What Causes Fear Of Commitment Or Commitment Phobia
Researchers havent been able to establish a specific cause for what some people call commitment issues which can be commitment phobia or fear of commitment.
There may be many possible combinations of factors that lead to someone not wanting to commit to a relationship or a certain lifestyle choice. For example, living with relationship OCD or ROCD.
Other possibilities include:
Attachment Theory In Babies Infants And Early Childhood Development
According to Bowlby and Ainsworth, attachments with the primary caregiver develop during the first 18 months or so of the childâs life, starting with instinctual behaviors like crying and clinging . These behaviors are quickly directed at one or a few caregivers in particular, and by 7 or 8 months old, children usually start protesting against the caregiver leaving and grieve for their absence.
Once children reach the toddler stage, they begin forming an internal working model of their attachment relationships. This internal working model provides the framework for the childâs beliefs about their own self-worth and how much they can depend on others to meet their needs.
In Bowlby and Ainsworthâs view, the attachment styles that children form based on their early interactions with caregivers form a continuum of emotion regulation, with anxious-avoidant attachment at one end and anxious-resistant at the other.
Secure attachment falls at the midpoint of this spectrum, between overly organized strategies for controlling and minimizing emotions and the uncontrolled, disorganized, and ineffectively managed emotions.
The most recently added classification, disorganized-disoriented, may display strategies and behaviors from all across the spectrum, but generally, they are not effective in controlling their emotions and may have outbursts of anger or aggression .
When To See A Doctor
Ideally, treatment should begin in childhood. A child who has experienced any form of neglect or maltreatment likely needs psychological support, regardless of whether they have an attachment disorder.
Anyone who feels that their thoughts or behaviors are negatively impacting their relationships should consider consulting a doctor or psychotherapist.
Also, any adult who has ever experienced maltreatment may benefit from discussing it with a therapist. Unresolved issues from the past may be influencing thoughts and behaviors in the present.
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Limitations On Current Research
When discussing research on adult attachment, it’s important to note that some limitations exist:
- Most studies are heteronormative and cis-normative
- Culture is rarely taken into account
- There is a relative lack of recent studies
- Education levels of participants may play a role in outcome
- Many studies involve co-occurring conditions
- Whether or not a romantic relationship is a true attachment cannot always be determined
- The exact purpose of attachment in adult relationships is not as well understood as in infant-caregiver relationships
Current research gives places to start, but more research is needed for a better understanding of how attachment theory applies to adults.
Will I Always Have The Same Attachment Style
While you generally carry your attachment style from childhood with you into adulthood, your style can be influenced by the people you have relationships with.
For example, say you typically have a secure attachment style. But then you end up in a relationship with a dismissive-avoidant type. Because you never know what the other person is thinking or feeling, you might start to become more insecure, overanalyzing everything they do or building up your own walls internally to protect yourself.
And the reverse can happen. Time spent in partnership with someone who has a secure attachment style can help you feel more secure if you werent already a calm cucumber.
Being in a healthy relationship for a long period of time, where we gradually learn were safe and loved, says Martorell, can overcome earlier bad experiences and shape romantic attachment style into a more positive form.
Another thing to keep in mind is that attachment styles are exacerbated in times of stress. For example, if youre an anxious-preoccupied type, you might not exhibit that behavior all the time. But then you have an argument with your partner, and you start obsessing over what happened, and feeling extra needy for their reassurance.
Likewise, if you typically have a secure attachment style, but also identify with some traits of one of the insecure subsets, a sudden life change or time of adversity might cause you to feel less secure in your relationship.
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What Is An Avoidant Attachment Style
An avoidant or avoidant-dismissive attachment style is a disordered approach to relationships that tends to develop when a childs relationship with their primary caregiver is characterized by absence, unavailability, or rejection. This lack of consistent or predictable care and connection tends to force a child to fend for themselves and attempt to self-soothe in lieu of parental attention.
If unaddressed in childhood, this avoidant attachment style can lead you to have difficulty trusting others, avoid relational intimacy, and to overvalue autonomous independence.
If you have an avoidant style of attachment, you tend to:
- be extremely independent
- feel uncomfortable with your own emotions and those of others
- be unwilling to express your needs or ask others for help
- avoid emotional intimacy at all costs, often preferring flings and short-term romances to long-term relationship
- choose to connect only with people you believe are equally independent or will otherwise require little vulnerability from you
- view others as unreliable, untrustworthy, or unworthy of your time and effort
In relationships, an avoidant attachment style often means that you tend to:
Additionally, your relational partners may frequently find you to be angry, rigid, critical, or controlling. You tend to do well only in relationships with partners who make no, or very few, emotional demands of you.
Can Your Attachment Style Change
The good news is that your attachment style can change over timealthough its slow and difficult.
Research shows that an anxious or avoidant who enters a long-term relationship with a secure can be raised up to the level of the secure over an extended period of time. Unfortunately, an anxious or avoidant is also capable of bringing down a secure to their level of insecurity if theyre not careful.19
Also, extreme negative life events, such as divorce, death of child, serious accident, etc., can cause a secure attachment type to fall into a more insecure attachment type.20
For instance, anonymous man may be more or less secure, get married to Anxious Anna, bring her up to a more secure level, but when they run into money trouble she falls back to her anxious level, cheats on him and then divorces him for all of his money, sending him into a tailspin of avoidance. Anonymous goes on to ignore intimacy and pump-and-dump women for the next 10 years, afraid to become intimate with any of them.
If youre beginning to think that anxious and/or avoidant behavior corresponds to the fake alpha syndrome and other insecure behavior I describe in men in my book, then youre correct. Our attachment styles are intimately connected with our confidence in ourselves and others.
Psychologists Bartholomew and Horowitz have hypothesized a model showing that ones attachment strategy corresponds to the degree of positive/negative self-image, and the positive/negative image of others.21
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Changing Attachment Styles: How To Transition
If you believe you have an insecure attachment style, you may be wondering how you can change it.
In some cases, this happens naturally. For instance, engaging in a relationship with someone with a secure style can help you become more secure in turn.
Aging may also play a factor.
One study suggests that attachment styles can become more secure over time simply because the older we get, the less time we have for relationships that dont meet our needs or make us happy.
Choosing to take an active role in changing your style is often what helps the most. Through these simple, actionable steps, you can help guide yourself to a more secure style.
Categories Of Attachment Disorder In Children And Teens
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Lawrence B. Smith of Attachment Disorder Maryland, along with the work of Elizabeth Randolph, Ph.D., has proposed that Attachment Disorder is a spectrum or continuum.
The following 4 categories are proposed diagnoses or clusters of attachment disorder:
- Anxious Attachment Disorder
- Ambivalent Attachment Disorder
- Neurologically Disorganized Attachment Disorder
According to Lawrence Smith, children with attachment disorder can attach but they cannot maintain it across time because they lack self and object constancy, or have a false sense of self.
Children with milder forms may be described as having attachment issues or attachment insecurities , with the most severe being a child with attachment disorder.
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What Are The 3 Characteristics Of Attachment
1) Proximity Maintenance The desire to be near the people we are attached to. 2) Safe Haven Returning to the attachment figure for comfort and safety in the face of a fear or threat. 3) Secure Base The attachment figure acts as a base of security from which the child can explore the surrounding environment.
Adult Attachment Styles And Relationship Configurations
Different attachment types tend to configure themselves into intimate relationships in predictable ways. Secure types are capable of dating both anxious and avoidant types. Theyre comfortable enough with themselves to give anxious types all of the reassurance they need and to give avoidant types the space they need without feeling threatened themselves.
Anxious and avoidants frequently end up in relationships with one another more often than they end up in relationships with their own types.17 That may seem counter-intuitive, but theres order behind the madness. Avoidant types are so good at putting others off that oftentimes its only the anxious types who are willing to stick around and put in the extra effort to get them to open up.
For instance, Avoidant Alex may be able to successfully shirk Secure Sarahs pushes for increased intimacy. After which, Secure Sarah will accept the rejection and move on. But Anxious Anna will only become more determined by a man who pushes her away. Shell resort to calling him for weeks or months on end until he finally caves and commits to her. This gives Avoidant Alex the reassurance he needs that he can behave independently and Anxious Anna will wait around for him.
Often these relationships produce some degree of dysfunctional equilibrium as they fall into a pattern of chaser-chasee, which are both roles the anxious and avoidant types need in order to feel comfortable with intimacy.
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Develop Relationships With People Who Are Securely Attached
Being in a relationship with another person who also has an insecure attachment style can make for a union thats out of sync at best, rocky, confusing, or even painful at worst. While you can work through your insecurities together as a couple, if youre single it can help to look for a partner with a secure attachment style to help shift you away from the negative patterns of thinking and behaving.
A strong, supportive relationship with someone who makes you feel loved can play an important part in building your sense of security. Estimates vary, but research suggests that 50 to 60 percent of people have a secure attachment style, so theres a good chance of finding a romantic partner who can help you overcome your insecurities. Similarly, developing strong friendships with these individuals can also help you recognize and adopt new patterns of behavior.
Can You Love Without Attachment
Here are some tips to help you navigate your attachments and ultimately detached love: Love yourself first. Loving without attachment will ask you to address all of your insecurities and to learn to love and accept yourself as you are right now. This is a work in progress for most of us, and thats totally okay.
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What Is My Attachment Style
There are tons of attachment style quizzes to choose from online but we like this one because its free, short, doesnt have annoying ads, and plots your attachment style on a quadrant. This helps gives dimension to your specific style. If you fall in the secure quadrant, for example, youll learn if you edge more toward an anxiety or avoidant style.
Keep in mind they offer two options: a lengthier and a shorter version. We like the short version because it doesnt require email sign-up.
Attachment Styles And How They Shape Adult Relationships
Attachment styles or types are characterized by the behavior exhibited within a relationship, especially when that relationship is threatened. For example, someone with a secure attachment style may be able to share their feelings openly and seek support when faced with relationship problems. Those with insecure attachment styles, on the other hand, may tend to become needy or clingy in their closest relationships, behave in selfish or manipulative ways when feeling vulnerable, or simply shy away from intimacy altogether.
Understanding how your attachment style shapes and influences your intimate relationships can help you make sense of your own behavior, how you perceive your partner, and how you respond to intimacy. Identifying these patterns can then help you clarify what you need in a relationship and the best way to overcome problems.
While attachment styles are largely shaped by the infant-primary caregiver connection, especially during the first year, its important to note that the strength of attachment is not based solely on the level of parental love or the quality of care an infant receives. Rather, attachment is founded on the nonverbal emotional communication developed between caregiver and infant.
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Getting Help For Insecure Attachment
If you recognize an insecure attachment style in either yourself or your romantic partner, its important to know that you dont have to resign yourselves to enduring the same attitudes, expectations, or patterns of behavior throughout life. It is possible to change and you can develop a more secure attachment style as an adult.
Therapy can be invaluable, whether its working one-on-one with a therapist or with your current partner in couples counselling. A therapist experienced in attachment theory can help you make sense of your past emotional experience and become more secure, either on your own or as a couple.
If you dont have access to appropriate therapy, there are still plenty of things you can do on your own to build a more secure attachment style. To start, learn all you can about your insecure attachment style. The more you understand, the better youll be able to recognizeand correctthe reflexive attitudes and behaviors of insecure attachment that may be contributing to your relationship problems.
The following tips can also help you transition to a more secure attachment style:
Attachment Theory In Grief And Trauma
Speaking of unfortunate situations, attachment theory also has applications in the understanding of the grief and trauma associated with loss.
Although you may be most familiar with KÃ¼bler-Rossâs Five Stages of Grief, they were preceded by Bowlbys Four Stages. During Bowlbyâs work on attachment, he and his colleague Colin Murray Parkes noticed four stages of grief:
Of course, oneâs attachment style will influence how grief is experienced as well. For example, someone who is secure may move through the stages fairly quickly or skip some altogether, while someone who is anxious or avoidant may get stuck on one of the stages.
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Ainsworth’s Strange Situation Assessment
During the 1970s, psychologist further expanded upon Bowlby’s groundbreaking work in her now-famous “Strange Situation” study. The study involved observing children between the ages of 12 to 18 months responding to a situation in which they were briefly left alone and then reunited with their mother. Ainsworth’s Strange Situation Assessment followed this basic sequence:
Based on these observations, Ainsworth concluded that there were three major styles of attachment: secure attachment, ambivalent-insecure attachment, and avoidant-insecure attachment.
Researchers Main and Solomon added a fourth attachment style known as disorganized-insecure attachment. Numerous studies have supported Ainsworth’s conclusions and additional research has revealed that these early attachment styles can help predict behaviors later in life.
Whats Your Attachment Style
If you dont have an idea of what your attachment style is yet and want to take a test, you can take this one. Its a great resource that will give you an idea of your attachment style across different relationshipsparents, friends, romantic partners.
I also really like it because you can track how various aspects of your attachment strategy change over time.
If you dont want to take the test , the gist of it is this: if youre consistently avoiding commitment, avoiding your romantic partners, shutting them out, or not sharing things with them, then youre probably pretty avoidant.
If youre constantly worrying about your partners, feel like they dont like you as much as you like them, want to see them 24/7, need constant reassurance from them, then youre probably anxious.
If youre comfortable dating people, being intimate with them and are able to draw clear boundaries in your relationships, but also dont mind being alone, then youre probably secure.
Note, however, that there are some individual differences in how strongly we might identify with each attachment style. For example, you might be securely attached in most areas but have some anxious or avoidant tendencies in other situations.
That said, most people typically have a predominant attachment style they tend to fall back on in their close relationships.
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