Is My Neediness linked to My Insecure Attachment?
I don’t know about you but I have previously been described on occasion, and still can be, as being a bit needy, a bit grasping of affection, a bit manipulative in attempting to coerce others into given me attention, affection and so on.
It is not a trait that I particularly like in my self. I believe it is directly linked to my insecure attachment based on an uncertain, unpredictable and sometimes conditional relationship I had with my mother, in particular.
My mother was affectionate at times, distant at others. You could never really count on her being there for you.
Her affection seemed dependent (conditional) on how she felt. Given that she was probably experiencing some form of mental breakdown and had already started taking the Valium that would in later years become full blown dependence would explain her ambivalence to me and my emotional needs.
I have forgiven my mother for her many omissions but that does not mean that this forgiveness has resolved my attachment issues or heal the emotional pain I have been scarred with.
I still live with the consequence of these emotional scars and they still impact on my life, behaviour and recovery today. In fact, the longer I am in recovery the more I become aware of internal battles that I re-enact in my daily life with people in general life often playing the role of my primary care giver. I fight the same fights over and over again but with different people and in different scenarios.
The long term s consequences are also a lack of trust in others, an a time emotional ambivalence to others, a low self esteem, a feeling of “I’m not good enough” and whatever I do, “enough is never enough” This is why I think insecure attachment may be a good reason for the knawing feeling many of us have that we are not good enough, that we are lacking, that we are less than, that are missing something very important. That we have no secure internal base. Instead we have this “hole in the soul”.
I fight injustice constantly. I fight bullies. I have real difficulties with feelings of rejection, even seeming rejection from people I do not particularly like, respect or admire. Thus it is not a cortical, conscious process, it is a pre-progammed emotional response to rejection per se.
I am constantly trying to be good enough, better than good enough, the best if possible. To measure up. Be the Number One guy, just like Bill Wilson who had similar problems with his mother to me. Internally I am constantly trying to show the world I am good enough, deserving enough of their love, respect and affection, often when I consciously have no real desire for these things, from these people.
It is a continual re-enactment of the efforts I made, often unsuccessfully with my mother. My early childhood has habitualised my behaviours and emotional reactions to the world. I must have found my mother’s behaviours unjust also hence my constant fighting of perceived injustice, although I am well aware of the 12 step plea not to fight anyone or anything.
Easier said than done, for me.
What I am trying to say, I guess, is that I have become aware that I am fighting the same psychic battles over and over again. The adult child is still in turmoil, reaching out for unconditional affection.
I have found that unconditional love in a Higher Power but in my illness I relapse back to this emotional insobriety.
I have recovered though. I am sane enough to know that I have other issues that have partly driven my addictive behaviours. They have created emotional disturbance and dysfunction which “sharing” my experience with others has increasingly helped self soothe.
Anyway back to my sometimes evident emotional immaturity.
I have studied neuroscience for a number of years and see that it offers a great facility for challenging existing views about addiction and contributing to the greater arguments and debates about causes and consequences of addiction but I am also aware that it does not have all the answers and that it can veer towards reductionist views and reductionist solutions such as giving drugs to addicts to help with behavioural manifestations of addiction which can be bizarre at times.
Bizarre because the manifestations of addiction are more complex that observable neuro-biological processes in the brain. Attachment theory highlights this issue for me. It may impact on neuro-biology and neural plasticity of the brain but it is not necessarily the product of these. It can not be “cured” bu purely chemical means.
It seems that it can only be resolved by re-applying behaviours that were missing in the first place. In this case, earned attachment via various group therapeutic groups can help with the consequences of insecure attachment experienced in early childhood. In other words these more adaptive behaviours can help you “manage” the maladaptive behavioural patterns ingrained in one’s brain.
We need other people not drugs or medications in other words. We tried that, it did not work. Love is what we need, we are designed, to give and receive it.
It is a fundamental force in helping develop a healthy brain.
Via neuroscience, I have never been able to get an angle on two vital aspects of my addictive personality. The “hole in the soul” what is it, where does it come from, how can it be explained? The other is why I collapse to needy behaviours?
Attachment disorders explain this for me. It also also explains the constantly fighting. Trauma also has a part to play. I grew up in a very violent, traumatising place. This can also lead to constant fighting. Constant emotional reactivty.
While in SELF, I hasten to add.
Equally I have found a solution to all these problems. I am generally contented, happy in my own skin. I did not used to be. Now I am. I have much love that I share with those around me. I can also receive it, mostly. I have found what I have been looking for. Love.
I have faith that all my scars will heal in time as so many already.
The results of the study we cite and take excerpts form (1) showed that there is significant difference in attachment styles and emotional maturity between opiate addicts and non-addicts. The results revealed that addicts usually have insecure attachment styles while non-addicts have secure styles. Besides, addicts enjoyed a lower level of emotional maturity compared with non-addicts.
“Addicts suffer from negative and inflexible emotions so that they are often fraught with anger, resentment and hatred. They
also suffer from loss of love, joy and intimacy. They may have not experienced hope and love for a long time. This exposes them to a serious emotional vacuum which must be dealt with in a
treatment process. A typical problem with addicts is their lack of emotional maturity and propensity to self-alienation and dependency disorder which causes a universal sense of fear and
A thirty-year old addict may perform like a ten-year old adolescent in terms of emotional functioning because most of the addicts have been forced into adulthood before they could have experienced childhood. That is because both society and family have not given them the opportunity to grow emotionally so that they have been confined within the walls of emotional crudity and feel insecure towards the outside world. Evidently, they need support to be
able to escape the confinement and interact with their environment, which requires them to be dependent on others .
Addicts suffer from severe feelings of disillusionment with their mothers. Mother’s disregard for the child’s emotional needs causes disruption in children’s self-regulatory processes and consequently
damages their mental structure of internal behavioral control. As a result, they will become dependent on external mediums like drugs to compensate for their emotional deficiencies.
Therefore, their harmful experiences of childhood in regard to disillusionment with their mothers may be drawn upon to account for the mechanisms which influence attachment styles.
Accordingly, mothers’ disregard for children’s emotional needs may justify the prevalence of insecure attachment styles in these children .
Research has shown that insecure attachment style contributes to the development of mental disorders. Developed at early childhood, insecure attachment is a risk factor for drug abuse and may also influence the treatment of drug abuse disorder. Using Hazan and Shaver adult attachment interview (AAI), Taracena et al (2006) reported that there is positive correlation between drug abuse and avoidant attachment styles. Hankin et al. (2007) conducted a study at the University of Illinois and reported that there is positive correlation between insecure attachment styles and smoking, alcohol use and marijuana use. In a follow-up research in the same
university, the results showed that there is a significant positive correlation between anxious attachment style and the prevalence of stimulant drug use, smoking and alcohol use. Haward and
Medway investigated the relationship between attachment styles, coping styles, life stresses and due responses in 75 couples. They reported that with secure styles, adults’ attachments are positively correlated with family relations but negatively correlated with negative social behavior including alcohol use, smoking and/or drug use .
Therefore, attachment styles can influence drug abuse disorders through the processes of familial interaction, social control, emotional regulation and self-efficacy. Marlatt et al. (2002)
investigated the factors contributing to the frequent relapse of addition and reported that encounters with negative emotions and events are most effective in addiction relapse. It seems
that insecure individuals more frequently resort to drug use as a self-treatment mechanism to relieve their negative emotions and experiences comparing with secure individuals. Shakibaie
(2000) studied 137 people and reported that 91.3% of the participants suffered from at least one mental disorder. Accordingly, 68.7% of the participants experienced decreased libido, 59.3% had
hypersomnia, 58.7% suffered from major depression and 24.7% suffered from apprehension.
Therefore, in line with previous studies, the present research aims to investigate the relationship between attachment styles and emotional maturity in both addicts and non-addicts.
Hogan and Roberts (1998) contended that immature emotional
behavior includes: impulsive behavior, fuzzy temper, impatience in facing failures, incongruence between specific visual stimuli and responses, inability to forgive others, and too much dependence on others. The present findings showed that there is significant difference in attachment styles between opiate addicts and non-addicts, that addicts suffer from lack of emotional maturity more than do non-addicts. In
addition, the difference between addicts and non-addicts was significant in all the subscales of emotional immaturity.
Torberg and Lyvers (2005) investigated the relationship between attachment, fear of intimacy and differentiation of self in 158 volunteers including 99 individuals registered in an addiction treatment program. As expected, the patients under treatment who suffered from alcoholism, heroin dependency, amphetamines dependency, cocaine or hashish abuse reported high levels of insecure attachment, fear of intimacy and low levels of secure attachment and differentiation of self comparing with the control group.
Insecure attachment, fear of intimacy and differentiation of self may indicate vulnerability of drug abuse.
Besharat (2007) reported that there is significant difference in attachment styles between Iranian drug addicts and non-addicts. There were also significant negative and significant positive
correlations between the severity of drug dependency with secure and insecure attachment styles, respectively. Consequently, attachment styles can influence dependency on drugs through the
processes of familial interactions, social control, emotional regulation and self-efficacy.
1. Mortazavi, Zeinab, Faramarz Sohrabi, and Hamid Reza Hatami. “Comparison of attachment styles and emotional maturity between opiate addicts and non-addicts.”