Secure attachments and insecure attachments influence relationships in various ways. Individuals with secure attachments may have more confidence in their relationships with others than individuals with insecure attachment styles. It is well documented that insecure attachment styles can negatively impact many areas of social functioning. Anxious insecure individuals may be overly cautious of their relationships and may need constant reassurance of loyalty and commitment. Avoidant insecure people may not need the relationship maintenance of anxious individuals, and may choose to pull away from those close to them due to their fears of abandonment. Regardless of whether an individual exhibits anxious or avoidant behaviors to those closest to them, in times of extreme stress, these relationships can become very strained.
Chronic pain is a condition that can cause stress in people and those around them. Understanding how attachment style affects pain response can help clinicians design tools to address this issue. Anna L. Kratz of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of Michigan recently led a study that evaluated how anxious and avoidant insecure attachment styles influenced catastrophizing of pain symptoms in a sample of 210 adult women. The women had been diagnosed with either fibromyalgia or osteoarthritis and were instructed to keep a daily diary detailing the severity of their pain, the level of catastrophizing, and how much social support they received.
After 30 days, Katz reviewed the diaries and found that the women with the highest levels of anxious insecure attachment also had the highest levels of catastrophizing. These women reported the most severe levels of pain and the least amount of positive social support. The insecure avoidant women had high levels of pain catastrophizing as well but minimal social support, positive or negative. In contrast, the participants with secure attachments reported the lowest levels of pain and better support responses than the insecure attachment women. These findings suggest that insecure attachment styles motivate individuals to solicit help for fear of not receiving any while secure attachment styles provide self-reliance that allows individuals to cope with pain and stress in a more adaptive and regulated manner. Katz added, “Findings suggest that a social development perspective can inform our understanding of adjustment to chronic pain and the creation and use of more effective prevention and treatment strategies.”
Kratz, A. L., Davis, M. C., Zautra, A. J. (2012). Attachment predicts daily catastrophizing and social coping in women with pain. Health Psychology 31.3, 278-285.
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