I have always asked myself if other recovering alcoholics have the same insecure attachment issues as me – can I really extrapolate my straw poll of alcoholics in recovery, whom I know to have insecure attachment issues, to the whole recovery movement?
And if other alcoholics do suffer from it, can we deduce that these issues were there prior to recovery?
Are they antecedent to alcohol problems, are they part of the pathomechanism that drives addictive behaviours?
Is addiction partly driven by attachment disorders?
We will start by looking at alcoholics and then in later blogs look at sex and eating disorders too. I think we may find that insecure attachment to primary care givers has a fundamental part to play in the majority of people suffering addictive behaviours.
So is addiction partly driven by attachment disorders?
The study (1) has shown that people with alcohol dependence significantly differ from non-alcoholics in terms of attachment style.
They also received significantly higher scores on insecure attachment style –addiction partly driven by attachment disorders, and higher scores on attachment dimensions – anxiety and avoidance.
Empirical studies clearly confirm that the history of the attachment relationships significantly affects the shape and quality of interpersonal relationships formed in adulthood, shaping personality and developing a sense of identity, emotional functioning, coping with stress etc
Two distinct dimensions with regards to bonding are: anxiety – corresponding to fear of rejection, and avoidance – referring to avoidance of intimacy (closeness).
Empirical studies confirm that patients addicted to alcohol and other psychoactive substances are very likely to have insecure attachment styles and to display severe anxiety and avoidance in attachment dimensions.
The results of this study confirm our hypothesis that alcohol dependent persons are significantly more likely to exhibit insecure attachment styles (anxious-ambivalent and avoidant styles) than non-alcoholics, and significantly less likely to display secure attachment style.
As indicated by the results obtained, alcohol dependent persons also differ from non-alcoholics in terms of anxiety and avoidance attachment as they received higher scores on these dimensions.
These results are consistent with the results of other studies in which the percentage distribution of the occurrence of the secure style in people addicted to alcohol varies from 5.4 to 40%, while insecure attachment styles vary from 66 to 94.6% [21, 23, 24, 35].
Studies have also shown that among addicts variables such as the avoidance of closeness and fear of intimacy assume much higher values than in patients without addiction .
It seems therefore, that the occurrence of insecure attachment styles and dimensions of such intensity (that indicates feelings of mistrust in interpersonal relationships) is prevalent in patients with alcohol dependence.
Both men and women dependent on alcohol exhibit difficulties in establishing secure, trusting interpersonal relationships and at the same time have an increased tendency to feel anxiety and fear about the stability of the relationship, resulting from the lack of a sense of security and/or actively avoiding forming close, intimate relationships.”
So it seems the prevalence of insecure attachment style is very high from 66-95% in alcoholics which suggests the vast majority of recovering alcoholics know exactly what I am sharing about when I mention my issues around insecure attachment – and are also in a position to help me with these issues.
Wyrzykowska, E., Głogowska, K., & Mickiewicz, K. (2014). Attachment relationships among alcohol dependent persons. Alcoholism and Drug Addiction,27(2), 145-161.