EMDR and Attachment Trauma

EMDR and Attachment Trauma

People that have attachment trauma might not even be aware that this is one of the main issues they are facing.

Attachment trauma is more common than you might think and is found both in men and women. Psychotherapy is the ideal intervention to treat attachment trauma. A proper evaluation with a therapist will determine if you have experienced attachment trauma. Over the course of weekly therapy sessions this trauma can be reprocessed and a healthy attachment pattern will begin to form.

In order to understand if you are dealing with attachment trauma we must understand what this type of trauma is.

Trauma is an extremely upsetting and overwhelming experience which causes severe emotional shock. The person experiencing trauma feels that their safety and even life is seriously threatened.

Attachment trauma relates the experience between a caregiver and the infant. When the bond between the caregiver and infant does not adequately form or is disrupted, the infant is at risk of experiencing attachment trauma.

An example of this is when the caregiver is not attuned to their baby enough to respond to the babies cries for food or for a diaper to be changed. As a result, the baby learns that they can not trust others to meet their needs.

Another example is when the caregiver over time is inconsistent with meeting the babies needs. One day, they my feed, give loving expressions, change and care for the baby. The next day, they may ignore the babies needs or be harsh in their interactions. This baby may then feel anxious because they can not predict if they will get their needs met or not.

When the attachment between the caregiver and child is healthy, predictable, safe and needs are met, we call this a secure attachment.

Forming a non secure attachment style can cause relationship problems in our adult lives. The model of attachment to early caregivers plays a vital role in the way we develop future relationships throughout our entire life. But, this can be changed at any moment if we are willing to look deeper into this topic and reprocess the attachment trauma we are dealing with.

The main attachment styles are: secure attachment type, insecure avoidant attachment type, and insecure ambivalent-resistant attachment type.

Caregivers that provide the child with a secure attachment while growing up help them become more confident and curious about the external environment because they know that they can always come back to a safe base. They will regulate their emotional arousal more effectively.

Growing up with caregivers that provide an unhealthy attachment style will led the children to develop unhealthy behavior and face anxiety, fear, anger, depression or other important issues.

You can learn more about attachment styles right here.

Attachment trauma can be more difficult to identify than other traumatic events because the parenting and attachment style we grew up with is more difficult to be objectively analyzed by us. We think that our family is relatively normal and that’s how it’s supposed to be. The familiar is usually seen as normal.

A severe traumatic event such as rape or physical abuse is more easily identified and seen as trauma. It doesn’t mean that the effect of attachment trauma is not as important as other types of trauma. They can have the same impact on a person even if the person is not aware of the cause. That’s where therapists play a huge role, helping clients identify if the family they grew up in provided a healthy environment for them or not.

EMDR therapy is the best therapy for reprocessing any type of trauma, including attachment trauma. Your therapist can help you deal with this type of trauma by choosing to work on specific memories that are the root of your attachment trauma and helping you understand certain actions and  motivation of your caregivers.

This will help clients see that they are not guilty for what happened and that not everyone will provide an unsecure attachment in the future. During EMDR therapy you only need to identify some of the main memories of your early attachment model and the brain will automatically connect it with other related memories and reprocess them together. This will help you save time and energy because you won’t need to go through your entire childhood and dig in the dirt for a long period of time, which usually happens when working with other type of therapies.

If you are not able to identify specific memories that are part of your attachment trauma you can identify with the therapist the symptoms you are facing and that are related to this type of trauma. You can reprocess these symptoms or some of the unhealthy coping mechanisms you developed which will guide you to the root of your attachment trauma and let your brain reprocess it.

You can choose to work on this at any moment, at any age.

We are shaped by our childhood but we don’t need to carry it with us our whole life. We can take that story and change our perspective over it. This will change it from a baggage that we carry with us to a story that is able to teach us lessons about the world and about ourselves.

  It’s important to treat attachment trauma for numerous reasons:

  • The person dealing with attachment trauma can develop anxiety and depression.
  • They deal with a lot of internal struggle relating to each meaningful relationship in their life, always questioning the intention of other people and having trouble when they need to commit to a new relationship and trust their partner. Jealousy and lack of trust can damage and even destroy their relationships.
  • The low level of self-esteem can have a big impact in all areas of their lives, including the performance they have in their profession.
  • They develop a lower self-esteem than those who had a secure attachment while growing up.
  • They might never be able to start a family because when they meet someone they might get attached to they might freeze or choose to walk away to avoid being hurt. They might also think they are not good enough and they don’t deserve to be loved.
  • They usually still have unhealthy relationships with their parents and caregivers. This brings a certain unbalance in their life, holding them from having a deeply fulfilling life. In order to work on these relationships they need first to reprocess the traumatic event which will bring them a deeper understanding over those events. They need to understand and forgive in order to make peace with the people that were involved in those traumatic memories.
  • Even if people with attachment trauma are involved in committed relationships, those relationships can be improved if they managed to reprocess these issues. They will become more relaxed which will improve their family life.


It’s important to remember that overcoming attachment trauma has a positive effect on all main areas of our lives. It helps the client be more relaxed and develop a higher self-esteem which will help them find a better internal balance. It will also have a positive effect on how they relate to others which will usually improve their relationships.

EMDR therapy is a highly effective way to treat attachment trauma so that you can go on to form the healthy relationships you want and deserve.