Attachment and Personality Disorders

I am not a research person, and hope to never be stuck in a lab, but over the years I have come into my own theories.  When I was researching Attachment Disorder early in my career, I continued to have the information in my mind as I began diagnosing related to mental health conditions.  As I got further into my career, I began to wonder how unresolved attachment issues developed into adulthood and then it hit me.  I believe that attachment issues can develop into personality disorders, making relationships even harder to manage as an adult.

Like I said, this is my theory, and I have no scientific evidence to back this up, but when I get backgrounds from people it often becomes evident that things didn’t go well in childhood.  There can be many different reasons that people develop attachment issues in childhood, but a disruption to normal childhood development can cause lifelong issues.  Think about it, children are supposed to learn to trust others because they are supported and cared for by a responsible adult.  Children are supposed to experience different things which enhances brain development and higher brain function.  They learn how to manage relationships, understand body language and facial cues, and they are able to effectively go out into the world and be successful.  Without the exposure and support, there are development issues and kids are more likely to have problems in school, in relationships, and in life.

Over the  years, I have worked with people who have diagnosed and undiagnosed personally issues.  Unfortunately, people with personality issues are least likely to get support.  Many will tell you that they don’t have a problem, that everyone else is to blame.  They tend to deflect responsibility for their bad behavior on to others, and struggle to make changes because they don’t feel they have anything to change.

Personality disorders are broken into types: Clusters A, B, C, and “other”.  Some of the personality disorders are more talked about than others, but they all have a profound effect on the functioning of the person.  For instance, narcissistic personality disorder is talked about often in relation to someone who is very self-centered and unwilling, or unable, to think about other’s needs.  Borderline personality disorder is often talked about in relationship to someone who struggles to want to be close to people, but often will sabotage the relationship in a push-pull manner (I want you here, but the next minute they want you out).  All the personality disorders make it very hard to manage relationships in a healthy manner, and require professional intervention to make changes in the functioning of the person.

You can research different types of personality issues and disorders, but the person most likely to do research is the person in a relationship with someone who has issues.  If that is you, take heed!  They person has potential, and is likely wanting to be in a relationship but it takes a special person, at times, to manage the personality and attachment issues.  They can be very needy or very distant.  They can pop in and out of your life, creating chaos and pain, but while they are there it can be heavenly.  The disorders are different from other issues, like bipolar or ADHD, but the issues will remain if all things are left to the same behaviors.

So how do you manage it?  If you think this fits you, find a therapist and get to work.  Understand your history and how it is affecting your current functioning.  Decide what needs to change and how to better manage in the future, and things will get better with work and reflection.  If this is something you see in someone you love, talk about your concerns with that person.  Get help for yourself, and for them if they will go, and work on whether you think you can manage and make the relationship work for you.  If you can’t, you are not alone.

We have talked about attachment issues, and now how I think they connect to personality disorders.  They are likely some of the hardest mental health diagnosis to tackle, but there are people who can help.  Don’t try to manage it alone, get support and talk about your fears and concerns.  With support, the future can be different.  With the right support, you too can be happy, for life.