Disorganized Attachment Style: Common Pitfalls That Reveal the Problem

The way your parents bond with you as an infant can affect your attachment style well into adulthood.

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People who exhibit a disorganized attachment style often come from backgrounds where emotional and physical abuse were a constant presence.

If you did not have a secure bond with your parents as a child—your environment at home was unsafe in some or you lost a parent—you may have a disorganized attachment style as an adult.

Attachment styles can change throughout your life, but becoming aware of your own attachment style is a vital part of making that change. Thus, consider a few common pitfalls that indicate a disorganized attachment style.

Unpredictable Mood Swings

Someone with a disorganized attachment style may cling to their friends or partner one day and then push them away the next. If you could never predict whether or not your parents would act loving towards you in childhood, it can be hard in adulthood to trust that other people in your life will be consistently honest and caring.

You may crave the feeling of closeness, and then become scared of vulnerability. Relationships become a game of going back and forth between extreme closeness and being distant and guarded. You may feel confused about what you really want out of your friendships and romantic relationships.

Self-Sabotage

For a person with a disorganized attachment style, chaos often feels like the norm. Stability, on the other hand, can be uncomfortable.

You may find yourself making the same mistakes over and over again or consciously putting yourself in situations that you know won’t benefit you. Plus, you may also seek out toxic relationships that keep you on an emotional roller coaster.

With a disorganized attachment style, you may feel as though you can’t trust stability to last. In turn, you may act out in a way that results in confirmation of your pre-existing belief. This cycle can continue for years on end.

Overwhelming Emotions

People with disorganized attachment styles often experience intense, overwhelming emotions. And if you did not learn healthy coping skills from your parents, you may not know how to manage those emotions.

Perhaps you feel like other people don’t understand how sensitive you are. Or you may take your feelings out on those around you. At other times, you may try to dissociate from your feelings and avoid processing them altogether.

This inconsistency can make it hard for your friends, relatives, and romantic partners to understand how they can support you.

Anxiety and Hyperactivity

If you have a disorganized attachment style, you may experience persistent anxiety. For example, you may always wonder when someone is going to snap at you. Or you question whether or not someone is faking their commitment to you.

Feeling uncertain and insecure about your relationships can put your nervous system on high alert as a result. 

There are several other ways in which anxiety can manifest in people with disorganized attachment styles. For example, children with disorganized attachment styles can be jumpy and hyperactive. And this nervous energy can make it hard for them to sit still.

Difficulty Maintaining Relationships

If your very first experiences with your parents were even mildly tumultuous or volatile, you may struggle to maintain loving relationships as an adult. In fact, someone with a disorganized attachment style may not know how to accept love that is freely given by a secure friend or partner.

Maybe you feel suspicious of people with seemingly good intentions, and you’re scared of getting too close to them. In your eyes, getting close to someone only means giving them the power to hurt you. And, therefore, you keep your guard up.

Do you suspect that you may have a disorganized attachment style? Talk therapy can help. Click HERE to read more about how I work with people to improve their connections. Or contact me today to schedule a free 20-minute phone consultation and take the first step towards healing.