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The Relationship Between Attachment and Addictive Behaviours

Children's attachment, or psychological bond and connectedness, to their caregiver significantly impacts their lifespan. Early attachment experience sets expectations and affects how we handle ourselves in adult relationships because we tend to treat others based on our attachment experience during our childhood. Children who experience enough trust, love and support in their early life develop secure attachments, learn to regulate their emotions and are thus more well-equipped to respond to emotional stressors. Children who did not develop secure attachments with their caregivers often find it hard to connect to their emotions. Therefore, they are less equipped to respond to their emotional stressors. They often feel a sense of emptiness and have more difficulty managing emotions like anger or sadness.


Research has shown that people who did not experience healthy attachments in early life may be more inclined to engage in addictive behaviours to regulate anxiety or stress. Addictive behaviours are compulsive actions a person does regardless of the negative physical or social consequences. Addictive behaviours may include, but are not limited to, substance abuse, gambling, binge-eating, excessive sexual behaviours, or pornography. Most of us engage in some form of addictive behaviours, like relying on coffee or checking our phone frequently. However, the difference is that people who try to meet their attachment needs through addictive behaviour eventually become so reliant on it that it pulls them deeper into the sense of emptiness. They may find themselves in and out of relationships with people who make them feel worse. While addictive behaviour seems to provide instant gratification, it leads to long-lasting harm.


Overcoming addictive behaviour goes beyond changing of mindset or behavioural modification. There may be a need to uncover the underlying issues and the root of the insecure attachment. Resolve your grief and attachment trauma and learn new coping methods that will help you develop healthy ways of relating to people. It may be a long journey, but it is a worthwhile journey.




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