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  • Writer's pictureCatherine Lott

Attachment styles and eating disorders





Today I want to to have a look at attachment styles and their part in the development and maintenance of eating disorders. The first attachment styles I'll look at are avoidant and anxious preoccupied attachment styles.


WHAT ARE ATTACHMENT STYLES?


Most people are now familiar with the concept of attachment.


Attachment theory suggests that the way we form relationships and bonds with others is shaped by our early childhood experiences and relationships.


Attachment styles are patterns of behaviour and beliefs that people develop as a result of their interactions with their primary caregivers. There are four main attachment styles: secure, anxious-preoccupied, dismissive-avoidant, and fearful-avoidant.

Anxious-preoccupied attachment style refers to a pattern of behaviour where individuals feel the need for constant reassurance and attention from their partners. They often fear rejection and abandonment, leading to clinginess and insecurity.

Dismissive-avoidant attachment style is characterized by an avoidance of intimacy and emotional connection. Individuals with this attachment style tend to suppress their emotions and avoid relationships to protect themselves from getting hurt.



THE ROLE OF ATTACHMENT STYLES IN EATING DISORDERS


Now, let's look at how these attachment styles can relate to the development and maintenance of an eating disorder.


Research suggests that people with avoidant attachment styles are more likely to develop an eating disorder, especially those with dismissive-avoidant attachment style. They may use food as a way to control their emotions and avoid emotional intimacy. For instance, someone with this attachment style may use food as a coping mechanism to help deal with 'big feelings' including stress or anxiety.


Research suggests that people with avoidant attachment styles are more likely to develop an eating disorder, especially those with dismissive-avoidant attachment style.

In contrast, individuals with anxious-preoccupied attachment style are more likely to have difficulties maintaining their eating disorder recovery. They may struggle with feeling abandoned and rejected by others, leading to feelings of insecurity and chronic low self-worth. As a result, they may use disordered eating behaviours as a way to cope with their emotions and help regain a sense of control.


Individuals with anxious-preoccupied attachment style are more likely to have difficulties maintaining their eating disorder recovery.

It is important to note that attachment styles do not cause of eating disorders. Various factors, including genetics, cognitive style, environmental factors, socio-cultural factors and individual experiences, all contribute to the development of eating disorders.


However, understanding the role that attachment styles play in the development and maintenance of eating disorders can help healthcare professionals provide more effective treatment. For instance, people with avoidant attachment styles may benefit from therapy that focus on developing emotional awareness and building trust in relationships. Similarly, individuals with anxious-preoccupied attachment styles may need extra support in developing healthier coping mechanisms and building self-esteem.


TAKEAWAY


Attachment styles play a significant role in how we form and maintain relationships, and can also influence our relationship with food and eating. By understanding the link between attachment styles and eating disorders, we can better support those who are struggling with disordered eating behaviors and help them achieve long-term recovery. Remember, seeking help is always a sign of strength, and there is always hope for recovery.



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