Linking Trauma And Substance Use To The Different Attachment Styles

Attachment styles can play a significant role in the challenges faced while dealing with trauma and substance use. An attachment style refers to the different ways people interact and behave in their relationships. These styles are developed during our formative years and are reflective of the bond formed between an infant and their primal caregiver. In fact, studies have shown that the specific attachment style developed as a child can influence psychological, physical, and behavioral wellbeing in adulthood. 

At The Fullbrook Center, we aim to create awareness of this by acknowledging early age attachment experiences – unraveling how they’ve shaped our clients’ reality as well as help them create healthy coping skills during their recovery to combat present day triggers. 

The following are the four main attachment styles and their connection to trauma and addiction: 


A person with an anxious attachment has low avoidant tendencies and functions with high anxiety. Their anxiety and insecurity prohibits them from forming strong relationships with people they encounter. They have a habit of holding grudges and are hyper-concerned by the mood or actions of others. They’re often viewed as excessively needy and too concerned with rejection and abandonment, oftentimes leading them to resort to substance use to cope with their lack of connections.


Those with disorganized attachments are uncomfortable with intimacy and struggle with trusting others. They’re highly avoidant and resistant people. Although individuals with a disorganized attachment style seek stability and peace, they only recognize a life of chaos, repeating toxic patterns inflicted on them. These types of people may pass down trauma and negative traits to their loved ones. 


Individuals with an avoidant attachment style are highly dismissive and are uncomfortable with the idea of forming intimate bonds. These people come off as cold, emotionally distant and would rather prioritize autonomy over togetherness. People with avoidant tendencies are most likely to use substances to escape from negative emotions, codependency and the feeling of loneliness.


A person with a secure attachment style is less avoidant and less anxious in their relationships. They share their feelings with their friends and family and are comfortable with seeking support when needed. They’re capable of depending on others and are reliable people in return. 

If you identify with an attachment style that’s outside of secure, we know from our work with patients that it’s not a given that that’s how you’ll be for the rest of your life. Our therapists help our clients form a secure attachment style by modeling secure relationships with them. They work on building trust, enforce healthy boundaries, collaboration and create a place of safety for our patients. We do this type of healing work with the hopes of moving to a place with a secure attachment style, resulting in functioning people who are more compassionate, forgiving and tolerant of differences.