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Disorganised Attachment Deep Dive: Understanding its Complexities and Coping Strategies

Updated: Jul 25, 2023

Disorganised attachment, also called fearful avoidant, is one of the less common but highly significant attachment styles identified in attachment theory. Unlike the more distinct patterns of anxious, avoidant, and secure attachment, disorganised attachment is characterised by a mix of conflicting behaviours and emotions in response to caregivers. Remember that attachment styles are a spectrum, and that they can change throughout your life.

In this blog post, we will explore the complexities of disorganised attachment, its manifestations in adulthood, and strategies to cope with its unique challenges.

Understanding Disorganised Attachment:

Disorganised attachment arises when a child's caregiver is a source of both comfort and fear, leading to confusion and an inability to develop a consistent strategy for dealing with stress and emotions.

Experiences leading to developing a Disorganised Attachment style:

  1. Traumatic Experiences and Fearful Parenting: A child exposed to traumatic experiences or abuse might have caregivers who are both a source of comfort and fear, leading to confusion and disorientation in the child's attachment behaviours.

  2. Inconsistent Parenting due to Unresolved Trauma: A caregiver with unresolved trauma might display inconsistent caregiving behaviours, leading to confusion and unpredictability for the child.

  3. Emotional Dysregulation in Caregivers: Caregivers struggling with emotional dysregulation may inadvertently cause disorientation and confusion in their child's attachment style due to their own unpredictable emotional responses.

  4. "Fearful-Avoidant" Parenting: A caregiver who is fearful of emotional intimacy and vulnerability may exhibit avoidance and emotional distance in their caregiving, further complicating the child's attachment style.

Manifestations of Disorganised Attachment in Adulthood:

Fear and Confusion in Relationships: Adults with disorganised attachment may struggle with intense feelings of fear and confusion in their relationships. They may crave closeness but also fear it, leading to a push-pull dynamic that can be challenging to navigate.

Difficulty Regulating Emotions: Those with disorganised attachment often find it challenging to regulate their emotions effectively. They might experience extreme emotional highs and lows and have difficulty finding balance and stability.

Inconsistent Behaviour: Fearful avoidant individuals may exhibit inconsistent behaviour in relationships, swinging between moments of clinginess and emotional distance. This inconsistency can leave their partners feeling uncertain and frustrated.

Tendency Towards Disorientation: When faced with stress or emotional triggers, individuals with disorganised attachment may become disoriented or dissociate. They might struggle to cope with challenging emotions, leading to a sense of disconnect.

Self-Sabotage: Disorganised attachment can lead to self-sabotaging behaviours in relationships. A fear of getting hurt or abandoned may drive them to push their partners away or engage in destructive patterns.

Coping Strategies for Disorganised Attachment:

While disorganised attachment patterns can be complex and challenging to navigate, individuals can work towards developing healthier coping strategies with dedication and support:

Professional Therapy: Seeking therapy from professionals well-versed in attachment theory is essential for those with disorganised attachment. Therapists can help individuals explore their past experiences and develop coping mechanisms to manage challenging emotions.

Develop Emotional Awareness: Learning to identify and label emotions can be empowering for those with disorganised attachment. Emotional awareness allows for a better understanding of oneself and others.

Mindfulness and Grounding Techniques: Practising mindfulness and grounding techniques can help individuals stay present and connected during moments of emotional distress.

Communicate with Partners: Open and honest communication with partners is crucial for those with disorganised attachment. Sharing fears and uncertainties can lead to increased understanding and support.

Explore Attachment History: Understanding one's attachment history and its impact on current behaviours is a significant step towards healing. Engaging in self-reflection can provide insights into patterns and triggers.

Seek Support from Trusted Individuals: Building a support network of understanding and caring individuals can provide an additional safety net during challenging times.


Disorganised attachment can present intricate challenges in forming and maintaining healthy relationships. However, with professional help, self-awareness, and a commitment to growth, individuals can develop coping strategies to navigate the complexities of disorganised attachment.

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