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.