Sunday, April 29, 2007

Attachment problems

I wrote about this in a post I did on a BPD support board, but either everyone's too busy or otherwise preoccupied to bother reading posts lately, it's too difficult a topic and people don't know how to reply, or maybe no one gives a shit about what I post on there...who knows. All I know is there has been only one reply so far and it didn't give much feedback, so now I'm going to post about it here since I didn't bother to yet.

I gave a copy of the 'letter to that little girl' to my therapist on Thursday. Immediately after reading it she asks if I know anything about attachment disorder. I told her I was a little familiar with it having seen a report about orphans in foreign countries suffering from it because they didn't receive any nurturing as infants on one of the news shows like 20/20 or Dateline. I also told her that my exhubby used to always tell me I had some sort of attachment disorder because I didn't like to be touched, held or otherwise have my personal space invaded. While that is true, it only applies to other adults because I've always loved snuggling up with my daughter.

The T went on about the development of the human brain in relation to the nurturing or lack thereof a child receives during the first few years of life. A lot of what she said I was already familiar with because my previous T had shown me a diagram of what happens if a person doesn't go through the normal steps of development due to abuse or other trauma.

Didn't really think much about the whole conversation until the next day when I was sitting here bored at the computer. So I decided to do a little research on attachment disorder. Most of what I found was geared towards parents that had adopted children with this disorder. But on one site, they did provide a couple of links for adults with this problem.

One link in particular has really got me thinking. It is for the Institute for Attachment & Child Development. The following is from their site:

Healthy attachment behavior is critical in order for any relationship to survive. Children that suffer from early abuse, neglect, loss of a parent because of death or divorce, emotionally distant parents, or shaming parents struggle in their adult relationships.

Attachment difficulties are on a continuum of disturbance that range from attachment issues all the way to attachment disorder. Typical adult diagnoses for adults who suffer from attachment difficulties might be borderline personality, histrionic personality, antisocial personality, narcissistic personality, dependent personality, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and other DSM Diagnoses in the Axis II category. Attachment difficulties present as a condition in which individuals have trouble forming loving, lasting intimate relationships. Attachment disorders vary in severity, but the term attachment disorder usually is reserved for individuals who show a nearly complete lack of ability to be genuinely affectionate with others. These people typically fail to develop a normal conscience and do not learn to trust.

Some Common Dynamics of Adult Attachment Problems are as follows:

Difficulty handling conflict with other adults.
Tendency to deny responsibility for wrong-doing.
Extreme control problems, manifested in covertly manipulative or overtly hostile ways.
Difficulty showing empathy, remorse, trust, and compassion with others.
Lack of the ability to give and receive genuine affection or love - often relating sexual behavior to feelings of acceptance or closeness.
Resistant to efforts to nurture or guide them.
Lacking cause and effect thinking, especially when around normal thinking.
Acting out negatively, provoking anger in others.
Lying, stealing, cheating, and/or manipulating.
Destructive, cruel, argumentative and/or hostile.
Lacking self-control - impulsive.
Superficially charming and engaging.
Feelings of sadness and fear that are usually protected by angry behavior shown either overtly or covertly.
Feelings of isolation and depression.
Feelings of frustration and stress.
Addictive behavior i.e. substance abuse, sex addiction, work addiction, gambling addiction, etc.
Hyper-vigilant behavior, agitation and difficulty concentrating.
Confused, puzzled and obsessed with finding answers.
Feeling blamed by family, friends, and professionals.
Feeling helpless, hopeless, and angry.
Feeling that their family's problems are minimized by the helping profession.

Distortions in Thinking

As children, our brains organize relative to the environment in which we grow up - either safe and secure or scary and sad. Our feelings are stored in the limbic system or midbrain. On the other hand, our right orbitofrontal cortex performs abstract reasoning. One of the most common adaptive behaviors in which humans engage is “pain avoidance”. Thus, a child who grows up in a maladaptive environment (painful environment) organizes his brain in a maladaptive style that involves emphasizing survival behaviors rather than feelings of security and love. This organization of the brain results in intelligent adults with a maladaptive upbringing to have a tendency to function more from a reasoning place of denial of feelings (which is a function of the orbitofrontal cortex) rather than integrating the limbic system feelings into appropriate responses. In these adults with maladaptive upbringing, when the emotions residing in the limbic system are triggered, the frontal lobe jumps to attention with a strategy to defend or deny those feelings rather than integrate the limbic system feelings with their cognitive response. The two most common feelings triggered in these adults tend to be fear and sadness. Once these feelings are triggered, their defenses go into action to protect them from those feelings. Adults with attachment difficulties want to be loved and accepted but don’t have the “tools” to achieve that goal. Their cognitive distortions sabotage what they want and need. This is why traditional therapy usually does not work for these adults. In traditional therapy, the adult client with maladaptive upbringing usually functions more from his frontal lobe. This is because talk therapy tends to be more of a cognitive process for them. They never access and deal with their limbic-stored emotions. The more intelligent the client, the better they are at defending their stored up feelings of inadequacy. As a result, they tend to get frustrated by traditional therapy and don’t believe that it helps.

The rest of the page goes on to describe their Intensive Adult Attachment Therapy program and what it entails.

I was in tears while reading this. It describes me. This is ME! It also provides answers to some of the questions I've been asking since August 2003 when I was first diagnosed with BPD, answers I didn't think I'd ever get. But it also leaves me with new questions. First and foremost being, do I have attachment difficulties instead of BPD or did the attachment difficulties manifest themselves into BPD?

Since I don't have time to see my therapist this week due to school activities the kiddie is involved in, the Plain White T's concert on Thursday, plus all the stuff involved with getting ready for our trip to New Jersey/New York on Friday, I emailed this information to her along with a series of questions that are now ruminating through my brain. The loudest and most important being...What do I do now?

Should I even continue in therapy since this site has offered validation to my personal theory that it won't be helpful? I certainly can't afford the therapy they offer and even if I could, there is no way I would allow myself to be so vulnerable. Becoming that vulnerable is something I've feared since I embarked on my wild ride through the mental health system. I know that it would make me hit what I feel would be my absolute rock bottom and I would not survive it. There isn't a shred of doubt in me about that. I would kill myself, no matter how "safe" anyone claimed they would keep me through the process.

Should I keep taking medications when all my problems could very well be related to attachment difficulties rather than to an actual chemical imbalance?

I haven't a clue which direction to go in, and I don't think anyone else does either.


Blogger Anonymous Mom said...

do you feel that your meds have been helpful at all? do you notice any difference?

wish i had the answers for you sid, all i have are more questions.

11:47 AM, April 30, 2007  
Blogger Joel said...

Sid, I've been opening up cans of worms with my therapists, too. Given that I was raised by a mother with obsessive compulsive disorder and a father who suffered from PTSD, it's only natural that my bipolar disorder is going to be complicated by attachment issues. So I work on all fronts.

11:41 PM, April 30, 2007  
Blogger sansanity said...

i guess my feeling is that, any disorder causes a chemical reaction just as there are physical indicators of anger, etc. so i think the meds help some.

i sometimes think if things were caught early on, that maybe i would have had a chance; maybe i could have learned a new way. but i think my brain will always fight the meds to return to it's state of "normalcy" the problem with that is in that state things start to run down and break. so it keeps you going lower.

i say all that to say that the meds keep me at this level of hell. they keep me from falling into an entirely new level of hell.

and therapy... well i will continue despite the fcat that i don't think it can undo or even reprogram me. my only hope is that i can stop the severe negative ramifications by learning to recognize the behavior and avoid it.

and if nothing else, it is my failsafe--it keeps me from ever getting to a place where i might lose complete contact with reality and harm others.

2:19 AM, May 01, 2007  
Blogger Polar Bear said...

Sounds pretty familiar to me too. However it is being said, it's pretty much about not getting what every child needs, and growing up into adulthood with all our issues still tagging along.

(By the way, I'm glad you were able to do the homework last week)

Take care
Polar B.

3:22 PM, May 01, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i have been a coward. what i mean is i have been reading and not commenting. i didnt feel like i had anything to add. your writings amaze me - not only in their creativeness, but in their scholar. i overcame my timidness to write because i know what it is like to be in a situation where there are no answers.
your therapist, although pure in intentions, will recommend that you continue with her and the sessions. i doubt that her make shift excuses will be able to mask the true reason of wanting you to stay - money. however, there is a benefit to going to therapy, if only a sounding board.
my reason for stopping was that i felt that my therapist didnt know how to help me and was genuinely lost as to direction. but i miss our visits - if anything it was a time for me to reevaluate my life and my direction...with or without the therapists help.
i commend you. i love your spirit and your soul. keep the fight, for this is what makes us stronger. i again apoligize for the lack of communication, but i feel i am no different than a therapist. it is you that must fight the battle of self. i hope you discover who you are before you remember.

10:05 PM, May 01, 2007  
Anonymous dawn said...

This is VERY important information you've put on here,Sid!
even if you don't feel the need to contimue therapy, I'm sure your therapist will want to address the email you sent, though.

good luck and hope you have an amazing time in NJ and NY!

11:00 PM, May 01, 2007  

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