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Attachment Disorder, But Which Kind?

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I believe I have an attachment disorder from being abused and neglected my entire childhood. I have looked at the types of attachment disorders, but I seem to only have half the symptoms of any of them at best.

For instance, the symptoms of reactive attachment disorder include distrust and extreme self-reliance, which I have, but also a lack of empathy (which I seem to have the opposite of – my empathy is nearly out of control) and confusion (I solve problems for a living – no problem there). For avoidant attachment, there is a fear of rejection (I *assume* rejection; fear necessarily requires a measure of uncertainty) with the distrust. It seems I have some other as-of-yet unknown type of more complete attachment disorder.

My mother likely had CPTSD from a traumatic event in her youth, not to mention possible abusive upbringing. She had the opportunity to get help, but turned it down to instead take out all of her frustrations on me. She near-constantly verbally abused me (a perfect example of operant conditioning) and neglected me to the point of absolutely refusing to teach me anything I needed to know. She fed and clothed me only to avoid being arrested. My father enabled all of this as he did not know that what my mother was doing was wrong (which suggests he was abused too). On top of that, all of my peers demonized me (a behavior that continues to this day in late adulthood); by the time I reached majority I had the social skills of a seven-year-old, and even less experience. I had some type of mental breakdown in early adulthood, after which I lost the ability to have loving or other such feelings for other people. I have no idea why people do what they do and no knowledge or instinct for how to interact with them.

I have been to a handful of therapists of many types, and they have not even broken the surface of what is wrong with me. My own investigation has so far outstripped their findings I see no point in going into an expensive continuing interaction with them. However, I am missing this piece of information, and what I can read about this doesn’t illuminate. Can you please shed some light onto what type of attachment problem I have? (From the USA)

Attachment Disorder, But Which Kind?

Answered by on -


 I admire your detailed analysis of your struggle. It is clear you have a great deal of courage and persistence in looking for answers.

A diagnosis is only important if it helps generate a treatment. I wouldn’t focus so clearly on getting the diagnosis right. In fact, a diagnosis only looks at what is wrong. What it seems to me is that there are a great many things here that are right. I propose shifting your focus to them and changing your type of therapy to group. For your situation it is more dynamic, involves more feedback, and is much less expensive.

The group will shift your focus from self-reliance to learning to receive different types of feedback from others — and how to understand that extreme forms of empathy are just as debilitating as not having it. Solving problems for others isn’t the same as self-reflection and experimenting with how to solve your own can happen with a supportive therapy group. The ongoing process of a well-run therapy group will allow you to get direct feedback on your process of interacting with others in real time. Individual therapy traditionally doesn’t do this. (For more information on groups see my blog The Healing Crowd, at Psychology Today.

Finally, I would take the VIA Character Survey and read more about developing your many strengths (like persistence and courage) by reading Dr. Ryan Niemiec’s blog.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

Attachment Disorder, But Which Kind?

Therapists live, online right now, from BetterHelp:

Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

Dan Tomasulo Ph.D., TEP, MFA, MAPP teaches Positive Psychology in the graduate program of Counseling and Clinical Psychology at Columbia University, Teachers College and works with Martin Seligman, the Father of Positive Psychology in the Masters of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) program at the University of Pennsylvania. He is Director of the New York Certification in Positive Psychology for the Open Center in New York City and on faculty at New Jersey City University. Sharecare has honored him as one of the top 10 online influencers on the topic of depression. For more information go to: He also writes for Psych Central's Ask the Therapist column and the Proof Positive blog.

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2018). Attachment Disorder, But Which Kind?. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 24, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 May 2018 (Originally: 12 Jul 2017)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018
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