Attachment Disorder and Substance Abuse

Attachment Disorder and Substance Abuse

An excellent article in September Natural Therapy Pages by Elizabeth Addie provides ideas as to how we can keep alive our emotional bond with our children, emphasizing the need to be present and available to them, to provide assistance and support, to let them know that they are loved.

In the normal way, and for around 70% of families, close bonding makes for a united, and happy family, resilient to the many challenges and tests of modern day living that threaten the stability, harmony and strength of the traditional family unit.

Relationship is what keeps us alive, and without adequate and appropriate relationships in our lives, we become anxious, depressed, withdrawn. People will go to extreme lengths to maintain a sense of relationship, and of recognition by others because without the stimulation and experience of relationship we can feel very much alone and empty.

Conversely, if we are immersed in relationships that are overly close and intrusive we can feel compressed, uncomfortable, stifled and “unfree”.

Relationships where a parental figure, a primary caregiver is either neglectful or overly intrusive can damage the ability of the young person to develop a healthy and balanced personality style, that represents his or her own unique potential and character.

Young children lack the opportunity, the experience, the capacity to reach out and develop better relationships when relationship patterns in the family of origin are dysfunctional. Children will act in a variety of defensive, reactive ways to compensate for the deficiencies of relationship in their environment, in their attempts to create a balance in the relationship that is not too emotionally stressful.

When conditions are so difficult that satisfactory human relationships are unavailable, people revert to other behaviors in an attempt to compensatepsychoactive substances that chemically stimulate the brain so that a person feels, at least for a while, happy, rewarded, content will prove attractive and substance abuse is common as a response to an environment in which a person feels unhappy, when they are without the skills, the means to bring improvement and change.

There is an informative article in this area of human development – Bonding and Attachment in Maltreated Children: Consequences of Emotional Neglect in Childhood, by Dr Bruce Perry, who leads the Child Trauma Academy and is a Medical Director in Children’s Mental Health for Alberta, Canada.

The article states how important it is for every one of us to have secure and meaningful attachments to other people – bonded with the emotional “glue” of love.

see article:

Much has been made of the biochemical Oxytocin, as being the chemical stimulated in the body that creates feelings of “love”. In natural circumstances, it is not that we create Oxytocin so as to promote feelings of love, but that many natural aspects of our relationships bring intense pleasure and so stimulate the appropriate sensations of happiness and contentment – satisfaction. Attachment issues cannot be resolved by use of any kind of substance – attachment or lack of capacity to form healthy bonds is a composite result of many relational events in the real world.

The article puts forward four main attachment styles – with around 70% of people having a normal and secure attachment style. However, the article says that many milions of children experience an early childhood environment where attachment styles in dominant others are traumatic.

As a result – children might end up with attachment styles that are insecure and avoidant, resistant or disorganised/disorientated. Such styles can be observed by the way in which the child relates to it’s primary caregiver, and the problems of attitude and behaviors tend to be carried into the patterns of later and adult relationships, unless some form of intervention enables change.

Children usually only suffer serious attachment deficits when their total environment is poor, and continues for some time. Occasional lapses by parents who have a basically good attachment style can be made up and mended - all part of what it is to be human, but even a single traumatic event can sometimes destroy trust and intimacy.

The earlier and more intense the trauma in a young child’s life, the more the glue of “love” can feel like cement - fixing the child into a way of behaving, that might cause distress, and negative feelings – but the child has no insight, no other way of doing life, no real choice about the attachment style they have ended up with.

Although many children faced with trauma develop defenses such as schizoid or autistic behavior so as to make themselves feel safe, often substance abuse is a choice that is made, a misuse of chemicals that enables people to feel better about their negative emotions.

Children and adults can change negative attachment styles by training methods that have an ability to deconstruct inappropriate attitudes and rebuild a positive attachment style.

Immersion in a residential program that provides comprehensive support and effective training results in high levels of self esteem, competence and sense of positive direction.

see article

Narconon Training routines that are part of their drug free substance abuse program help abused and neglected people to re negotiate their negative experiences – and achieve a happy life.

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