Depression and Insecure Attachment

What is secure attachment?

Secure attachment

What we call secure attachment, is where you basically have a model of others where they’re trustworthy, and you can turn to them. They’ll be there when you need them, and you have a model of self as able to deal with vulnerability, able to solve problems, lovable and being able to manage your vulnerability. This is a pretty healthy sense of self, a healthy sense of connection with other people. 

What is insecure attachment?

There are two basic insecure strategies when you haven’t had the consistent connection that creates secure attachment. 

Anxious attachment

One is anxious preoccupied attachment. It’s called preoccupied because anxiously-attached people are very, very preoccupied with the quality of their relationships. 

Avoidant attachment

Avoidant dismissing attachment, where people basically try to detach from their own emotions and from other people.

We know that insecure attachment is a risk factor for almost every mental health problem that we’ve ever classified. There are over a hundred studies that link the level of insecure attachment to the level of depressive symptoms, so we know that these two things are highly-correlated. 

Rejection sensitivity and the relationship stress that come along with anxious attachment particularly seem to lead straight into depression. The avoidant style also links to depression but in a slightly different way. If you are very avoidant in your attachment, you’re much more likely to be obsessed with perfectionism and self-criticism, so the themes in your depression will echo this. You’ll be talking all the time about you’re not good enough, and you’ll be caught in all this self-criticism, which then, of course, undermines your ability to feel competent and have worth, undermines the way you see yourself, what you do in the world, and your relationship.

Depression is constructed by a narrow, narrow, rather distorted way of putting together your emotional reality, and this translates into narrow, unproductive, unsupportive relationships with other people. And the rigid, narrow interactions with others and the rigid, narrow sense of self and way of dealing with emotions just become a cascade, and they just support each other, and this just takes over somebody’s life. And then people feel completely powerless, so what they often do is they become immobilized by this. They don’t understand what’s going on inside them. They don’t understand what’s happening in their relationships, and so they freeze. 

Counselling can help clients see the processes in which they are caught in with their emotions and with other people; reorganise their inner world that make sense of their lives; find their emotional balance and redirect those processes into new directions through a secure-base therapeutic alliance.

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