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Attachment disorder and addiction

Posted by Alex Molyneux
on 29 Aug 2022

Attachment disorders are emotional or behavioural problems that affect people’s ability to form bonds with family members or caregivers. They usually begin in early childhood if an infant’s basic needs are unmet or they’re exposed to abuse, trauma or neglect. There is a strong link between attachment disorder and addiction because if these psychiatric illnesses aren’t addressed early on, a person may have issues forming secure relationships in adulthood. Feelings of anxiety and stress build up and this can lead to substance abuse.   

Delamere treats people of all ages for alcohol addiction and drug addiction at our purpose-built forest retreat in Cheshire. Our team of holistic therapists specialise in attachment disorder and addiction and can help you at any stage of your life to unpick the reasons for your reliance on substances and find methods to cope. Here, we discuss how attachment disorder and addiction are intertwined and why drugs or alcohol may be used to self-medicate by sufferers. If you are concerned about attachment disorder and addiction for yourself or a loved one, it’s important to seek professional help.  

What causes attachment disorder?

From birth, every child has an inherent need to be loved and cared for. To be picked up when crying, fed and changed or simply have a consistent routine all helps an infant to feel secure and develop a strong bond with their primary caregiver. Children who are passed around foster care or experience severe neglect or deprivation find it difficult to make emotional connections which can have a profound effect later in life. Adults with attachment disorder may have difficulty giving and receiving affection, distrust people, find it hard to maintain relationships or have anger issues. 

People who have insecure patterns of attachment have low self-esteem and negative expectations of relationships with others which is an important risk factor, not only for alcohol addiction and drug addiction, but for mental health disorders in general. Psychotropic substances, such as alcohol, pain medication and illegal drugs may be used to self-medicate attachment needs, helping someone to regulate their emotions, cope with stress or replace relationships (1).

At Delamere, we understand the link between attachment disorder and addiction. Our holistic therapists are experts in treating mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression, that can fuel substance use disorders. We provide a secure and non-judgemental environment for you to overcome your challenges through a variety of psychotherapies and healing techniques. If you are suffering from attachment disorder and addiction, get in touch and see how we can help.  

Need help with attachment disorder and addiction? Speak to the team at Delamere

Attachment disorder and addiction

There are four types of attachment styles that affect the way someone may use and abuse different substances: Secure, Avoidant, Anxious and Disorganised. Insecure attachment impacts a person’s self-esteem so they may be more likely to turn to mood-enhancing drugs, whereas an avoidant attachment disorder affects the way people cope with stress and their ability to maintain healthy boundaries – they may drink alcohol to excess or turn to heroin to forget their early life experiences, for example.   

Over the last few decades there have been many studies into the connection between attachment disorder and addiction. Four studies found childhood trauma plays a role in the development of substance use disorders as it’s linked to poor regulation of emotional responses. Further studies reported a connection with attachment disorder and smartphone addiction. Interestingly, incidents of Internet Use Disorder (IUD) were higher in people with attachment issues and lower in those who had established a good social network (2).

Attachment disorder and addiction treatment

The connection between attachment disorder and addiction is long established. As well as being a method of trying to cope with Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), alcohol addiction and drug addiction can exacerbate attachment disorder as they further deteriorate physiological and psychological structures, promote risk-taking behaviour and reduce people’s ability to self-care (3).

If you have developed a reliance on substances, before you can begin to heal from past trauma, you may benefit from clinical detox treatment. Following this, the most common method of treatment for attachment disorder and addiction is group therapy or one-to-one counselling. Here, we outline some of the options.

Clinical detox treatment

When your body has become physically and mentally reliant on alcohol or drugs quitting without professional help can be dangerous. Clinical detox treatment involves a combination of medication, nutritional support and round the clock care to help you withdraw safely with minimum discomfort. At Delamere wellness retreat guests have their own ensuite room to help them feel at ease during this first phase of treatment for attachment disorder and addiction.  

One-to-one counselling and group therapy 

Attachment disorder and addiction is often the result of childhood trauma or adverse events in early life. Psychotherapy helps people to identify the root cause of their problems and to learn how to cope with challenging emotions and behaviours. Delamere’s holistic therapists offer both one-to-one counselling and group therapy sessions to help guests make sense of their attachment disorder and addiction in a supportive and caring environment. 

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

Talking therapies, such as CBT, can be incredibly useful in addressing mental health problems deriving from early trauma. Your holistic therapist will help you to identify unhealthy patterns in your behaviour that impact your relationships with others and teach you how to respond to triggering situations. 

Family and friends therapy

Family members and friends can be just as affected by attachment disorder and addiction as the person suffering. Through family therapy Delamere can also help you to develop new ways of connecting with people you care about. We help our guests to enhance their bond with caregivers and learn new ways of interacting. 

Social skills development

Children and adolescents who have attachment issues have problems forming healthy relationships when they get older. An adult with Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) will find it difficult to form positive connections and be reluctant to share feelings with others. Delamere helps guests to open up to peers and engage in social activities, such as movie nights and gym sessions, where they can grow in confidence and build a good support network for recovery. 

Somatic healing techniques 

Part of the rehabilitation process for attachment disorder and addiction is to develop coping mechanisms which will help you tackle negative emotions and behaviours. The somatic healing techniques available at Delamere, such as breath-work and grounding, are excellent tools to help you manage stressful situations or events in the future. 

How can Delamere help with attachment disorder and addiction? 

Delamere wellness retreat offers a wide range of evidence-based therapies to help people overcome attachment disorder and addiction in tranquil forest surroundings. Our holistic therapists are experts in treating all types of attachment disorder and addiction. Whether you’ve become dependent on substances or something else, such as smartphone addiction, they will help you to overcome emotional, mental and physical problems without judgement. 

If you’re suffering with attachment disorder and addiction to substances we can start your treatment with a medical alcohol detox or drug detox before engaging in one-to-one counselling or group therapy sessions. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) gives you the opportunity to explore your feelings and understand the people, places and situations that are triggering your attachment disorder and addiction. 

We will involve your family members from the start to help you foster healthier relationships and encourage you to develop strong social bonds with your peers to provide additional support when you leave our care. You will learn somatic healing techniques, such as breathwork and meditation, to help you to manage negative thoughts and move on with your life free from attachment disorder and addiction. 

If you are suffering with attachment disorder and addiction, call us confidentially to speak to a member of the team today. Contact Delamere


1. Schindler A (2019) Attachment and Substance Use Disorders—Theoretical Models, Empirical Evidence, and Implications for Treatment. Front. Psychiatry 10:727. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2019.00727. 

2. Eichenberg C, Schott M and Schroiff A (2019) Comparison of Students With and Without Problematic Smartphone Use in Light of Attachment Style. Front. Psychiatry 10:681. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2019.00681. 

3. Flores PJ. Addiction as an attachment disorder: implications for group therapy. Int J Group Psychother. 2001 Jan;51(1):63-81. doi: 10.1521/ijgp. PMID: 11191596. 

About the author: Alex Molyneux

Alex is the Admissions Manager at Delamere. Alex has organised more admissions into treatment than most. Find out more about Alex on our team page.

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