What is an attachment disorder?

by Marcia Alice Mitchell

What is an attachment disorder?

. . . a condition in which individuals have difficulty forming loving, lasting, intimate relationships.

Though attachment disorders vary in severity, individuals lack the ability to show genuine affection to others. They typically fail to develop a conscience and do not learn how to trust.

Symptoms of attachment disorder

  • Superficially engaging, charming (phoniness)
  • Lack of eye contact
  • Indiscriminately affectionate with strangers
  • Lack of ability to give and receive affection (not cuddly)
  • Extreme control problems, often manifested in covert or “sneaky” ways
  • Destructive to self and others
  • Cruel to animals
  • Chronic, crazy lying (lying about the obvious)
  • Lack of impulse controls
  • Learning lags and disorders
  • Lack of cause-and-effect thinking
  • Lack of conscience
  • Abnormal eating patterns
  • Poor peer relationships
  • Preoccupied with fire, blood, gore
  • Persistent nonsense questions and incessant chatter
  • Inappropriately demanding and clinging
  • Abnormal speech patterns

 Causes of attachment disorder

Any of the following conditions — especially occurring to a child under 18 months old — puts a child at high risk of developing an attachment disorder:

Abuse (physical, emotional, sexual)


Sudden separation from primary caretaker (such as through illness, death of mother, or sudden illness or hospitalization of child)

Undiagnosed and/or painful illness, such as colic or ear infections

Frequent moves and/or placements (foster care, failed adoptions)

Inconsistent or inadequate daycare

Chronic maternal depression

Teenage mothers with poor mothering skills