What is a Disorganized Attachment Style: Everything You Need to Know

We’ve all wondered why people act differently in certain situations. Without knowing the history of the people around us, we may not notice that we’re surrounded by people who happen to have developed an attachment style when they were a child.

There are three types of insecure attachment styles: anxious attachment style, avoidant attachment style, and disorganized attachment style. 

A disorganized attachment style is the most extreme type of insecure attachment style out of the three that were mentioned above. It stems from caregivers’ erratic and inconsistent behavior during a child’s formative years.

When children are raised in a fear-inducing environment, typically involving abuse or a lack of trust, they develop this insecure attachment type.

In this article, we will discuss what attachment styles are, how disorganized attachment style starts, its causes, its common signs both in children and adults, how it affects adult relationships, their treatment, and other questions regarding it.

What are Attachment Styles?

What are Attachment Styles?

Attachment styles are modalities for relating to and connecting with others that are based on actual experience and typically begin in childhood. Consider attachment to be the compass needle that governs how physically and emotionally close you can be to others, particularly your caretakers. 

While there are “good” and “poor” attachment types, chaotic attachment is unquestionably “bad” and unhealthy.

How Does It Work?

A baby begins bonding with the child’s carers – usually parents – as soon as he or she is born. The baby is completely reliant on them for the first couple of years.

On the other hand, the carers are in charge of the child’s basic physiological (food, shelter, etc.) also the child’s emotional (caring, loving, soothing, etc.) requirements.

The child develops a stable relationship with the caregivers, in which their presence equals safety if they are aware of and responsive to these requirements.

The child learns indirectly that he or she may rely on others and, as a result, trust them. A secure and robust connection is established.

When a child desires attention, affection, or support, the child may believe that his or her needs are not being satisfied and that the caregivers are not emotionally available or attentive. As a result, the child is unable to build a stable bond with his or her caregiver.

The challenge with insecure attachment as a child is that it is sometimes impossible to overcome. It does not easily go away as a result of maturation. Attachment styles are shaped by early attachment experiences.

As a result, how we form our earliest social attachments with caregivers will influence how we perceive and act in relationships in the future.

What is Disorganized Attachment Style?

What is Disorganized Attachment Style?

People with a disordered attachment style have a great need for close relationships, but they also build barriers to prevent themselves from being wounded. Fear, mistrust, and internal turmoil characterize this attachment style.

In moments of intense anxiety/emotion, a person with disorganized attachment is visible, especially in people who have a history of emotional abuse or instability.

Someone with an insecure attachment can appear as someone who prefers being alone or is emotionally quiet. They may also appear chilly and distant, but this is frequently due to avoidant tendencies.

Due to a lack of a broad grasp of what structure and order feel like, a disorganized connection can feel hasty to the individual. While persons with disorganized attachment desire a secure, chaos-free life, their sole understanding involves a chaotic baseline, which sets them up to repeat the destructive patterns.

Adults with a disordered attachment want to connect with other people and share affection and closeness, but they throw up a lot of obstacles to keep themselves from being abandoned.

Internal vs. external conflict, a general sense of feelings of mistrust and the dread of conveying needs/expectations or sharing vulnerable emotions are all contributing factors.

What Causes Disorganized Attachment?

Childhood abuse or trauma is thought to be the cause of the disordered attachment style. The essential feature of its growth is perceived fear.

The caretakers are responsible for the infant’s or child’s survival. Because the child is aware of this, he or she finds refuge in the caregivers. When a root of safety becomes a cause of anxiety, a problem occurs.

If the caregivers exhibit very contrasted, inconsistent, and unexpected behavior, the child may begin to dread their own safety. The kid is unsure about what to expect. The child also has no idea when, if ever, the caregiver will attend to their needs.

Another source of anxiety is experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event involving the attachment figure. For example, the caregiver may physically, verbally, or sexually abuse the child, or the kid may see the caregiver abusing someone else.

In either case, the kid has lost faith in the caregiver. The kid recognizes that caretakers cannot supply his or her physical or emotional requirements. The caregivers, who are supposed to be a source of protection, are not only unreliable but also fearful.

Young people with a disorganized attachment style are unable to truly adjust to the behavior of their caregivers because they are never sure what will happen next.

Such children’s behavior toward their carers is incoherent: they may crave intimacy, but they reject the caregivers’ proximity and withdraw themselves out of fear.

Signs of Children with Disorganized Attachment Style may include:

  • Avoidant
  • Attention seeking
  • Lack of self-soothing skills
  • Push-pull dynamic with caregivers
  • Inability to communicate needs
  • Ambivalent and confused
  • Extremely focused on a single task
  • Feeling fearful

Signs of Adults with Disorganized Attachment Style may include:

  • Seeking extreme distance or closeness with no in-between
  • Inconsistent with personal romantic relationships
  • Poor emotional regulation
  • Low self-esteem
  • Highly anxious about other people’s intentions
  • Resistant to secure attachments because of trust issues
  • Fear of getting emotionally intimate
  • Fear of abandonment

How Does Disorganized Attachment Style Affect Adult Relationships?

Adults with this attachment style are less likely to have clear or consistent ways of interacting with others. They may exhibit a push-pull dynamic, want to be in a loving, committed relationship while also fearing abandonment.

Despite their desire for intimacy, they may appear to want to avoid it, which makes relationship longevity and stability difficult.

They are always expecting the next rejection as a result of traumatic lived experiences. These adults may find it difficult to trust their partners, and they may even be afraid when they share pleasant loving emotions with them. 

They’re so used to being hurt that they can’t tell the difference between the agony of their upbringing and current professions of affection from their spouses.

They make a situation more unpleasant by reflecting their fears onto others. As a result, they frequently have a pessimistic attitude about themselves and others.

These adults are expecting and anticipating rejection, disappointment, and pain. It is, in their opinion, unavoidable.

They find it difficult to believe that their partner will support and love them in their current state. These adults are expecting and anticipating rejection, disappointment, and pain.

It is, in their opinion, unavoidable. This can cause self-sabotage which can then lead to prematurely ending their relationship.

Some people also call this a self-fulfilling prophecy because they do not only predict, but also expect the rejection of their partner. Even when no such signals exist, he or she begins to act in a way that leads to the fulfillment of assumptions.

When someone with this insecure attachment style picks partners that make them fearful, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. As a result, they confirm their belief that they can never trust other people (physically or mentally).

How to Treat Disorganized Attachment?

How to Treat Disorganized Attachment?

Treatment is comparable for people of all ages, but finding a therapist is one of the most effective ways to deal with it. Therapy provides a safe environment to heal in which you can work through any trust difficulties you may have in the past or present. 

Therapy can heal old emotional scars on its own, and you can learn how to unpack challenging new feelings in a way that results in healthy attachment by creating a secure relationship with a therapist.

Working with a therapist over time allows you to develop a sense of consistency, which can aid in the adjustment of old coping mechanisms that can help you prepare for the person that you may become.

With proper guidance, it could be an ideal time to try sharing and opening up to other adults in platonic and romantic relationships. 

Therapy gives you the time and space to think about what happened and how it affected you. It may even assist you in identifying your own damaging patterns when it comes to choosing partners.

In between treatment sessions, journaling is a terrific approach to reinforce the healthy ways of coping that you’ve learned as an adult.

It helps you stay accountable which allows you to commit to yourself on a regular basis. This creates the conditions for the proper people to stay in your life.

Be consistent and patient with your personal growth

Self-awareness and a commitment to growth are the initial stages in managing disordered attachment. It is possible to create healthy connections and a higher sense of self-worth, albeit it will take some effort.

Is It Possible to Change Your Attachment Style?

Changing your current attachment style and healing from prior trauma is possible, but it will require time, effort, and faith in yourself, others, and the therapeutic process. At the end of the day, attachment styles are merely coping methods we developed as children.

The more you know and understand your inner fears and wounds, the better you’ll be able to learn new, healthier ways of coping and bonding.


Having a disorganized attachment style is challenging especially if you’re longing to have a stable and healthy romantic relationship with your partner.

If you happen to have this or know someone who has an insecure attachment style, it’s important to acknowledge it and find the right therapist to help you recover from your childhood trauma.

Joe Davies