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Relationships: The Disorganized Attachment Style

Relationships: The Disorganized Attachment Style

A disorganized person is a hodgepodge of responses without a consistent pattern.  If there is a pattern, it is that there is no pattern.  The disorganized person has come to view relationships, often because of the presence of abuse, as a source of both comfort and fear.  As a result, they may vacillate between a secure response one minute and an avoidant response the next.  A disorganized person is in conflict and answers questions about love this way:

  1. No, I am not worthy of being loved.
  2. No, I am not able to do what I need to do to get the love I need.
  3. No, other people are not reliable and trustworthy.
  4. No, other people are not accessible and willing to respond to me when I need them.

Because there is no surety anywhere, a disorganized person will use whatever strategy they think might work at any given time, bouncing from one to another, trying anything to gain relational ground. 

Statements for the Disorganized Attachment Style:

  • My feelings are very confusing to me, so I try not to feel them.
  • My feelings are very intense and overwhelming.
  • I feel torn between wanting to be close to others and wanting to pull away.
  • My partner complains that sometimes I’m really needy and clingy and other times I’m distant and aloof.
  • I have a difficult time letting others get close to me, but once I let them in, I worry about being abandoned or rejected.
  • I feel very vulnerable in close relationships.
  • Sometimes I feel very disconnected from myself and my feelings.
  • I can’t decide whether or not I want to be in close relationships.
  • Other people can really hurt me if I let them get too close.
  • Close relationships are difficult to come by because people tend to be unpredictable in their actions and behaviors. 

A disorganized person lives a life of crisis and chaos.  A moment of calm is disrupted and may be subconsciously sabotaged in order for them to return to the chaotic, to the known and the “normal.”  When chaos is normal, the emotional turmoil that accompanies chaos and trauma can also become normal. 

Constantly inundated by an avalanche of intense emotions, the disorganized person learns to dissociate from them, essentially detaching from their emotions.  As the disorganized person detaches from their emotions, they become less able to recognize, manage, or control these emotions.  The more they detach from the emotional self, the less they are able to learn from experiences, the more vulnerable they become to repeating past mistakes and miscalculations.  The more they repeat past mistakes and miscalculations, the more this cycle is intensified and the less grasp on self the disorganized person is able to maintain.  In Why You Do the Things You Do: The Secret to Healthy Relationships, the disorganized attachment style is also called the shattered self. 

If you are struggling with relationship dependency, our team at The Center • A Place of HOPE is skilled at addressing the symptoms today, but also unearthing and healing the root of the issues. For more information, fill out this form or call 1-888-747-5592 to speak confidentially with a specialist today.


  1. Interested

  2. Hi, I loved your article and think it describes my girlfriend really well. My only question is how to handle it. I’m scared she is going to leave because she is pushing everyone in her life away. I’m also worried she may do something to harm herself. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    • Hi Ryan,

      Thank you for your thoughtful note and apologies for the delay in responding. Please feel free to call our admissions team to learn about treatment options at The Center for your girlfriend, or to receive resources close to you. Our number is 888.771.5166. We look forward to visiting with you. Wishing you peace and happiness this holiday season


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