Attachment styles

What are attachment styles in bipolar disorder?

Attachment styles are used to describe patterns of attachment in relationships. Adults with a secure attachment style tend to have good self-esteem, they share their feelings with partners and friends, and have trusting, lasting relationships. Insecure attachment styles include anxious attachment style (also known as ambivalent or preoccupied), which involves reluctance to become close to others, worry about the security of relationships, a reduced sense of autonomy, and increased dependence on others. Avoidant attachment style is another insecure style. It involves problems with intimacy, over-regulation of emotions, and unwillingness to share thoughts and feelings. Fearful attachment style is represented by an inconsistent sense of self and an inability to regulate one’s emotions.

While attachment style in adulthood is thought to be based on early experiences with primary care givers, life’s experiences can also impact on attachment style in adults. Children described as ambivalent or avoidant can become securely attached as adults, while those with a secure attachment in childhood can show insecure attachment patterns in adulthood.

What is the evidence for attachment styles in people with bipolar disorder?

Moderate to high quality evidence finds a large effect of more insecure attachment styles in people with bipolar disorder compared to controls. This effect was similar to that seen in people with depression or schizophrenia. It was also similar across all three disorders for anxious attachment style. However, for avoidant attachment style, it was small for schizophrenia, medium-sized for bipolar disorder, and large for depression.

Last updated at: 2:26 pm, 17th February 2022
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