Saturday, September 15, 2012

What is your attachment style?


Relationship/attachment style can be a predictor for vulnerability to disordered eating. Recognizing your attachment style may be a vital part of understanding what’s going on with you and food.  There are four basic relationship/attachment styles:

1) Securely attached adults are comfortable with intimacy.   They tend to have positive views of themselves and others, trusting that closeness with another person can be a warm, positive, and mutually satisfying experience.  They are less likely to develop an eating disorder.

2) Anxious-Preoccupied adults find it difficult to trust that the person they love and care about will be consistently available.   They dislike separation, fearing that “out of sight” leads to “out of mind” and often seek reassurance that their partner is still there for them.

People who binge may be “hungry” for love but turn to food instead, unconsciously fearing they will never get enough love, or feel satisfied in their relationships.  

3) Dismissive-Avoidant adults are uncomfortable with closeness.  They often prize independence, telling themselves and others that they don’t need anyone else to be happy.  

Underlying this disinterest in connection is a fear that intimacy will lead to rejection, pain or loss of self.  On some level, the belief is that “if you don’t get too close, you won’t get hurt.”  This relationship style is associated with anorexia.

The solution is to turn away from both people and food, restricting the intake of both food and love.

5) Fearful-avoidant adults simultaneously wish for closeness, yet fear intimacy.  They often yearn for an unavailable person, and ardently pursue that person.  If the object of their affection returns their feelings, they lose interest, finding distance safer – until the pattern repeats.

This relationship style is associated with both bulimia and binge eating disorder.  Bingeing is a symbolic way to fill up on food, which is a substitute for love, fulfillment, and needs. Getting rid of food can be understood as a means of symbolically purging those needs. 

Sometimes people binge on relationships, allowing a lot of closeness and connection, and then create distance (in effect, a relational purge) as an expression of conflict about trust. 

Are you more comfortable with distance, or closeness?  

What are your hopes and fears about intimacy?

Where did you learn to mistrust relationships?

How did your parents and others respond to your needs?

Understanding what the conflict is, and how it came to be, is the first step to change.  When you feel safe in your relationships, you will be less likely to turn to food as a way of expressing conflicts about closeness.

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