What Is Attachment Dysregulation? (Formerly Known As Love Addiction)

If you’ve ever felt like the world was coming to an end, depressed or in despair when you’ve let go of a relationship, then you may have experienced withdrawal, or what the Behavioral Health industry has been calling “Love Addiction.”
In the PIVOT Process, we define this as Attachment Dysregulation, to highlight the severity of the condition.

What Is Attachment Dysregulation (Formerly Known As Love Addiction)?

Attachment Dysregulation is a condition that is typically created by adopting survival patterns to tolerate feelings of abandonment or neglect.

What Causes Attachment Issues?

Often individuals that have Attachment Dysregulation have experienced unresolved abandonment and neglect in childhood. This leads them to be challenged with attachment wounds and can make them feel lonely, empty, and lifeless.
The result?
When in a relationship, the default behavior is to cling to another person because of a deep fear of abandonment and neglect. Until the attachment wounds have been treated.

What Are The Most Common Attachment Styles?

There are several ways that our relationship with our caregivers in childhood can affect our adult life. As kids, we tend to manifest the following four attachment styles:

  • Secure: this style of attachment is considered to be the healthiest. It comes about when parents give their children sufficient care, protection, and emotional support.
  • Anxious-ambivalent: this attachment occurs as a result of unpredictable parenting.  The child is in distress when the caregiver is gone and ambivalent when they return.
  • Anxious-avoidant: kids with an avoidant style tend to ignore their caregiver and show little emotion. It occurs as a result of a neglectful or unresponsive parenting style.
  • Disorganized: a child that exhibits disorganized attachment shows no clear attachment behaviors.

How Attachment Disruption Leads To Dysregulation

A secure attachment can become disrupted for a great number of reasons, leading to a series of difficulties for the child later on in their life. A child with attachment wounds is likely to experience issues with forming and maintaining relationships in adulthood.
For example, an adult with attachment issues may struggle with expressing their emotions to their partner and communicating with them in a healthy way. Bottling up emotions and withdrawing emotionally can take a great toll on any relationship and cause great distress for both parties.

The dangers of traumatic attachment and affect dysregulation

There are many ways in which childhood trauma can affect your adult relationships. Our attachment style is, in fact, one of the most important factors that influence our ability to form and maintain healthy intimate relationships. Some of the most common attachment dysregulation patterns we see are:

  • If we’re rejected or neglected by our parents when we’re young, we may develop a tendency to avoid commitment, keep our partners at a distance, and show little genuine emotion for fear of being rejected once again.
  • If we’re hurt or abused by our caregivers, we can develop an attachment style where we struggle to trust our partner, fear abandonment and rejection and have trouble showing our emotions freely.
  • If our parents are inconsistent in tending to our needs, we tend to be clingy in our relationship, crave lots of attention and intimacy and be paranoid about the relationship falling apart.

How Do You Know If You Have Fear of Abandonment?

If you feel overwhelmed that your partner will leave you, it may be the case that you have a deeply rooted fear of abandonment that is a result of a traumatic emotional experience from your childhood. But how do you know for sure that that’s the case? Look out for these signs:

  • Are you sensitive to criticism?
  • Do you have trouble trusting your partner?
  • Do you find it hard to make friends?
  • Have your relationships been predominantly unhealthy?
  • Do you get attached quickly, but also move on quite soon?
  • Do you blame yourself for anything that goes wrong?
  • Do you do everything in your power to please your partner?
  • Do you tend to stay in the relationship even though you know it’s not healthy?

If these sound familiar, it’s very likely that you’re struggling with fear of abandonment that probably comes from emotional abandonment you experienced when you were a child.

How Do You Know If You Have Attachment Issues?

Individuals who have unresolved childhood abandoned issues are in a destabilizing position – they feel anxious and depressed. In most cases, they are unable to show up for commitments, work, and family.
This anxiety and depression lead to feeling relationally challenged with people and when relationships don’t work or end, they experience relational withdrawal.
Anxiety can create a pattern of addictive relationships and result in Attachment Dysregulation (formerly known as love addiction) and codependency.
If you’re wondering if you or a loved one has Attachment Dysregulation, here are the most common signs and characteristics to look for:

Most Common Signs And Characteristics Of Attachment Dysregulation:

  • Lack of nurturing and attention when young
  • Feeling isolated, detached from parents and family
  • Seek to avoid rejection and abandonment at any cost
  • Highly manipulative and controlling of others
  • Unrealistic expectations of others in relationships
  • Mistake intensity for intimacy (drama driven relationships)
  • Hidden pain or denial
  • Afraid to trust anyone in a relationship
  • Inner rage over lack of nurturing, early abandonment
  • Sense of worthlessness without a relationship or partner
  • Need for positive regard
  • Tolerance for high-risk behavior
  • Presence of other addictive or compulsive problems
  • Using others, sex and relationships to alter mood or relieve emotional pain
  • Confusion of sexual attraction with love at first sight
  • Trading sexual activity for “love” or attachment
  • Outer facade of “having it all together” to hide internal disintegration
  • Existence of a secret “double life”
  • Refusal to acknowledge the presence of a problem
  • Leaving one relationship for another and the inability to be without a relationship

If you’ve gone through any of the situations described when your relationship ends, then you may experience withdrawal symptoms of Attachment Dysregulation such as:

Common Withdrawal Symptoms Of Attachment Dysregulation:

  • Difficulty focusing
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Having a hard time with a spiritual connection
  • Spending money that you don’t have
  • Not able to show up for other relationships
  • Unmet longing
  • Missing deadlines at work
  • Fear
  • Panic
  • Nausea
  • Upset stomach
  • Dramatic changes in weight
  • Insomnia
  • Obsessive thinking
  • Rage
  • Loneliness
  • Irrational thinking
  • Irritability
  • Extreme grief
  • Restlessness
  • Anger
  • Nightmares
  • Fatigue
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Emotional instability
  • Inability to care for yourself or others such as children
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Denial
  • Despair

What does withdrawal from love addiction look like?

For a person experiencing attachment dysregulation, a withdrawal from a relationship looks a lot like recovering from any other addiction. It’s a highly emotional and stressful experience that may leave serious consequences without effective relationship addiction counseling and other forms of care.
The recovery process tends to be long and tedious, with a number of intense highs and lows. What’s more, the experience of emotional dysregulation attachment can sometimes include physical symptoms such as vomiting and stomach aches, as well as extreme psychological symptoms like severe depression, anxiety, and distress.

What To Do If You Experience Attachment Dysregulation
(Formerly Known As Love Addiction)?

If you think you are in withdrawal from love addiction, you must give yourself time to heal.
The good news is you’re not stuck with this forever. You can heal and create secure attachments in the future.

How To Deal With Love Withdrawal

Recovery starts with being aware of and recognizing the symptoms. It is about getting the right help and being motivated and accountable to the process.
Healing allows you to reconnect to yourself with self-compassion and self-love and have a different outcome…
Remember, you are worthy of happiness and love and a healthy relationship. You can have relational freedom.

Freedom From Love Addiction: How We Can Help

At the Glass House, located in Northern California, we offer a 5 day retreat program, which is designed to repair and restore relational challenges and heal old attachment wounds. For those of you who are unable to visit the Glass House, we also offer remote, one on one relationship coaching with a certified PIVOT advocate. We’re here to help!

What Is Avoidance / Ambivalence Attachment?

For some individuals, thinking about being in a relationship can activate feelings of wanting to run away. Why? Because they feel that the needs of a partner, family member, or employer are overwhelming.
Unfortunately, many individuals find themselves attracted to avoidant or ambivalent partners. This often leads to a series of unhealthy patterns which cause a great deal of pain for both sides in the relationship. If this is the case with you and your partner, consider love avoidance coaching or intensive workshops which can give you the tools and resources you need to heal your attachment wounds.
Read on to learn more about love avoidance and ambivalence.

What Is Avoidant Attachment?

Avoidant attachment is the inability and fear to show love. Individuals will carefully guard themselves when in relationships and avoid real intimacy… to protect themselves from rejection, loss and pain. Often they are not even aware of the behavior and it can be misunderstood as selfishness.
Unfortunately, denial and avoidance become habits, which keeps the individual from being seen, feeling connected and loved.
Paradoxically, the individual will often want more but will go outside the relationship to get what they want, because it feels safer. 
People with avoidance issues have difficulty trusting others and will distance themselves if a relationship feels too close. Experiences in early childhood are usually the cause of this, and they use avoidance to try to feel safe within an intimate relationship.

How Do You Know If You Have an Avoidant Attachment Style?

Do you think you or your partner have avoidance issues? That may be the case if you notice that you tend to be uncomfortable with intimacy in your relationship and have a way of escaping commitment when you start to feel stifled or suffocated. 
If you worry your partner is avoidant, you may want to look for signs such as: 

  • Not returning your texts or calls
  • Idealizing a past relationship
  • Sending mixed signals
  • Keeping secrets 
  • Childish and sullen behavior
  • Showing mistrust 
  • Escaping commitment 

Of course, these are just some of the signs your partner may exhibit in your relationship. However, if you feel like most of these signs ring true, you may want to consider professional couple counseling or relationship therapy workshops. 

Do Avoidants Fall In Love?

Despite the name, love avoidants actually crave love and affection, just like everyone else. But because of their childhood wounds, they find it more difficult to face disappointment and betrayal than other people, so they tend to guard their feelings and do all they can to avoid being hurt in their relationships. They are not running away from love, they are running away from pain. 

Why Are Love Avoidants Attracted to Love Addicts?

Both love addicts and love avoidants often carry deeply ingrained fears and insecurities that stem from their childhood. On one hand, addicts crave affection and love that they rarely received from their parent or caregiver. Love avoidants, on the other hand, typically try to run from intimacy to avoid getting engulfed and hurt once again. 
While the relationship may work initially, it is bound to come with its own set of challenges. As the love addict showers the avoidant with love and affection, the avoidant will inevitably start to pull away. The distancing of the avoidant will lead the addict to seek even more reassurance and affection as proof of the avoidant’s love. This cycle often repeats itself. This is what many refer to as a love addicted tango.

How Do You Deal With A Love Avoidant?

Being in a relationship with an avoidant partner can be extremely challenging, especially for a love addict. But despite the challenges, it is possible to create a deep connection with an avoidant, but only if they are willing to put in some effort, too. Here’s how you can improve your relationship with an avoidant partner: 

  • Be patient and show your partner that they can trust you 
  • Give your partner some space instead of chasing them 
  • Keep in mind that their love avoidance is not your fault 
  • Be understanding and dependable without overwhelming them
  • Learn the differences between the wants and needs for the relationship between you and your partner 
  • Recognize your own unhealthy survival patterns 
  • Set healthy boundaries 
  • Don’t neglect your own needs 

What Is Ambivalent Attachment?

Another way attachment shows up is if the individual is unavailable for intimacy. This means they are caught up in feeling anxious and also at times avoidant. This is the type of person that communicates “come here – go away”. This is known as being Ambivalent
The coping strategies that are avoidant or ambivalent which people use relate to creating an intensity in other activities outside the relationship, such as non-intimate sex, work, shopping, drugs and alcohol. 
Among all of the attachment styles, ambivalent attachment seems to be the most chaotic. This is because ambivalent attachment tends to come from a childhood in which the parent or caregiver was inconsistent in providing love and affection. 
A child who never knows when they will receive attention or love ends up being fearful of it but still craves it desperately. They never feel secure in a relationship and will live with a constant fear of abandonment and an intense need for validation. 

How Do You Know If You Have an Ambivalent Attachment Style?

Being ambivalent in your relationships or living with an ambivalent partner can be exhausting. If you’re worried that your partner has an ambivalent attachment style, look for the following traits: 

  • Is your partner constantly critical or picky? 
  • Do they have a history of short relationships? 
  • Are they confused about what they want from the relationship? 
  • Do they always seem distant or busy? 
  • Are their actions unpredictable? 
  • Are they hesitant to make long-term plans? 

If you never feel sure of what your partner feels or thinks, it’s likely that you feel lost and confused about the nature of your relationship. If that’s the case, it would probably be a good idea to seek expert help if you want to salvage the relationship and improve your mental health. 

Link Between Attachment Style And Depression

The Glass House helps avoidant and ambivalent individuals find their voice and use it. 
When the avoidant or ambivalent behavior is defined and understood, it becomes a starting point to treat the underlying causes that create love avoidance. If this isn’t treated, then it often leads to depression.
When an individual has difficulty deciding whether to leave a relationship, this indecisiveness can lead to a combination of feeling anxious and depressed. 

Why Is Attachment Important To Physical And Mental Health?

Avoidant and ambivalent attachment behaviors can significantly decrease the quality of your life, especially when it comes to your interpersonal relationships. In fact, the style of our attachment is a key factor in our physical and mental health. Here’s how: 

  • The relationship with our caregivers will shape our intimate relationships. 
  • Unhealthy attachment can result in difficulties with understanding our emotions.
  • In turn, we may struggle with relating to the emotions of other people.
  • Without healthy connections with others, we may struggle with anxiety and depression.
  • Our attachment style can make it hard to bounce back from disappointment and failure. 

As you can see, your attachment style is a key factor in determining your personal relationships. Because of this, working on your attachment can be incredibly useful for improving your intimate relationships and overall wellbeing. 

What Causes Love Avoidance and Ambivalence?

Individuals need love and connection with others. However, if you have suffered from feelings of abandonment or loss as a child, then you are likely to have difficulty forming healthy attachments in adulthood, which can lead to avoidance or ambivalence. 
Avoidance or ambivalence can also occur from experiencing abuse or neglect as a child from parents, siblings, other family members, teachers, coaches, bullies and friends. 
If you’re wondering if you or a loved one has Avoidance behaviors, here are the most common signs and characteristics to look for.

Most Common Characteristics And Signs Of Avoidant Attachment

Individuals with an avoidant attachment style tend to exhibit a number of characteristic behaviors, including: 

  • Avoid intimacy in the relationship by creating an intensity in other activities outside the relationship
  • Craving independence at all costs
  • Emotional withdrawal and bottling up emotions
  • Avoid being known in the relationship
  • Distance themselves from intimate contact to keep from feeling engulfed
  • Over-controlling parenting when young
  • Secretive behavior – hiding feelings
  • Need to be seen and adored and then escape
  • Refusal to acknowledge the existence of a problem
  • Tolerance for high-risk behavior
  • Denial that there is a problem 

Most Common Characteristics And Signs Of Ambivalent Attachment

If you’re wondering if you or a loved one has Ambivalent behaviors, here are the most common signs and characteristics to look for:

  • They let other things outside of the relationship get in the way, i.e., hobbies, work, friends, lovers, addictions—anything.
  • Typically, they had one anxious and one avoidant parent attachment style
  • They have a “come here, go away” relational pattern
  • Crave love and fear it
  • Avoid intimacy by obsessing about love through romantic fantasies about unavailable people
  • They sexualize relationships such that emotional intimacy is non-existent and then become addicted to the sex or the relationship—often both.
  • They become addicted through romantic affairs rather than committed relationships
  • They struggle to open to a deeper level of emotional intimacy, and yet they are unable to let go of the relationship.

Can Avoidance or Ambivalence Be Treated?

The first step starts with being aware of and recognizing the symptoms. It is about healing yourself and being committed to being able to attach securely by knowing what you want and need in a relationship based on your personal storyline and background.
The process includes dealing with feelings and healing from past wounds. Healing allows you to reconnect to yourself with self-compassion and self-love. 
We recommend that you seek support from professionals and talk about the pain that’s inside of you. 
Remember, you are worthy of happiness and love and a healthy relationship. You can have relational freedom.

How can you deal with ambivalent or avoidant attachment?

Coping with their attachment style is a long and stressful process for most people. This is because we’re often unaware of the exact issues that stem from our relationship with our caregiver in our early childhood and finding out exactly how much it has affected us can be both eye-opening and terrifying. 
The first step to overcoming your insecure attachment is to get acquainted with your past. Understanding exactly how you became the person you are now can help you accept and reconcile with your childhood experiences. 
This is best done through professional therapy and attending different workshops and programs designed to help you improve your relationships and your overall well being. But if you want to take some steps on your own, here’s what you should do: 

  • Start by identifying your emotions and expressing your needs without fear. 
  • Strive to be as authentic in your communication as possible. 
  • Combat your shame and work on your self-esteem. 
  • Try not to criticize yourself and accept your flaws. 
  • Work on compromising and seeing your partner’s perspective. 

Of course, these are just some of the steps you can take to start on your path to recovery. In addition to these general coping techniques, you should also seek professional support if you want to improve your relationships and the quality of your life. 

How To Overcome Insecure Attachment: Our Love Avoidance Intensive Workshops Can Help!

We provide support and healing for these individuals by providing a personal PIVOT coach or coming to The Glass House and taking a 5-day deep dive into the PIVOT process. We provide defining attachment styles, one on one sessions, group process and experiential therapies to encourage individuals to be seen, respected, and understood.
In addition, we offer intensive programs designed to repair and restore relational challenges. Learn more about the PIVOT process and our programs. We’re here to help.