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Health and Attachment Styles

Health and Attachment Styles

Attachment theory originated in the 1930’s and is a result of the works of John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth. The four attachment styles are secure attachment, anxious-preoccupied attachment, dismissive-avoidant attachment, and fearful-avoidant attachment. A secure attachment is when an individual has a positive view of oneself as well as a generally positive view of others; An anxious-preoccupied attachment is when an individual has a negative view of oneself, but a positive view of others; A dismissive-avoidant attachment is when an individual has a positive view of oneself, but a negative view of others; Finally, a fearful-avoidant attachment is when an individual has an unstable or confused view of oneself and/or others. Securely attached individuals have been found to find building new relationships easier than avoidant individuals. Children who were raised with secure attachment to their caregivers will often build resiliency that is carried into adulthood.

The importance of assessing and being aware of an individual’s attachment style is that it often affects how an individual relates to and/or connects with other people and dictates a pattern of social interactions. This means that our individual attachment style can lead to us having happy, healthy, and fulfilling friendships and relationships with those around us or it can lead to us experiencing a series of toxic, unhealthy, and extremely distressing friendships and relationships. There have been studies conducted to prove that there is a connection between attachment styles and not only mental health, but physical health as well. 

Social touch or physical affection is a key component in attachment during infancy as well as in adult attachment and relationships. Marriages provide individuals with plenty of opportunity for social touch and physical affection since love can often be communicated through touch alone. Physical affection and touch can, therefore, contribute to positive affect, coregulation, and stress regulation. This could be one of the primary reason’s marriages enhance our overall health. Newman and Roberts discuss a study in which couples were asked to watch a 5-minute romantic video and/or talk about a topic that enhanced their feeling of closeness all while holding hands for 10 minutes and then hugging for 20 seconds while the comparison group did not experience close or warm contact such as holding hands or hugging. The group that was asked to experience touching and warm contact had lower diastolic blood pressure, or DBP, systolic blood pressure, or SBP, and heart rates (HR) responses to stress tasks. “These results support the notion that physical affection promotes healthier cardiovascular and endocrine responses to stress” (Newman & Roberts, 2013). 

Overall, there is an insurmountable amount of evidence to support the claim that a healthy attachment style has positive health benefits for both men and women. When taking into consideration married versus unmarried individuals and physical touch versus lack thereof, we are still, at its core, talking about attachment styles and the nature of the attachments we form both as children and as adults. It is not simply whether we are attached to an individual, although that already can provide an individual with more positive health benefits than an individual who is unattached, but it is also the quality of these attachments that have its greatest impact on our overall health. 

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