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The Link Between Substance Abuse and Attachment Disorder

The attachment styles of individuals may predict how they perceive and respond to their environment. It is also related to how they manage relationships. For example, secured people are more likely to be good partners and companions, as they value intimacy and connections. On the other hand, the styles of attachment may affect our behaviors and our personalities.

There have been a number of studies suggesting that attachment styles can be correlated to one’s involvement in substance abuse, which can be in the form of alcohol abuse, illicit drugs, and/or prescription medication. Accordingly, those people with insecure attachment are the most vulnerable to substance abuse, which can be their outlet for releasing their insecurities and anxieties.

Here are some of the needs and longing of insecure people which according to them, “substance” provides:

Security

Insecure attachment styles are associated with emotional distress and interpersonal issues which are brought about by their histories of neglect and abuses during infancy. According to Bradshaw, if the infant is not given enough sense of security before, they develop an insecure attachment. Thus, these people tend to develop a mechanism to look for security, and through substances, they feel like they are secured. “The relationship with substances is an attempt to replace the lack of safety and security as an infant.” This will lead them to abuse of substance to fill the gaps of the past.

Companion

According to the study of Kassle and colleagues (2006), individuals with insecure attachments lack necessary skills to form social relationships which will lead them to anxiety and distress. They are weak at creating supportive and intimate relationships. Thus, during the times of stress and anxiety, they resort to abusing substances in order to cope with their circumstances. They find a friend in the “substance” that provides them healing and “understanding”.

Pain Alleviation

In the book ‘In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction’ by (2008) by Gabor Maté, he discussed that childhood trauma leads to “inadequate neurological development”. Their system tends to slowly release endorphins and dopamine, the “feel-good” chemicals that provide soothing and relaxation. In his theory, he suggested that the substances are made as a replacement for these chemicals, in the hope to alleviate the pain.

Counter Intimacy

Thorberg and Lyvers (2006) stated that their “clients who were undergoing treatment for alcoholism, heroin addiction, or cannabis abuse” are having higher levels of insecure attachment which lead them to fear of intimacy. Insecure people do not want to engage in relationships. They make the “worst partners” as they tend to lack understanding and they are not expressive. As a result, they abuse their partners. To counter intimacy, they abuse substances as it extends or even betters their difficulties with developing intimacy and interpersonal functioning. One research suggested that alcohol, marijuana, amphetamines, cocaine, or heroin promote fear of intimacy.

The correlation between attachment styles and substance is multifaceted and is still being explored. More studies suggest that people with insecure attachment styles turn to drugs and alcohol to help them cope with stress and anxiety. As in the case with any substance addiction, the addiction needs to be dealt with first.

Drug rehabilitation centers can focus their therapy sessions to address attachment disorder if it’s found to be a possible reason for the person’s substance abuse. Other alternative methods for detox like at home programs from companies like Synergy Detox may help, although the results of these types of programs have not really been documented.

But with that said, real treatment should focus on their inner pain. Family and friends should always show their support to them through never-ending compassion and understanding.

Attachment Styles of Adults and Their Effects on Relationships

Attachment refers to the ability to form emotional bonds and healthy relationships with other people. According to developmental psychologist John Bowlby, the perfect concept of attachment is the bond between a mother and an infant. Thus, we develop attachment styles during our childhood and stay with us for the lifetime. These styles influence our personality and our behavior especially our ability to become intimate with other people. Here are the attachment styles of adults and how these can affect our relationships with people.

Secured/Autonomous Adults

Securely attached adults were raised in a good environment where consistent emotional care is present. They already learned that the world is a safe place to live. They feel they are able to love and to be loved back. They may experience negativities in their lives before but they were emotionally strong enough to manage and overcome the struggles. This made them realize how those indifferences made them now. Thus, they are highly dependable persons, perfect for long term relationships. Secured adults are easy to get close to and to trust. This style demonstrates a healthy attachment in which their children could also grow without any attachment disorders.

Dismissing Adults

Avoidant adults are those individuals with a dismissing state of mind in terms of attachment. They often have unclear and non-specific childhood memories. They avoid intimate events and close affectionate involvements. As a partner, dismissing adults are most comfortable being alone, not seeking support from their partners. They always maintain emotional distance as they find difficulty in trusting anybody. Further, dismissing adults are more intellectual and successful. They are critical in problem-solving, setting emotions aside.

Preoccupied Adults

Ambivalent adults follow a preoccupied style in which they are characterized by anxiety and uncertainty. They often have over-detailed stories and history of bad experienced in the past that continue to hurt them in the present. They also have parents who are inconsistent in providing care and attention, thus, they tend to be impatient, critical and argumentative. As a result of preoccupied adults, their children will likely to have ambivalent attachments with them too, because their own issues cause them to be unpredictable.

Unresolved Adults

Unresolved adults are those in a disorganized state. They do not have a consistent and organized approach to relationships. During their childhood, they had a history of neglect, abuse, cruelty, and loss. Their parents were either unresponsive, punitive, insensitive and inconsistent; or they grew up with no guidance from parents. As a result, they are afraid of genuine closeness. They are selfish, controlling and do always disregard the rules. They are very vulnerable to alcoholism, drug abuse and other forms of criminality including abusing their own children. Their children will also develop to become insecure, dysfunction and will most likely by similar with their parents.

However, these styles of attachments may be changed in the pace of time. Secured adults may experience circumstances that may shake their lives. On the other hand, unresolved adults may undergo therapy to resolve internal issues.

5 Effective Ways to Make Your Child Feel Safe & Secure

Children with reactive attachment disorder feel unsafe in the world. Their fears and anxieties cause them to distant to and distrust people. Thus, they seek for safety and protection. However, their mechanism of keeping themselves safe is not healthy as they prevent people from showing them love and support. Now, here are some tips that can help you to make your child feel safe and secure:

Set limits and boundaries

Parents should be consistent in reminding their children about the possible consequences of their actions. It is important that they understand what appropriate behavior is expected of them. Teach them what is acceptable and not and remind them of the consequences of consistently disobeying the rules. AD children often have a poor conscience, thus make them understand what is right and wrong, and teach them to always follow what is right. This may be difficult but if you do this continually, with compassion and gentleness, you will succeed.

Take charge

As mentioned, children with attachment disorder often have control issues. They cannot control their anger and their behavior, in general. But whatever happens, do not call their misbehavior as “bad”. You still have to understand what they have been through. By staying calm, show that everything is manageable, that your children can still do it again right the next chance. However, if the child is purposely defiant, get back to the first tip in which you’ll make him or her understand the consequences of his or her actions. Also, remember to never discipline AD children when you are emotionally-unstable.

Always be available

AD children are always bothered by the trauma they are experiencing. They constantly remember the hurtful happenings, as well as other problems in life. In cases like this, always be available to connect and communicate with your child. Let them know that you are there to listen if he or she needs someone. The more persistent you are in your willingness to help your child with his or her problems, the more you prove that your love and care is consistent and undying.

Own up to mistakes and reconcile

There are times when you cannot control your emotions too and became impatient and insensitive in accommodating the needs of your children with AD. In this case, make sure you admit that it is your bad for reacting that way. Own up to your mistake and immediately reconcile with your children. Prove to them that you may not be a perfect parent, but you are genuine with your love for them.

Maintain daily routine

AD children often feel threatened when there are inconsistencies on your daily routines. Make sure that you follow or maintain a same schedule and routine so your children will feel comfortable and secure. This will ensure that the children focus onto self-rehabilitation and the moving on process from trauma.

Again, the recovery of your children with attachment disorder solely lies on you parents and guardians. It is you who can make them feel the love and attention they need.

Attachment Disorder Treatment & Management for Children

Attachment disorder should not be taken for granted. Children suffering from this disorder should meet specialists in order to assess their condition. There are various approaches to treat or manage reactive attachment disorder (RAD) and disinhibited social engagement disorder (DSED). The primary caregivers of AD children are their parents or guardians.

Here are some of the ways on how to manage and treat attachment disorder:

Play Therapy

One of the best methods is to engage your children in play therapy with a certified child psychotherapist. This may help your children express their emotional needs, fears, and anxieties through the context of a play. The therapy follows three main components: security, stability, and sensitivity. In security, children will be able to develop a new attachment. Stability will make the newly discovered attachment permanent. On the other hand, sensitivity refers to the emotional availability or the attentiveness to the child’s needs. Probably, the most popular brand of therapy used to treat attachment disorder is Theraplay which brings parents and children to playful and fun games and nurturing activities.

Pharmacologic Therapy

There is no specific pharmacologic treatment for RAD or DSED patients. However, psychopharmacologic agents may be used to address problems and symptoms associated with attachment disorder such as explosive anger, insomnia, difficulty in focusing and hyperactivity. These will be used at similar doses and with similar objectives as in other symptoms of psychological disorders to promote the optimal psychosocial functioning of the child.

Hospitalization

Hospitalizing children with an attachment disorder is very rare. However, AD individuals may be hospitalized to address some cases like mistrust and lack of emotional involvement. For example, a teenager who has been through multiple placements and foster homes may benefit from a period of inpatient treatment. This will allow the teenager to work on overcoming fears and anxiety, as well as the trauma.

Prevention

Prevention is always better than cure. As early as infancy, parents shall make sure that their babies are well taken care of. Parents or guardians shall provide support and safe environment for their children, away from stress and other unhealthy events. Children should never experience abuse. Instead, they only deserve love and affection.

Consultation

It is not enough to consult the internet. Make sure you have the say of the experts and specialists. They will be the right ones to prescribe certain medications and treatments.

Long-Term Monitoring

Therapies and medications are not enough. As a parent or caregiver, always monitor the progress of the child in overcoming attachment disorder. You should assess the status of recovery of the patient. Further, make sure you do everything that the specialists prescribe such as providing ample care and attention.

The only thing that the children should be doing in their younger years is to play, enjoy and learn about the world. They do not deserve to be abused and neglected. Through this preventive measure, children will no longer have to grow in fear, pain, anger, and hate.

6 Common Behaviors of Students with Attachment Disorder

A school can be another avenue for children with attachment disorder to explore a new environment and interact with other people. However, they need special treatment from educators and classmates as they respond differently to certain situations. There are signs and symptoms that may identify if children have an attachment disorder. According to Lawrence Smith, a prominent therapist specializing in attachment disorder, these symptoms will be manifested in their behavior in a school setting. Here are the common behaviors displayed by AD students in school:

Aggressive behavior

One of the signs of children with an attachment disorder is control issues and anger problems, thus, there is a tendency that they will exhibit full-blown temper outbursts at school. They may scream, shot, throw objects, and use profane and obscene language. They may also threaten someone verbally and physically. They may leave the classroom and school without permission as well.

Passive-aggressive behavior

Some AD students will also display a passive-aggressive behavior in which they like to disobey and defy rules and orders. They may not pass their assignments and do their homework. During quizzes, they will skip some parts of the test or purposely answer items wrongly. When speaking, they will answer incompletely or omit some words to make it difficult to understand. AD students do not want to appear compliant to the authority.

Repetitive behavior

AD students can also become annoying with their repetitive behavior. This includes asking irrelevant and excessive questions, making random noises, interrupting conversations and occurring minor infractions. They do this to express that they are not under the authority of the teacher or fellow students. Also, repetitive behavior can be ‘probes’ for AD students to send out into the environment to obtain information.

Regressive behavior

AD children can also exhibit immature behaviors in class. This includes mimicking the voice of a baby, crawling around the floor, pretending to be an animal, making sexual graphics, forcing a laugh and curling up under furniture, among others. Since they are covered with anxiety, the regressive behavior is their means of escaping from fear.

Response to instruction

AD students believe that projects and requirements are given to prove that teachers are in-charge of the class. As a response, AD students may often resort to task incompletion to show that the teacher is defeated. They are also confident that they do not need to comply with the assignment because they already know about it.

Support/Praise

Children with attachment disorder have four responses to receiving support or acknowledgment in the school setting. First, they may accept the support without overreacting. Second, they can reject the recognition outright. Third, they may distrust the support as they perceive it as a trick by the teacher or adult to overpower. Lastly, sabotage their performance to contract the praise. AD students intentionally do this to appear like they are immune to praise and support.

With this, educators should be patient and understanding in accommodating students with attachment disorder. They should consider that these children are looking for special attention that is not provided to them at home.

 

10 Early Signs of a Child with Attachment Disorder

Psychologists believe that the leading reason why children develop attachment disorder is that of their relationship with their parents. They are often the children who are physically abused and neglected. However, there are children who managed to overcome the disorder through the help of educators, teachers, friends, and caregivers. To determine if a child is suffering attachment disorder, here are the early 10 signs and symptoms:

Lack of eye contact

One of the most evident signs that a child has attachment disorder is the lack of eye contact. These individuals could not look straight in the eyes of the person they are talking to. It is either they bow their heads down or they look in different directions. In short, they do not want eye contact.

Aversion to touch

According to Help Guide, children with reactive attachment disorder dislikes being touched. They perceive physical contact as a threat or harm. They also do not want physical affection like hugs and kisses. They wanted to keep themselves preserved, and avoiding touches make them feel safe.

Control issues

RAD children lack control of themselves. They are often careless and disobedient. They often engage in arguments. Moreover, they like breaking the rules.

Socially detached

Apparently, attachment disorder makes children socially detached. They have trust issues. They do not want to make friends or at least start relationships with people. They dislike group discussions, forums and anything that involves being in a circle of people.

Anger problems

Apart from being defiant, they also get mad very easily. Since they do not have control of their emotions, they resort to tantrums or through manipulative, passive-aggressive behavior. Further, some children with RAD express their anger through giving high five that hurts or super tight hugs.

Frequent lying

To avoid lengthy conversations, children with attachment disorder often lie despite obvious reasons. One example is that when these children are asked about their day and they respond that it went fine even if they had a bad day.

Cruel and destructive

Children who acquire attachment disorder because of their experience of physical abuses often turn violent, cruel and destructive. It may be evident the way they like destroying their toys or any other things. Some are also cruel to animals and plants.

Difficulty showing care

Because some of them have not experienced genuine care, they also have difficulty expressing care and affection. It is reciprocal to the idea that they do not want attention and love. Thus, they do not have an idea how to be expressive.

Underdeveloped conscience

They have a very poor conscience and are weak in determining between right and wrong. Thus, they tend to side the wrong doings. They do not want to feel the credit and the fulfillment for doing well.

Not affectionate with parents

Children with attachment disorder grew up without feeling loved by their parents. They believe that their parents hate them. In return, they are not affectionate with their parents. Most of them also turn rebellious to their parents.

If you see these symptoms to your children, immediately seek professional help.

Nurturing Infants to Prevent Attachment Disorder

Attachment disorder is a serious psychiatric illness that can develop in young children who have problems with their emotional relationships with their parents, guardians or caregivers. It can be classified as Disinhibited Social Engagement Disorder (DSED) and the most common one, Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD).

Children with reactive attachment disorder develop anxiety from interacting with people because of their history of abuse, neglect and other bad experiences. On the other hand, children with disinhibited social engagement disorder immediately trust anybody without even consulting their parents or caregivers.

Attachment disorder should be treated immediately as it can affect the perspective, behavior, and personality of your children. However, it is most recommended that you prevent the possibility of your children developing an attachment disorder. Parents are the primary figures to help their children grow the way it should be. Here are some tips for mothers, and even fathers on how to raise their babies and prevent attachment disorder:

Talk to them

Even if they are still infants, it is important that you regularly communicate with them. Always say their names as it establishes connection and identification that the child is your child and you are his or her parent.

Play with them

Make it a habit to play with your children. Playing is an activity that strengthens family relationships as it entails physical contact. Bring your children toys, puzzles, and videos to watch.

Bathe with your baby

Cleaning your child is one of the many ways on how to show our care and love. We do not want them to get dirty. We want them to be germ-free so that they will be brought away from colds and illnesses.

Massage your baby

Massaging your baby is a great physical contact that allows you to show how you want your child to feel relaxed and comfortable. Perform a mild massage in the child’s head, face, back, hands and feet to let the child feel the warmth of having a parent.

Sleep with your baby

Some parents distant their babies during sleep. However, during the early stages of infancy, it is important to place your baby near you, skin-to-skin. The baby needs the warmth of their parents.

Sing and dance

Sing to your child’s A-B-C’s and random sounds. Dance with your child and swing him or her into the air. This is another parent-child bonding that strengthens your relationship.

Teach your baby

Teach your baby how to call you “mom” or “dad”. Always spend time educating your child about the alphabet, numbers, animals, and others. But more importantly, teach them good manners.

Hugs and kisses

These are the perfect representation of love and affection. This may sound corny but it is important that you hug and kiss your child. It manifests that you love and protect your child and you do not want anything bad to happen.

These are just a few of the many ways on how to show your love to your children. If you have bad experiences from the past, do not let this happen over again to your children.

 

6 Teacher Strategies for Children with Reactive Attachment Disorder

Sending your child with attachment disorder can be a very good choice. Despite certain threats and hazards your children may incur in school, it is still important that they interact with the real world. However, there should be important considerations a teacher should follow in accommodating children diagnosed with reactive attachment disorder. Educator Carey McGinn listed in her open letter to educators various therapeutic accommodation strategies for teachers. Here are some of them:

Use Love and Logic Technique

Love and Logic philosophy is used in place of behavior management systems which put the teachers back in control of their classroom in the kindest way possible. According to Fay & Fay, the techniques are devoted to helping teachers in developing responsible students. Techniques include recognizing who is in real control and designing appropriate consequences for misbehaviors.

Avoid the use of punishment

According to Nelson (2002), punishment produces retaliation and resentment. So instead of blaming children with reactive attachment disorder for not doing their homework, make them understand that they are so lucky for having a teacher that will give them a second chance to accomplish their task. Also, you can use restitution. If a child damages a school item, the child should repair the damage. Through this, you are making things right with the teachers and the peers.

Allow children to experience natural consequences of poor choices

If the children with RAD score poor on their test, allow them to feel bad about it. However, do not blame them for getting a poor score for not studying beforehand. Avoid sarcasm and comments like “I hope you learned your lessons”. Instead, tell them “It’s fine. I am sure you are going to get a high score on our test this Friday.”

Avoid arguing with the child

Most of the times, children with RAD will insist their stance. For example, the child is persistent of not going to art class. As a teacher, you should encourage the child to attend the art class. But if the child rejects the idea, let it be.

Establish eye contact

Children with RAD dislike eye contact. As a teacher, you have to reach out to them. Make sure that you look at them at their eyes and ensure that they always look up to you rather than bowing their heads.

Acknowledge them immediately

Children with RAD needs recognition. If they get a high score, acknowledge them in the class. If they made their homework and finished their assignment, congratulate them for doing the good behavior. With this, they will think that their decisions are what’s right and fulfilling.

Those were just a few of the many ways a teacher can accommodate or treat children with reactive attachment disorder. Just remember that educational strategies and techniques should always be applied with empathy and never anger.

Common Causes of Reactive Attachment Disorder

Reactive Attachment Disorder is a serious illness that should be given treatment as soon as possible. In seeking professional care, you should be open about the background and the history of the patient with attachment disorder. This will make it easy for doctors to identify the underlying cause of the disorder. However, according to Resource Treatment Center, there are only a few researches conducted to understand the disorder deeper. In fact, here are some of the specific factors that may cause attachment disorder to a person:

Genetic

There is not enough evidence to prove that genetics has something to do with the development of reactive attachment disorder to an individual. However, genetic influences are cited to play a significant role in the changes of the personality of an individual. Thus, attachment disorder can be passed on to their offspring. Many professionals have hypothesized that genetic influences have an impact on the onset of RAD.

Physical

Every child needs physical and emotional attention, thus, the way mothers or primary caregivers interact with a child affects the development of the perspective of the child. When emotional care is lacking or nonexistent, there will be an alteration in the brain development which can affect the molding of the personality of the child. This affects how a child sees and experiences interpersonal relationships.

Environmental

The environmental factor is being pointed by professionals as the most common cause of reactive attachment disorder. This includes the people, the home and the condition surrounding the individual. If a person is denied of a healthy, emotional and affectionate relationship by the caregivers, the person will likely to develop an attachment disorder. Most especially, if children are raised in consistent abuses and neglects, they will recognize fear as a primary emotion and will inevitably develop a mechanism to protect themselves. The idea of attachment is new to them, so they will unconsciously avoid any circumstance that will lead to its development.

Risk Factors

There are also other factors that may increase the risk of an individual to develop a reactive attachment disorder. This includes being neglected in a particular social group, growing up in orphanages, moving among multiple foster homes, being forcefully removed from a neglectful home and transferring schools from time to time. Further, having a mother who suffers from severe postpartum depression can also lead to the development of reactive attachment disorder as well as other kinds of traumatic losses or significant changes with a primary caregiver.

The cause of the development of reactive attachment disorder is significant in the treatment and management of the condition. This will also open your mind to avoid the RAD person to be exposed to several factors that may increase its risk to worsen. Lastly, prevention is better than cure, so as a parent or a guardian, give your children the care and attention they deserve so that they can grow and enjoy life to the fullest.

Characteristics of School and its effects on Students with Attachment Disorder

Most parents send their children with attachment disorder to school to expose them to a bigger environment where they can interact with other people normally. They are also expected to learn like any other students. However, the school can also affect them. According to Lawrence B. Smith in his publication Oil and Water: The Attachment Disordered Child and School, a school has certain characteristics that can intervene with the growth and development of students with attachment disorder:

1.    External vs. Internal

Students are expected to follow certain external factors including schedule, curriculum, assignments, and other requirements. However, AD children are more concerned about keeping themselves safe, thus, there will be a difficulty for them to meet those demands.

2.     Group Activities

Group collaboration is done to teach students the value of teamwork. However, this will not work on AD students because it will cause them anxiety to deal with multiple people simultaneously.

3.    Temporal Experience

The focus of attention of AD students is the present time. They lack concern with the future. Thus, deadlines and appointment times exert little to no influence on their behavior. So, AD students are frequently late or oblivious to deadlines.

4.    Gratification

Gratification is a normal factor in school – awards, recognition, grades and approval which are normally given late or on the desired period. However, AD students want to be acknowledged immediately as delayed gratifications do not motivate them anymore.

5.    Dual Role of Teachers

Teachers have a dual role as a provider of education and setter of limits to students. This dual role will conflict with AD students personal priorities. The first time a teacher blocks or limits an AD student’s desire, the teacher will be looked at as a persecutor rather an ally.

6.    Omniscience

AD students believe that they know everything. They are not interested in asking, clarifying and engaging into knowledge-sharing activities.

7.    Projection

One of the main protective strategies that AD students depend on to maintain their psychological safety is that of projection by which something that is true about the AD student is attributed or qualified to someone else.

8.    Emotional Closeness

Every school year, teachers and the class of students change. AD students are at risk of having separation anxiety from those people whom they get together with for a period of time. This dilutes long-term relational demands.

9.    School/Home Split

AD children usually seek to pit school versus home, in which typically makes the AD children consider their teachers as more preferred parental adult figures than their actual parents. With this, teachers should be aware of not forming any opinion about their relationship with their parents.

With this, learning institutions should devise strategies and techniques on how to accommodate the special needs of the children with attachment disorder.