Overcoming attachment trauma can be a long and difficult process, but it is possible with the right support and resources. Attachment trauma refers to the emotional and psychological wounds that can develop when a child experiences a disruption in their attachment to a caregiver. These wounds can manifest in various ways, including anxiety, depression, relationship issues, and difficulty regulating emotions.
If you have experienced attachment trauma, it is important to recognize and acknowledge it. Part of recognizing trauma means reflecting on painful experiences, which can be challenging because they bring up a variety of difficult emotions and memories. Healing attachment trauma requires time, patience, and persistence, but it is possible to heal and move forward to a healthier and more fulfilling life.
- Recognize and Acknowledge the Impact of the Trauma
The first step in healing attachment trauma is recognizing and acknowledging the impact that an attachment trauma has had on your life. This can be difficult, as attachment trauma often goes unnoticed or is not identified as attachment trauma until later in life. Attachment trauma can manifest in various ways, including difficulty trusting people, low self-esteem, feeling disconnected from others, and struggling with managing emotions. Many people live their lives thinking that these symptoms are a reflection of personal weakness or failure, which further damages self-esteem and self-worth. Instead, it is important to recognize that attachment trauma symptoms are a result of early experiences that shaped the brain’s development. Recognizing which form of attachment trauma you have is also an important part of the process.
- Understand your Attachment Style and Develop Secure Attachment
The primary aim when healing from attachment trauma is to develop a secure attachment style. According to attachment theory, there are four attachment styles:
- Secure – autonomous
- Avoidant – dismissive
- Anxious/Insecure – preoccupied
- Disorganized – unresolved
People with anxious attachment patterns tend to avoid social situations because they believe they are potentially dangerous and uncomfortable. They may focus on being independent and taking care of themselves instead, which can make relationships difficult. Anxious attachment can make people keep their thoughts private for a longer time during stressful situations. However, their thoughts about themselves and others can be inflexible and biased, which can be unhelpful for solving problems in relationships.
- Learn to Regulate Emotions
Attachment trauma can arise from any attachment style that is not secure and that causes lifelong difficulties with emotional regulation. Emotional regulation is not an innate skill but rather a learned behavior established in early childhood relationships and developed throughout a person’s lifetime. Emotional regulation is generally understood as the capacity to navigate life’s peaks and valleys, adapt to change, and cultivate a secure environment for expressing emotions in healthy relationships. It is essential for resilience and being able to bounce back from difficult situations, such as trauma.
For those with attachment trauma, developing emotional regulation skills is interrupted. This means that restoring emotional regulation is essential to healing attachment trauma. Difficulties with emotional regulation can result in intense feelings of anxiety, depression, fear, or anger. Learning to regulate emotions allows individuals to manage their emotions healthily and feel more in control of their lives.
There is a wide range of techniques for developing emotional regulation, including mindfulness, deep breathing exercises, yoga, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy. These techniques can help individuals become more aware of their emotions, identify triggers, and learn to respond in a more regulated, more controlled, and healthier way.
- Seek Professional Support
Psychotherapy or counselling is one of the most important resources for healing attachment trauma. A therapist can help you explore the impact of attachment trauma on your life and relationships, identify patterns of behavior that may be rooted in attachment trauma, and develop new strategies for coping with difficult emotions and situations. This can also help people who struggle with trust to identify the root of their mistrust so that when feelings of uncertainty and insecurity surface, they can be linked to attachment trauma rather than to the behavior of a partner or friend. Attachment trauma can often cause complex issues within relationships, so engaging in couples therapy is a great way to explore certain challenges in the relationship through the lens of attachment trauma. This allows each person in the relationship to better understand the place of insecure attachment and insecurity that their partner is operating from and how their emotions and thought processes are clouded with trauma.
Many different types of therapy can be effective for healing attachment trauma, including cognitive-behavioral therapy, psychodynamic therapy, and EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) therapy. The right type of therapy will depend on your individual needs and experiences, and it can take time to find the best therapist and approach for you.
- Practice Self-Care and Learn New Coping Strategies
Self-care is an essential part of healing attachment trauma, so taking care of your physical, emotional, and mental health is important. This may include engaging in activities that promote relaxation, such as meditation and exercise. Eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, and practicing mindfulness can also be helpful. Taking care of your physical health can help you feel more resilient and better able to cope with difficult emotions.
It can also be helpful to connect with others who have experienced similar challenges and share their experiences and strategies for coping. Prioritizing learning and practicing new coping strategies for dealing with difficult emotions and situations can interrupt the automatic processes triggered by attachment trauma. This may involve developing new ways of communicating, developing healthy boundaries, practicing ways of setting and maintaining these boundaries when tested, and finding new ways to regulate emotions.
If you are struggling with the effects of attachment trauma, you are not alone. Despite how alone attachment trauma can make you feel, there is always help available and ways of overcoming the emotional turmoil you face.
 Lahousen, T., Unterrainer, H. F., & Kapfhammer, H. P. (2019). Psychobiology of Attachment and Trauma-Some General Remarks From a Clinical Perspective. Frontiers in psychiatry, 10, 914. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2019.00914
 Solomon, M. F., & Siegel, D. J. (2003). Healing trauma: Attachment, mind, body, and brain. W.W. Norton.