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How Do You Treat Emotional Detachment?

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From a woman in the U.S.: I was raised in a home that lacked affection, although it was financially and academically successful. That resulted in me having a fear of love and attachment in adulthood. There’s an evident ignorance regarding how to manage interpersonal relationships. How do you treat this and develop deep, meaningful relationships?

How Do You Treat Emotional Detachment?

Answered by on -

A.

It sounds like you are asking yourself “Is this all there is?” You know how to be successful, but you are also aware that you are missing out on the closeness and intimacy with others. From my point of view, it would be tragic if you don’t do what you can to address this. Being close to others is one of the essential gifts of being human. You deserve to have it in your life.

You may be dealing with what is being termed “Adult Attachment Disorder.” Although this is not as yet recognized as a diagnosis in the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual), the classification system used in mental health, studies are now being done to clarify symptoms and to identify treatments. Symptoms seem to be impulsiveness, trust issues, over-desire for control, social awkwardness, anxiety and depression, and vulnerability to addiction. As you suggested, it is thought that it is caused by lack of appropriate love and care by parents and other caregivers in childhood. The connection to childhood Reactive Attachment Disorder is being explored.

Children are dependent on the adults who care for them. Children don’t have experience with others against which to measure how they are treated at home. They therefore accept their parents’ view of them as true. They also accept that the way they are treated is how they will be treated by the larger social world.  Children “internalize” those conclusions and  carry those experiences and conclusions with them into adulthood.

I suggest you make an appointment with a therapist for assessment and treatment..Fortunately, you now have what your child-self didn’t: An adult rational mind that can reexamine what happened in childhood and make new decisions about your own worth and how to go about being in relationships. Treatment will challenge your childhood decisions and will help you develop a more secure and positive self-esteem. Treatment will also help you find ways to safely let your guard down so that you can explore getting closer to others. The relationship you develop with your therapist can be an important “rehearsal” for developing trust in others.

This will take time. You’ve had over 30 years to learn and rehearse staying distant from others. It will take time to unlearn that response and to feel safe in using a new one. There will be times that you will be upset with your therapist. This is not necessarily a time to leave. Such times may be exactly when you feel compelled to repeat what you learned in childhood: That being close isn’t safe. Don’t flee. Talk it through and work it through with your therapist.

You may find it helpful to read a book about Adult Attachment Disorder as a way to get started.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

How Do You Treat Emotional Detachment?

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Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Dr. Marie is licensed as both a psychologist and marriage and family counselor. She specializes in couples and family therapy and parent education. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2020). How Do You Treat Emotional Detachment?. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 27, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2020/05/27/how-do-you-treat-emotional-detachment/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 26 May 2020 (Originally: 27 May 2020)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 26 May 2020
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.