Emotional Attachment Disorder

Instructor: Gaines Arnold

Gaines has a Master of Science in Education.

This lesson discusses symptoms of emotional attachment conditions, including avoidant and anxious-resistant attachment patterns. Learn about the types of behaviors that may arise in children and adults with unhealthy emotional development.

Emotions in Relationships

Susan finds it difficult to interact with other people. She has trouble getting along with her co-workers. Her co-workers feel that her actions are controlling and manipulative. Susan's family feels she can't empathize with them and that she acts negatively toward them. She will also intentionally spark conflict; it almost seems like she enjoys arguments.

Janet has difficulty finding a healthy balance in romantic relationships. She often becomes overbearing in her care-taking and jealousy. When her partner is not around, she feels a huge emotional need for him to return.

Both Susan and Janet have difficulties with emotional attachment. Read on to find out more about symptoms and causes of emotional attachment issues.

What Constitutes Emotional Attachment Disorder?

It is important to note that ''emotional attachment disorder'' is not listed in the 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5) as a disorder. Psychologically speaking, there are disorders that involve emotional attachment issues, such as reactive attachment disorder (RAD). RAD occurs when young children do not form strong attachments to their caregivers and experience unhealthy emotional development. However, emotional attachment issues may be found across age groups, and may be present even if someone is not diagnosed with a 'disorder.'


A person who does not develop emotionally in a healthy way may either have emotional outbursts when their attachment needs go unmet (anxious-resistant) or may be emotionless (avoidant).

Here are some symptoms of each type:


  • Obsessive and possessive with relationships
  • Mood swings and extreme emotions
  • Feels under-appreciated
  • Needs emotional reinforcement


  • Angry and hostile
  • Distant in relationships
  • Does not trust or rely on others
  • Lacks empathy

Do these remind you of Susan and Janet at all? Susan's symptoms fall under the 'avoidant' type, while Janet's are more in line with the 'anxious-resistant' type.

In children, emotional attachment issues can result in manipulative and cruel behavior, lack of empathy or a conscience, and lying. They like to make other children angry and enjoy arguing. When these children mature, they have difficulty giving and receiving love as well as maintaining relationships. They often lack a conscience and have trust issues.

Many emotional attachment issues in adults mirror those of children. Adults with attachment issues can't effectively handle conflict with others, and they cannot take responsibility for their actions. They, too, like to argue, seem to enjoy conflict, and cannot control their own anger. They can also end up engaging in destructive behaviors including drug and alcohol abuse. Adults with attachment issues can on the surface appear to be charismatic and appealing.

Emotional Development

Attachment, like so many other elements of our humanity, is evolutionary. As a person matures, he or she develops an emotional understanding that allows him or her to regulate emotions in a healthy manner, realize which emotions are appropriate for which situations, and understand the emotional cues one receives from others.

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