seeking emotional reassurance, validation, and even intimacy.

Emotional unavailability in a caregiver can also lead to ruptured attachment. This is when parents or caregivers are not attuned to the child’s emotional needs. They fail to provide the safety and security the child needs to form a healthy attachment style.

Symptoms of Attachment Disorders

Attachment disorders are problematic for those affected and their families. Adolescents who come to us for help often report difficult family relationships. They also have a hard time forming trusting relationships with friends. Healthy attachment is key to living a healthy life. Unhealthy attachment affects all areas of life.

Without a healthy base of attachment, we are likely to suffer a range of issues. We need to feel secure in our early relationships. Otherwise, we may develop any of several issues. These include:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Mistrust of others
  • Inability to regulate emotions

Many teens use substances and other unhealthy behaviors to deal with ruptured attachment. Common symptoms and coping behaviors seen in teens with attachment disorders include:

  • Substance abuse
  • Self-harm
  • Avoidance
  • Social withdrawal
  • Sexual promiscuity
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Low self-esteem, low self-worth
  • Shame

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Attachment Disorders in Teenagers

Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) often affects people with attachment issues from childhood. Adolescent clients with this disorder have trouble regulating their emotions. They have not formed a healthy bond with a caregiver. This makes it difficult to form healthy bonds in later life. Fear and mistrust compromise meaningful connections.

Reactive attachment disorder is usually seen in two different patterns of behavior. The first is Inhibited Reactive Attachment Disorder. Characteristics include withdrawal and emotional unresponsiveness, or ‘shut-down’. This person will struggle with confrontation and assertiveness. They tend to shy away from conflict.

The second type of RAD is Disinhibited Reactive Attachment Disorder. A person with this disorder may be extra friendly with strangers. They may even prefer strangers over their own caregivers. This can lead to dangerous situations when strangers’ intentions are harmful.

Treatment for Attachment Disorders

We need safety and security to heal from attachment issues. We can foster and develop this sense of safety and security in therapy. Therapists attune to clients and provide a safe space.

Our expert therapists and counselors are experts in dealing with adolescent attachment issues. We offer age-appropriate treatment through a variety of evidence-based treatment modalities.

At NYCFL, we offer our adolescent clients:

  • Individual psychotherapy
  • Family and group-based therapies
  • Attachment-based Family Therapy
  • Creative and expressive arts-based therapies
  • Nutritional education
  • Yoga and meditation
  • Outdoor activities and group bonding
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

The above therapies take a holistic approach to treatment. Attachment disorders impact the whole person. We must address this in recovery. Our programs aim to restore health and balance to all areas of the client’s life.

Yoga and meditation promote a positive relationship with the body. Nutritional education fosters new skills for self-care. Creative and arts-based therapies encourage non-verbal, authentic communication.

Attachment disorders can cause harmful and destructive behaviors. They damage inter- and intra-relationships both in our childhood and adulthood. If we address our attachment issues in adolescence, our chance of recovery is greater. Skills and techniques can be learned now to improve one’s quality of life later.

Psychoeducation is a key part of each of our programs. This involves understanding attachment and its different types. Clients learn how attachment ruptures can impact their mental health and well-being.

We use a range of effective healing modalities at NYCFL. We help our clients overcome their attachment disorders and live a healthy life. The focus of treatment is compassionate care. People begin to heal when they feel heard. We listen to our clients closely. We get to know them on a personal level.

Treatment programs are tailored to each client’s needs. Support is available around the clock when clients enter our residential programs. In residential treatment, your teenager gains the support of peers. This creates a strong support network outside of a family setting.

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