Disorganised Attachment: How It Affects Children

Disorganised Attachment – How It Affects Children

Parents are the primary source of caregiving when a child is born. Young ones turn to turn for advice, safety, and comfort. When a child has his needs met and feels secure emotionally, it is organised attachment.

According to the disorganised attachment definition, this condition happens when a child faces discomfort or fear when facing the caregiver. Subconsciously, the child’s mind may tell him to run away but they can’t because they are too dependent on them.  When disorganised attachment happens, the child may begin disassociating themselves from their feelings. They numb their minds to cope with the pain and ignore how they truly feel. disorganised attachment is a response that stems due to constant exposure to abusive behaviour.

What is Disorganised Attachment?

sad child

If you’re trying to start understanding disorganised attachment style, you should realize that it happens when a child goes through intense trauma and mistreatment. When a child’s personal space is invaded time and time again along with the fact that they are not respected as individuals or treated as human beings, it leaves a mark on them. Children who come from dysfunctional households often exhibit signs of not being able to fit in with their surroundings.

A child with disorganised attachment disorder will have a hard time relating with peers of the same age on many of life’s matters. He may withdraw from conversations and not get along with others. It first starts developing when a parent showers their child with kindness and affection and suddenly mistreats them. For example, the child may get a few pats and be suddenly beat up for no reason. This leaves the child feeling very vulnerable and scared. As time goes on, the child approaches the parent not because of just fear or because they want to but because they are dependent on them. Sometimes even if it is not financial dependence, it can be emotional. The dependence of being loved followed by the constant hurt which becomes an addictive but vicious negative cycle. As the child grows up, these feelings of negative emotions manifest in various ways throughout their lives and relationships.

Parents of children with insecure disorganised attachment usually respond in the following ways which end up traumatizing their kids :

  • Laughing at a child’s problems or finding it funny when they are sad or not feeling well.
  • Mocking a child’s efforts and downplaying their feelings.
  • Ignoring their child’s cries or calls for help.
  • Being suddenly kind to them and punishing them for no reason.

How Does It Develop In Children?

The instinct to seek love and affection is hardwired in children. According to Dr Mary Ainsworth who is an Attachment expert and psychologist, when she did the ‘Strange Situation’ test she noticed how children responded in front of their parents. Kids who faced organised attachment would feel safe and comfortable when parents would walk into their room. They would reach out to them for love and affection.

On the other hand, kids who belonged to families that promoted abusive behaviour responded differently. They would try to go near the caregiver but take a step or two back or force themselves.

What Ainsworth noted about is characteristics is how kids would get upset when reunited with their abusive parents and how relieved they would feel when they went away.

What Does a Child With Disorganised Attachment Look Like?

disorganised attachment

A child with a disorganised disoriented attachment will exhibit some of the following traits:

  • Extreme loneliness and inability to socialize or relate to normal human behaviours in social settings.
  • Fear, stress, and being scared to approach or confide in a parent.
  • Feelings of self-hatred and a lack of worthiness.
  • Fear of intimacy and the inability to open up to others.
  • A constant want to be understood but not being able to because of being always closed off or holed up.
  • Pushing away others and self-sabotaging relationships due to fear of failure and embarrassment.
  • A feeling of incoming threat and constantly being on his/her toes.
  • Having trouble relaxing around others and being terrified to talk or be free.
  • Making premature assumptions about problems and blowing things out of proportion even though they seem small.
  • An avoidance when it comes to connecting with others and a fear of approaching anyone for help.
  • Feelings of confusion and not wanting to stay in the same room with the parent.
  • Always being in a vulnerable state and exhibiting symptoms of socially disorganised development.
  • Becoming totally paralyzed and moving about in uncoordinated ways.
  • Exhibiting signs of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), attention deficit, and memory disorders.

How to Heal From Disorganised Attachment

Healing from disorganised attachment begins with working inwards staying. A person with disorganised attachment symptoms will have to make the first conscious step of choosing to change and being open to that concept to foster gradual healing and emotional well-being.

Change does not happen overnight but it does happen eventually. Here are some tips worth following to make progress in that direction:

  • Attend Therapy – As surprising it may sound, attending therapy will help. There are a lot of emotions buried inside the subconscious mind and speaking to a therapist will help immensely. Therapy is recommended because it teaches you how to communicate and reconnect with people. When you’ve been quiet for years, talking to someone does help and the changes in behaviour become evident with time.
  • Move Towards Intimacy – Moving away from intimacy and ruining relationships is a common problem as an adult when you’ve spent your entire childhood being abused and told nobody loves you. If you are an adult with disorganised attachment disorder, start going on dates and attend meetups. If you find someone you like and they like you back, do not be afraid to open up and be a little vulnerable. That little bit of vulnerability will go a long way and you will realize it soon enough when the healing starts taking place.
  • Identify Sources of disorganised Attachment – When you attend disorganised attachment therapy, your therapist will ask you to identify the sources of your disorganised attachment as a child. This may involve going through old photos and recalling past instances when you had a hard time.
  • Untangling Negative Behaviors – After recognising disorganised attachment patterns, your therapist will guide you towards untangling them. This will involve being able to notice when you are executive negative behaviours and how to stop them on its tracks. The key here is to first work through the trauma and accept the grief you went through instead of bottling up your emotions. After that, you work on preventing them or being stuck in a repeating vicious cycle. You break the chain of negative behaviours, essentially.  Some therapists will work with both the parent and child simultaneously and teach each other how to behave well.

Preventing Disorganised Attachment Disorder

disorganised attachment disorder

Preventing disorganised attachment disorder in kids begins with responsible parenting. Before having any kids, the parents must go through counselling and work through any unresolved issues they had since childhood. If a parent has lived through an abusive childhood, then chances are, those experiences will carry on into their parenting styles.

By attending counselling sessions and therapy, being in a positive and supportive environment, and learning how to respond healthily in situations of distress or discomfort, positive parenting patterns can be developed. And when couples finally do have kids, they know what not to do and how to raise children to be emotionally healthy and loved, not abused or mistreated.

Healing from disorganised attachment is not an easy road but it is doable. The key is time and patience and realizing that it really takes time to get better. When you focus on positive behaviours and relationships, the trauma from the past slowly starts fading away. Progress is noticed when you become happier as an individual and feel comfortable in your own skin as well as with others. The takeaway is that therapy and counselling do help with these cases, and their effects long-term mustn’t be underestimated. If you know someone with disorganised attachment disorder, feel free to share them with this post and talk about attending disorganised attachment therapy. It makes a big difference and you only realize when you see it showing positive results.

Also Read:

Attachment Based Parenting
Foster Parenting
Helicopter Parenting

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Gauri Ratnam completed her Masters in English Literature from the University of Pune. She began her journey as a German translator soon after completing her graduation, but later moved on to pursue her passion for writing. Having written for both digital and print media in a varied range of industries, she has the ability to write relatable and well-researched content, benefical for anyone seeking advice or direction.