All too often childhood becomes a struggle for survival, depriving people of the chance to grow up in a healthy way. Some people describe themselves feeling like boats on stormy seas, or like they’re being tossed around in a hurricane.

Attachment Trauma is rooted in our development, but its impacts are most keenly felt later in life, as adults. Lessons learned from our traumas are ingrained in us. Because of that, it’s best to think of them as instinctive knowledge. We learn what hurts, and the chemistry of our bodies teaches us to avoid it.

But what happens when what hurts is love? Sometimes trust, comfort, and love are the bogeyman in our closet—the childhood monster that looks like a friend but can’t be trusted. How do we even know, when those beliefs are impossible to distinguish from a reflex?

Here are the signs of Attachment Trauma in Adults—as well as some information on how to heal from it.

Signs of Attachment Trauma

Adults who suffer from Attachment Trauma have difficulty making and maintaining connections with others. As children, we form our understanding of relationships. Our expectations of others, the demands we place upon ourselves, and the trustworthiness of those around us are all intertwined with our human fight-or-flight instinct. These early lessons cause people with Attachment Trauma to perceive relationships as dangerous, treacherous waters.

This may manifest in the following ways:

Emotional Instability

When our relationships are tied to fight-or-flight instincts, every argument feels like a life-or-death struggle. People with Attachment Trauma are more likely to shut down or go on the attack when a disagreement arises. Communication is high-intensity and unpredictable.

Resistance to Intimacy

Intimacy is often regarded by people with Attachment Trauma as an unwanted vulnerability. Like a child who burned their hand on the stove, we remember the pain that comes with having our love and trust betrayed.

Shame \ Self-Loathing

Attachment trauma often leaves many individuals with the impression that they are somehow broken or flawed. As a result, they carry a deep core of self-loathing can lead to clinginess and insecurity. Even the most promising relationships can be killed by a constant need for reassurance and validation.

Difficulty with Trust

Once bitten, twice shy—so the saying goes. Here, that’s true also. An inability to take people at their word leaves people with Attachment Trauma constantly looking for danger. To account for the possibility of betrayal, they stay on high alert. Because of this, they’re never able to enjoy their relationships to their fullest.

Inability to Set Boundaries

Closely linked to feelings of shame and self-loathing, Attachment Trauma often leads people to accept abusive behavior from their partners and spouses. Because they feel broken, they feel lucky to be with anyone—even someone who yells at them, neglects them, or abuses them on a physical basis. Setting clear boundaries and guarding one’s own needs requires finding a measure of self-love.

How to Heal from Attachment Trauma

The trick to healing from Attachment Trauma is to work through old wounds and painful memories. Those memories leave a lasting mark on our psyche. The damage is both emotional and physical.

  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
  • Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing (EMDR)
  • Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  • Internal Family Systems (IFS)

Schedule an Appointment

Reach out today if you’re interested in learning more about trauma therapy. Whether or not you’re surviving on those stormy seas, continuously moving from one shipwreck to another takes its toll. Consider, it may be time to embrace a new approach to healing. There are effective, evidence-based therapies out there that can help you quiet those stormy seas and move on to a life of smooth sailing.

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