How Do I Change My Attachment Style?

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

From S. Africa: I am a 20-year-old female that has had attachment issues since early childhood. As a child I was also selectively mute. I started going for therapy when I was about 5. While I am very confident when speaking now, my attachment issues have lingered and got worse with age. My relationships are quite unstable (romantic and non-romantic) and my moods are very unstable as well — I can fly into a rage from one comment and then completely worship a person who gives me a hug.

I have heard and read that one should see a therapist who specializes in attachment, but as I am a student in a small town in South Africa that option is not available to me. I have considered seeing a regular therapist but if I can sort this problem out myself that would be great. So I would like to know if you have any tips on how I can change this attachment issue.

This is starting to interfere with my life as I am becoming increasingly emotionally tired and worn out from my roller coaster-like moods caused by my relationships. My relationships are also being negatively affected by my unpredictable moods. People start to distance themselves from me and I get really hurt and offended as I realize that the intense feelings I have for people are not mutual, that is to say, I always seem to care more about them than they do about me. This hurt often turns into rage which just worsens the situation. I have also realized that I am angry most of the time, except when I am around one of the people I am attached to. I’m sick of having jack-in-the-box kind of mood swings that are dictated by my relationships. Thanks for taking the time to read this.

A: You are clearly a thoughtful and insightful person. If you could solve this problem by yourself, you would have done so already. For that reason, I think you should see a therapist — both for a more thorough evaluation and to explore options for treatment.

I’m not at all sure that the problem is one of attachment. Maybe. But there are other diagnoses that share the same symptoms. Borderline Personality Disorder and Bipolar disorder are a couple of the other possibilities. A treatment is only effective if it is addressing the issue. Do make sure you are being treated for the right problem.

Please take care of yourself. You are only 20. If you get proper treatment now, you can have a long life with satisfying relationships.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 22 Mar 2014

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2014). How Do I Change My Attachment Style?. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 29, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2014/03/22/how-do-i-change-my-attachment-style/