How Avoidant Attachment Develops
Updated: Dec 8, 2022
When a person has an avoidant attachment style, interacting with others can be overwhelming, scary, and emotionally exhausting altogether.
It's a never-ending cycle of wanting to connect with a partner, but also feeling terrified of it.
That's because individuals with avoidant attachments have usually experienced some degree of neglect or active rejection as a child.
Often, their parents or caregivers have been consistently emotionally unavailable or unresponsive to their emotional needs.
Let's take a look at the four main ways an avoidant attachment style develops:
Isolation: When a child is persistently left alone for too much time, no one around for them to seek support in, the effects can be lasting. If this occurs, a child unconsciously shuts down their attachment system- a way to avoid the pain of hopelessly searching for connection with others.
Emotional Neglect/Rejection: This is when one's caregiver is consistently non-responsive, rejecting, and/or not attuned to the needs of their child. A caregiver may be physically present, but wholly unavailable for emotional connection and affection.
Parentification: When the child is the one who becomes the caretaker for their own parent(s), something is obviously wrong. In this dynamic, a child is forced to confront extreme feelings of stress and instability at way too young of an age. The ultimate message they may learn from assuming this role is that their closeness with someone entails an abandonment of self.
Lack of Co-Regulation: A child’s nervous system doesn't have the opportunity to develop healthy regulation skills without a responsive, present, and supportive adult. Often, this co-regulation between parent and child is a healthy and formative experience. Without it, one's regulation skills develop in the context of independence and self-sufficiency at an age where a child isn't prepared to handle those things.
If you find that you have an avoidant attachment style that might've carried on into adulthood- know that it is NOT your fault.
It's the result of your life circumstances, but it is not a life sentence.
Help is available through means of mental health support like therapy to unlearn these harmful patterns and beliefs that may have developed as a result of our early life experiences.