EnQuire now
ADDICTION AND ATTACHMENT PART 1

Posted by admin 9:56 pm, 20 January 2015

Addiction, can be viewed as an attachment disorder. Since it is

biologically impossible to regulate our own affect for any extended length of time,

individuals who have greater difficulty establishing emotionally regulating attachments

will be more inclined to substitute drugs and alcohol for their deficiency in intimacy.

Because of a person’s difficulty maintaining emotional closeness with others, certain

vulnerable individuals are more likely to substitute a vast array of obsessive-compulsive

behaviors (i.e. sex, food, drugs, alcohol, work, gambling, computer games, etc.) that

serve as a distraction from the gnawing emptiness and internal discomfort that threatens to

overtake them. Consequently, when one obsessive-compulsive type behavior is given up,

another is likely to be substituted unless the deficiency in self-structure is corrected.

The recent work of attachment theory and self psychology have taught addictions

specialists that dysfunctional attachment styles interfere with the ability to derive

satisfaction from interpersonal relationships and contribute to internal working models

that perpetuate this difficulty. Experiences related to early developmental failures leave

certain individuals with vulnerabilities that enhance addictive type behaviors and these

behaviors are misguided attempts at self-repair. Deprivation of age appropriate

developmental needs leaves the substance abuser constantly searching for something “out

there” that can be substituted for what is missing “in here”.

Because attachment theory has given scientific authority to the importance of the

study of the bond between children and their caregivers, it helped legitimize the

investigation of the relationship between addiction and attachment. While classical

developmental theory has always recognized the importance or early childhood

experiences on adult psychopathology, it took attachment theory to place the significance

of these early attachments in their proper perspective. Intimate long-lasting relationships

are an integral part of human nature and the inability to establish long-lasting gratifying

relationships are directly related to the quality of early attachment experiences. Difficulty

overcoming ineffective attachment styles (Ainsworth, 1989) can leave certain individuals

vulnerable to addictive compulsions as compensatory behavior for their deficiency. This will be explained in the next post.