7 Key Signs You’re Struggling With Attachment Trauma From Childhood

Attachment has been a trending buzzword in recent years, but what exactly does it mean, and why is it so important? 

In a simple definition, secure attachment refers to feeling safe, understood, and connected with oneself and others. Research shows that the first attachment trends emerge in childhood- in fact, you can observe such interactions when watching babies with their caregivers.

Unfortunately, experiencing attachment trauma in childhood can seriously impair the quality of your life. If your basic needs for security are unmet, you may struggle with feelings of unworthiness or incompetence. In addition, you may deeply fear rejection, abandonment, or loss.

While everyone copes with distress differently, here are some key signs you might be struggling with attachment trauma. 

People-Pleasing Tendencies

All children require unconditional love and security with their caretakers to form a secure attachment. They need validation that they are allowed to be who they are. Having this base often allows them to feel comfortable in expressing their needs and following their values.

In your adult years, people-pleasing can manifest in many different ways. For example, you might avoid setting boundaries because you don’t want to offend someone. Or, even if you do try to implement a boundary, you might retract it if it starts causing tension.

Additionally, many times, people who struggle with people-pleasing also overlook recognizing their own needs. After all, you’re so used to attuning to others that you don’t leave much room for yourself.

Fear of Failure

Some people with attachment problems struggle with immense perfectionism. Perfectionism can emerge if you measure your worth based on your external accomplishments. This dynamic often stems from childhood, and it may happen if your caregivers held rigid, unrealistic expectations for your performance.

The fear of failure may keep you feeling stagnant in your career or relationships. Subsequently, it can also correlate with procrastination– if you don’t believe you will “succeed” at something, you may feel too nervous to even start.

Compulsive Behaviors

People with trauma are particularly prone to substance use issues, eating disorders, and other compulsive behaviors. Often, these survival mechanisms act as a protective barrier- they allow you to temporarily escape your feelings. 

Healthy coping skills are paramount for healthy living. While it’s normal to want to relax and indulge occasionally, if you feel like you’re constantly trying to ‘numb out,’ this pattern may indicate a deeper problem. 

You might be substituting a compulsion for real love or connection. Over time, this pattern can result in devastating consequences. 

Difficult or Poor Relationships

A child’s caregivers are the first models of interpersonal connection. Before you can even speak, you observe how people interact, show affection, and release tension. But if you experienced attachment trauma in childhood, this modeling may have felt utterly chaotic. 

As an adult, you might struggle with trusting others. This mental block can result in excess clinginess or intense avoidance. At the same time, you may also have fears of intimacy, emotional connection, or asking for help. 

Low Self-Esteem

Humans are social creatures, and we are wired to seek connection. Attachment traumas can make it challenging to form secure relationships, and this problem can certainly affect your self-esteem.

On the one hand, you may feel embarrassed or ashamed over your past. Or, you might worry that others will perceive you as ‘crazy’ or ‘weird.’ Finally, because you may not have had caregivers who validated or praised you, you may not feel like you’re worthy of having good things.


Secure attachment helps people feel confident and empowered. If you know people love and support you, you may feel more inclined to take necessary risks and follow your goals. 

While trauma doesn’t directly cause depression, your past may trigger distressing symptoms like rumination, flashbacks, panic attacks, or nightmares. These symptoms may impact your mental health and exacerbate depression. If you don’t feel safe talking about these issues with others, you may internalize your problems, which can also cause more problems.

Unresolved Anger 

Unmet needs can result in frustration and anger. You may feel resentful towards your caregivers for how they did (or didn’t) treat you. Subsequently, you might feel upset with yourself for how these problems continue to affect you as an adult.

Unresolved anger isn’t always apparent. While it may look like a short temper, it can also present as profound sadness, apathy, or detachment. Other times, it resembles being snarky or overly sarcastic to cope with your past.

How Do You Heal from Attachment Trauma from Childhood? 

Coping with attachment trauma can be challenging. Sometimes, things feel worse before they feel better. You may oscillate between numerous emotions during your healing journey.

Therapy can help you explore the roots of attachment trauma and how it has impacted your life. Together, we can work on developing healthy coping skills to manage your triggers. Furthermore, we can process new ways to identify your past, present, and future.

Contact me today to get started.

4601 Spicewood Springs Road Building 3, Suite 200
Austin, TX 78759

(512) 988-3363

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