An attachment perspective on traumatic and posttraumatic reactions

Mario Mikulincer, Phillip R. Shaver, Zahava Solomon

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

Abstract

Attachment theory (Bowlby, Attachment and loss: Vol. 2. Separation: Anxiety and anger. New York: Basic Books, 1973; Attachment and loss: Vol. 3. Sadness and depression. New York: Basic Books, 1980; Attachment and loss: Vol. 1. Attachment (2nd ed.). New York: Basic Books, 1982) is one of the most fruitful contemporary frameworks for understanding emotion regulation and mental health. Adult attachment research has provided strong evidence for the anxiety-buffering function, of what Bowlby called the attachment behavioral system, and for the importance of individual differences in attachment in shaping psychological resilience, distress management, coping with stress, and adjustment (see Mikulincer and Shaver, Attachment in adulthood: Structure, dynamics, and change. New York: Guilford Press, 2007, for a review). In this chapter, we present an attachment perspective on emotional problems resulting from traumatic events. Following a brief overview of attachment theory’s basic concepts, we focus on the implications of the theory for emotion regulation and mental health in general, and for traumatic reactions and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in particular. We review research findings showing that attachment insecurities-called attachment anxiety and avoidance in the theory-are associated with the severity of PTSD symptoms, and that the sense of attachment security has a healing effect on these symptoms. We also review recent findings regarding the reciprocal, recursive, amplifying cycle of PTSD symptoms and attachment insecurities over time.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFuture Directions in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Subtitle of host publicationPrevention, Diagnosis, and Treatment
PublisherSpringer US
Pages79-96
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9781489975225
ISBN (Print)9781489975218
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2015

Keywords

  • Attachment
  • Captivity
  • Close relationships
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder
  • Resilience
  • Trauma

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