Other Question about attachment trauma / Attachment Disorder

Ecdysis

MyPTSD Pro
So, the last few years, I've been finding out more about the childhood trauma that happened to me ages 0 to 5.

Before that, I only consciously knew about the trauma that happened from ages 7 to 18.

I got re-traumatised 2016 and that brought up a lot of the really early childhood stuff, that I was previously (blissfully) unaware of.

A lot of it has to do with emotional neglect in infancy/ toddler years.

I was watching something on TV today that made me realise just how much impact it's had on me.

I've always been the avoidant-attachment disorder type - i.e. I'm very independent and get by, by myself.

I've always had friends and partners, so I've not really realised how far my attachment trauma/ disorder stuff goes.

But for most of my life, I chose friends and partners who also were avoidant-attachment types and we got along just FINE.

For me, friendships and partnerships have always been about mutual care and support, kindness, affection.

But I've always stayed wholly independent, knowing that any friendship or partnership is essentially finite and liable to fail.

Today, for the first time, it's really sunk in deeply, that I don't actually ENJOY spending time with other people.

I do it because I assume that's what I'm supposed to do.

And I treat people kindly and compassionately (unless they really piss me off) because obviously that's a better thing to do than to behave like an arsehole.

But deep down, I don't feel an emotional *need* or *want* to spend time with people.

I've always been happiest, spending time on my own.

When I was younger, I discussed a possible autism diagnosis with my Dr's and therapists, because of that...

I literally don't get why people "like" spending time with other people or how it can be a "need".

It's like that part of my brain got broken in infancy/ toddler age.

To me, friendships and relationships are a chore, but also have positive aspects. Mostly, the positive and negative aspects are more or less balanced, and that seems fine to me.

And I see the value in having friends.

I just think the part of my brain that actually enjoys it and thinks it's important is fundamentally broken.

So, I guess my question is - what do I do about this? How do I heal avoidant-attachment disorder so that I actually "want" to spend time with other people and can conceive of it as a potentially emotionally rewarding activity?

I don't have access to therapy atm, so that's not an option right now.

I don't know if anyone else can relate to this... It sounds kind of "extreme"... But then, in the past I wouldn't have really related to this either, even tho I was living exactly like this.

I thought that because my attachment-avoidant friends and attachment-avoidant partners all had similar needs and wishes about friendships and relationships to me, that we were all doing pretty much fine...
 
If you're happy about your relationships, why change anything?
I thought that because my attachment-avoidant friends and attachment-avoidant partners all had similar needs and wishes about friendships and relationships to me, that we were all doing pretty much fine.
This seems to work for you and them...
 
And I treat people kindly and compassionately (unless they really piss me off) because obviously that's a better thing to do than to behave like an arsehole.

So I have a diagnosis of old-school Reactive Attachment Disorder (Inhibited), from the DSM IV. I am a prosocial adult who has friends, but it is 100% obvious. With attachment disorders, the "attachment styles" don't mean anything. DSED and RAD represent a total lack of formation of primary caregiving attachments, which has impacts on every single human relationship you will have in your life.

Having an avoidant attachment style is not even in the same book, in the same language, on the same planet, as having a confirmed disorder of attachment. Actual attachment disorders? Go far, far, far beyond not feeling like you "need" to be around people. These are disorders that disrupt a basic, fundamental human capacity to form bonds with other people. It is pervasive enough that it is often mistaken for a developmental disorder or even a medical disorder in early infancy.

It is also very rare, less than 1% of even the most severely physically neglected children will end up with attachment disorder issues that persist into adulthood. (Though there is a significant correlation between adults with cluster B personality disorders, and adults who have a prior diagnosis of RAD - but also, there is simply not enough information about this disorder available because again, the population of patients that have it and who can meaningfully participate in these studies, is very low.)

Do you have a history of aggression, violence, anger issues, asociality or antisociality? Why is it important to you to treat others kindly and compassionately? Can you tolerate human contact (anything ranging from a brief conversation, to a handshake or a hug, etc), even if you don't necessarily "need" it? Do you generally get along well with others (did you get along well with others as a child?) Do you love your family members? Do you experience the emotions of love and trust for others?

From what you've written here if there is disorder, it's more likely on the schizoid or autistic spectrum - or whatever other emotional issues you may have whether that's caused by PTSD, dissociation, trauma - or just natural temperament.

Some people just are naturally more independent than others. What matters most is your abilities to coexist with your fellow man and to derive enjoyment from human relationships.
 
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Yes I can relate.
childhood trauma that happened to me ages 0 to 5.
Very similar ⬆️ for me.
I do it because I assume that's what I'm supposed to do.
I did this too. I knew what was socially acceptable, logically, but I didn’t feel any internal attachment.
But for most of my life, I chose friends and partners who also were avoidant-attachment types and we got along just FINE.
It is normal to seek out what is familiar.

It sounds like your mind-body is curious about what other types of relationships are possible for you, and how people who are not avoidant-attachment relate, and whether you might be able to do that too.

The good news is that it’s not rocket science, you and most people *can* learn secure attachment styles of relating. However, you have these protector parts whose job it was to protect little you from emotional abuse and manipulation. So they tell you things like…
part of my brain that actually enjoys it and thinks it's important is fundamentally broken.
This ⬆️ was critical for preserving your ego during the developmental period when you were subject to abuse and manipulation (which you may or may not be currently conscious of).

Stories like what you wrote in the above quote can feel real and permanent. I know because I had them too. It takes a lot of work (often through grief with a compassionate witness) to unravel and dismantle, then create new stories.
How do I heal avoidant-attachment disorder so that I actually "want" to spend time with other people and can conceive of it as a potentially emotionally rewarding activity?

I don't have access to therapy atm, so that's not an option right now.
You’re not going to like my answer but I don’t know of any way to work on attachment wounds without a therapist. Especially when it involves pre-verbal (ages 0-5) abuse. Because you are working on deep relational development. You have parts that did not develop the emotional maturity to relate to people in a meaningful way. Those parts are very young. It’s likely that those parts are perpetually seeking a substitute caregiver, but other protector parts keep them locked away and muted because they know that NO adult can be a substitute caregiver. So there’s a lot of internal tension. And probably imposter syndrome, or feeling like you are a different person in different situations.

The T (if they work with transference) can be a safe enough person for you to put that burden on. They can be your substitute caregiver, but in a very controlled and safe way. Sounds great, right? But of course there’s a catch. You have a load of defense mechanisms to prevent you from being manipulated and they will try to prevent you from doing the work. Such is the dance of the therapeutic relationship.

I’m glad you say that therapy is not an option right now because hopefully it will be an option in the future.

Oh, I am aware of one other method for healing this kind of thing, which would be Buddhist mindfulness training. If I were you and had no access to therapy (even BetterHelp?) I would try joining a Buddhist group and learning about the practices involved. Then when you are able to start therapy you will already have developed good coping skills and can get into the work even quicker.

That’s my take.
 
@Ecdysis
Wow! Almost everything you said rings true for me as well!

I am fiercely independent and asking for help is a recurring struggle that I have come to believe is a flaw I see in myself. I am a 66-year-old female that lives with and takes care of my mother. We have needed help a lot this year so I have begun to ask for and graciously accept help.

(My Dad was a preacher and he missed out on a lot of things because he wouldn't ask for what he needed or wanted.)

It feels good to be cared for. I felt guilty for a while but that's getting better.

Thank you for bringing this subject to the Forum! Definitely food for thought and some examination of my inner thoughts and feelings.
 
Hi @Ecdysis , I just came back to add, and clarify:

I should have said 'potential joy and comfort'.

I agree with @Weemie - avoidant attacchment is itself not a disorder, but an (insecure) coping style, not wrong in itself. It seems odd that being so independent is insecure, but it is if secure represents comfortable interdependence. It takes a lot of courage to share and trust, and be vulerable, or rely on anyone. It is also scary to fear being engulfed, or even to matter to someone else, or ask for help. Was skimming other threads, and even conflict is uncomfortable IMHE when avoidant. But there are also factors like being introverted or extroverted. Some people they say even enjoy being with others but not engaging. Also, one's baseline of stress or hyperarousal, and similarly the depth and breadth of their relationships, all factor in. As do many other variables.

I think it can improve if you recognize it and choose to take the plunge and try, Knowing yourself is tantamount I think, and also recognizing what drives behaviours and fears. Fear is a poor substitute for quality, and you do have to care and be vulnerable to be interdependent. To overcome avoidance a person also has to challenge feeling defective or inadequate or not cut out for relationships. Or even risk the hurt or abandonment as that is what was known. Not communicating (not seeing a need for it, or feeling it won't be useful, or not even thinking to) is a large part, Most avoidant people don't see a need to change what works to maintain distance and autonomy, and commitments are difficult.

I think the biggest part is realizing how much fear is behind it, which really precludes a lot of things, as @AngelKeeperJ said. But just as eually, simple preferance also needs no explanation or justification either.

Hope that makes sense.

Best wishes to you.
 
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Everyone should have access to therapy. In addition to BetterHelp as someone suggested, if it’s a financial issue or you’re uninsured, many practices have interns offering reduced rates or sliding scale fees. You can try asking a social worker, your primary care doctor or even your local ER department for referrals for mental health care assistance that doesn’t require insurance and is free or low cost. If you’re employed you can reach out to your EAP which usually offers a limited number of free therapy visits. If you’re a survivor of sexual or domestic violence most shelters and organizations offer free therapy individually or in groups. Since many are virtual, you don’t necessarily need to be local. I know of a charity that specifically helps connect Spanish speaking people to free or low cost therapy options in their language. There’s probably a charity for whatever your situation is that wants to help you. For anyone who is struggling, please know there’s so many options out there if it’s something you’re ready to try. It’s hard to find the time and energy to advocate for yourself, but your mental health is worth it, you’re worth it.
 
I've always been the avoidant-attachment disorder type - i.e. I'm very independent and get by, by myself.
As far as childhood attachment styles go? That’s identical to secure attachment.

Being independent & getting by, by one’s self? Can speak to soooooo many things. Often contradictory things.

For me, friendships and partnerships have always been about mutual care and support, kindness, affection.

But I've always stayed wholly independent, knowing that any friendship or partnership is essentially finite and liable to fail.
Those are also 2 things that speak to secure attachment & self confidence.

^^^
I could continue on, in your post, as everything you list out has VASTLY different sourcing/assignment possibilities.

But? I’m curious …if you’re deliberately looking for things that are wrong with you, or solutions to ongoing problems?
 
Have you considered you might be on the aromantic spectrum? It's not unhealthy NOT to want the conventional romantic relationship. Some statements in your post made me think you may not be avoidant exactly but just not into romantic relationships, so I thought it was worth bringing up.
 
Yes I can relate.

Very similar ⬆️ for me.

I did this too. I knew what was socially acceptable, logically, but I didn’t feel any internal attachment.

It is normal to seek out what is familiar.

It sounds like your mind-body is curious about what other types of relationships are possible for you, and how people who are not avoidant-attachment relate, and whether you might be able to do that too.

The good news is that it’s not rocket science, you and most people *can* learn secure attachment styles of relating. However, you have these protector parts whose job it was to protect little you from emotional abuse and manipulation. So they tell you things like…

This ⬆️ was critical for preserving your ego during the developmental period when you were subject to abuse and manipulation (which you may or may not be currently conscious of).

Stories like what you wrote in the above quote can feel real and permanent. I know because I had them too. It takes a lot of work (often through grief with a compassionate witness) to unravel and dismantle, then create new stories.

You’re not going to like my answer but I don’t know of any way to work on attachment wounds without a therapist. Especially when it involves pre-verbal (ages 0-5) abuse. Because you are working on deep relational development. You have parts that did not develop the emotional maturity to relate to people in a meaningful way. Those parts are very young. It’s likely that those parts are perpetually seeking a substitute caregiver, but other protector parts keep them locked away and muted because they know that NO adult can be a substitute caregiver. So there’s a lot of internal tension. And probably imposter syndrome, or feeling like you are a different person in different situations.

The T (if they work with transference) can be a safe enough person for you to put that burden on. They can be your substitute caregiver, but in a very controlled and safe way. Sounds great, right? But of course there’s a catch. You have a load of defense mechanisms to prevent you from being manipulated and they will try to prevent you from doing the work. Such is the dance of the therapeutic relationship.

I’m glad you say that therapy is not an option right now because hopefully it will be an option in the future.

Oh, I am aware of one other method for healing this kind of thing, which would be Buddhist mindfulness training. If I were you and had no access to therapy (even BetterHelp?) I would try joining a Buddhist group and learning about the practices involved. Then when you are able to start therapy you will already have developed good coping skills and can get into the work even quicker.

That’s my take.
Just wanted to chip in that I relate really strongly to OP and found this comment really helpful.

I don’t know whether this is what you meant @Ecdysis but when I read your post I felt a real longing for a different type of connection which I really strongly relate to.

I have friendships and am happily married but always have this sense of sort of being disconnected from them in a way I can’t properly verbalise. Like there’s an internal barrier from connecting all the way.

And I often have times when I need help but it doesn’t even occur to me to ask for it because I’m so used to having shoulder everything that I’ve internalised “I’m in this on my own”.

I think with those core beliefs a big part of it is noticing when it’s happening and just gently trying to question. A huge part of CBT therapy and similar types is just gently noticing your thought patterns and questioning if they are helpful/seeking to reframe.

So maybe that includes continuing to write posts here exploring your feelings, doing lots of fantastic self care (I’m going to look at Buddhist meditation after this for sure!) and exploring low cost therapy options. As mentioned there are definitely options out there. Anyway those are my thoughts on “what do I do about this”.
 
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