Attachment disorder is a mental health issue in which a person may have trouble forming or maintaining relationships. It can happen to anyone; maybe it’s happening to you. Although difficult to process, it’s not impossible to overcome. Acknowledge that it’s hard and that you can do hard things. Know that it’ll take patience and thoughtful action before improvements can be made. But take heart: Improvements can be made.

What are the signs and symptoms of attachment issues?

We reached out to Elyse Dub, PhD, founder of Insight Onsite, to better understand the issue and how we can treat it. Individuals can experience a mental health cocktail of low self-esteem, loneliness, depression, anxiety, and social isolation, especially regarding fear of abandonment. Dub explains that some people may also mistrust their world and have trouble establishing meaningful connections.

What causes attachment issues?

Not to incite panic in new parents, but it begins in early childhood. Psychologist Erik Erikson describes it as the “trust versus mistrust” stage. The child relies on their caregiver for their every need, and if they’re provided for, a level of trust is established. “The predictability of this relationship sends a message to the infant child whether or not the world around them is dependable, safe, predictable, and secure,” says Dub. "This by no means suggests that a child’s every need has been or should be met, but in general, more needs should be met versus not met.” If the child’s needs are not met, that creates a lack of trust that seeps into their future behavior.

More From Oprah Daily
preview for Oprah Daily US - Your Best Life Playlist

Are attachment issues the same as “being clingy”?

Yes and no—it’s a continuum. Dub explains that a child may show signs of clinginess when they feel uncomfortable, which can vary on different levels, depending on many factors. She encourages us to help the individual feel more comfortable with their independence, which can be applicable at any age. Small wins are the baby steps we need to feel safe. Be patient with those around you (or yourself) as they begin their journey toward a more independent self.

What’s the best way to treat and heal attachment disorder?

Good news: Hope is not lost for those who didn’t receive the security and care they needed growing up. In some cases, people can consider cognitive behavioral therapy, an approach Dub encourages to “help individuals reframe or reconsider early and limiting thoughts, to understand the world differently...ripe with opportunities for growth and connection.” However, meaningful attachments can be taught to individuals by transforming their level of trust. Dub says, “Treatment of attachment issues is a multifaceted approach that involves an ongoing commitment to consistently push some boundaries of what is comfortable.” Who we surround ourselves with matters and informs the choices we make. The pillars of our communities, such as religious leaders, school teachers, coaches, and more, reinforce our ability to trust (or not!). If your surrounding squad isn’t enough, seek medical help to guide you through your journey while setting up your support team. Choose your community wisely because, with informed guidance, you can take the small steps you need to push yourself into a strong, independent mindset.

Emma Sutton-Williams
Contributing Writer

Emma is a New York-based writer focused on beauty, lifestyle, and fashion. When she's not scribbling novel ideas (pun intended), she's off performing on Broadway and recording movie scores as a Juilliard-trained violinist. Her bylines have appeared in Rolling Stone, Parents, InStyle, The Everygirl, and well, you get the idea.