10 Signs That You May Have Unhealed Attachment Trauma

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It comes as no surprise that the things you experience during your foundational years can impact how you behave as an adult. Everything from your personality to your fashion sense, your taste in music, and your hobbies can all have roots in how you were raised or what you were raised around.

As with anything in life, it’s not all sunshine and roses though, as those who struggled during their childhood can sometimes see those same struggles reappearing as they get older. Insecurities shift and evolve, creating new patterns and beliefs that damage both friendships and romantic endeavors, all due to unresolved attachment trauma that occurred before we knew how to shelter ourselves from it.

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What Is Attachment Trauma?

Attachment trauma is a specific type of trauma that leaves long-lasting effects on how someone handles relationships. This trauma is most often experienced in childhood.

A young girl sitting in grass, sun shining towards her.
Unsplash / Melissa Askew
Unsplash / Melissa Askew

Specific traumatic events or behaviors from caregivers, such as neglect or abuse, can leave what’s known as ‘attachment trauma wounds’ that manifest into patterns of behavior when someone becomes an adult. These wounds cause rifts in how someone develops and conceptualizes their present relationships.

Below is a list of traits that could potentially be signs of untreated attachment trauma wounds. If you think this may apply to you, please tread carefully, and know that you’re not alone in what you’re facing.

People Pleasing Behaviors

People-pleasing behaviors are often seen in those who really had to fight for attention as children, especially from their parents or caregivers. They learn that making the people in their lives happy would guarantee them that affection from those who were otherwise so disengaged, so they grow up believing they must constantly be keeping that up.

A group of people hiking together.
Pexels / Ivan Samkov
Pexels / Ivan Samkov

On the opposite side of the same coin, they’re extremely avoidant of any conflict or displeasure lest anyone grow to dislike or think negatively of them. Thinking someone might be upset with them can cause a panic response.


Perfectionism is also a behavior that can be born out of a lack of attention during childhood. Much like those with people-pleasing behaviors, they learn that the way to receive affection from their guardians is to be perfect at what they do and elicit praise. This bleeds into all areas of life, and leaves them constantly worried that if something is even slightly sub-par, even if it’s still excellent, they’ll suffer for it.

A dartboard with one dart hitting a bullseye.
Unsplash / Afif Ramdhasuma
Unsplash / Afif Ramdhasuma

It could also be that they were simply never taught how to cope with doubts or feelings of inadequacy, so now as an adult, they avoid those feelings altogether.

Comparing Yourself To Others

This behavior is actually incredibly common, as everyone doubts themselves from time to time. However, it crosses a frequency threshold wherein it becomes a constant issue, and that’s where we see it stemming from childhood behaviors.

Three women sitting on a bench, laughing.
Unsplash / Priscilla Du Preez
Unsplash / Priscilla Du Preez

The correlation is rather straightforward. If someone was compared to others a lot as a child, such as their siblings or friends, what sticks with them is the feeling that someone is always doing things ‘better’ somehow. They feel like they never measure up to the ‘competition,’ even when there is none.

Avoiding Getting Close To People

Fearing getting close to others is a mix of both trust issues and hyper-defensiveness. People who build these walls and shut themselves away consider the risk of people knowing too much about them to be too high. They’d rather not make connections at all then have a connection betray and hurt them.

Someone sitting cross-legged on their couch, covering their face with their hands.
Unsplash / Annie Spratt
Unsplash / Annie Spratt

This behavior often suggests that it’s already happened to this person before, again likely by a parent or caregiver of some kind. They know what that pain of being abandoned feels like and never want to experience it again, so they isolate themselves to avoid the chance entirely.

Relationship Hopping

This behavior, while it seems to be the complete opposite of the avoidant habits listed above, is actually quite similar. Both shutting people out and rapidly cycling through new people are born from not wanting to face tough feelings.

Two people holding hands atop a table.
Pexels / Juan Pablo Serrano Arenas
Pexels / Juan Pablo Serrano Arenas

Those who jump from relationship to relationship refuse to settle in one place for too long. They worry that, if left alone with their thoughts, they’ll have to tackle feelings of inadequacy and doubt. Instead, they fill emotional gaps with people, convincing themselves that everything is fine because someone always wants them.

Unsafe Boundaries

Unsafe boundaries can include those that are too rigid as well as those that are too loose. Extremely rigid and distant boundaries signify that the person is trying to protect themselves, much like the isolating behaviors of the person who builds walls.

A hand reaching up out of the water.
Pexels / Luca Nardone
Pexels / Luca Nardone

Overly lenient boundaries, however, can lead to being walked all over by many people. These people want to prove their usefulness to the detriment of their time and mental wellbeing.

Trying To Fix Others

When someone convinces themself they can (and should) try to fix the people around them, it often stems from the feeling that they failed to do so as a child.

Two men sharing one jacket.
Pexels / Ron Lach
Pexels / Ron Lach

This is commonly seen in people who had a parent that struggled with mental health issues, substance use/abuse, or similar behaviors that had the child largely taking care of themselves. As adults, they feel guilt over not having helped their parent more (even though that was not their job as a child) and overexert themselves trying to make up for it with their friends or partners.

Disordered Eating Patterns

Be it binge eating, restrictive eating, or any other sort of disordered behaviors relating to food, much of it is born from childhood traumas.

A box of half-eaten doughnuts.
Unsplash / Bethany Newman
Unsplash / Bethany Newman

Binge eating can be seen as a coping method, used to calm rapid, disruptive thoughts or to distract the mind from otherwise troubling feelings. Restrictive eating is linked to low self-esteem, and many use it as a punishment for not being what they consider to be ‘good enough.’


There’s no surprise that self-medication to the point of substance abuse has links to mental health struggles, which are often born from trauma. These people turn to their substance of choice because it helps numb the painful feelings (physical or emotional) they continue to suffer from due to the trauma they faced.

A bar covered in bottles of alcohol.
Unsplash / John Cafazza
Unsplash / John Cafazza

The constant need for that distraction can increase their substance use until it becomes an addiction.

Feelings Of Depression, Anxiety, Or Anger

This is another oft-clear example of unhealed trauma, as depression, anxiety disorders, and anger issues are all struggles that can directly come from trauma. Of course, feeling these things sometimes is normal, but for those with unresolved emotional trauma wounds, they’re constant. It’s overwhelming to feel such a strong, uncomfortable emotion throughout your days, feeling it govern your thought patterns and dictate how you react to things.

A woman clutching her head in frustration.
Pexels / David Garrison
Pexels / David Garrison

When these feelings are prominent, the person’s emotional regulation is entirely out of sorts, which can lead to further feelings of self-loathing.

What’s Next?

Though it’s a tad cliché, admitting that you struggle with one or more of the issues listed here truly is the first step to recovery. Whatever trauma you’ve been through is not your fault, and you deserve to get help.

Someone writing in a journal.
Pexels / Los Muertos Crew
Pexels / Los Muertos Crew

A great first step, another cliché, yes, is writing things down. Doing some hard self-reflection and getting to the root of the behaviors listed above can point you in the right direction when it comes time to heal. At the very least, scribbling down your thoughts is a wonderful outlet and means of expression when we find ourselves unable to vocalize our struggles.

If you’ve already done that or are ready for the next step, begin looking into trauma-informed therapy of some sort. There are many kinds, each with a different approach, but you deserve the effort and time it takes to find what works for you.

You’re worth healing. You are so much more than the trauma responses you continue to hold onto, and you still have endless potential. It’s never too late to chase your happiest, healthiest self.

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Daniel Mitchell-Benoit

Dan is a content writer with three years of experience under their belt, having mostly covered viral media but now shifting toward spirituality and astrology. He’s a strong believer in using one’s beliefs as a means of self-improvement and being in touch with whatever messages the universe has to offer.

He can’t wait to share his insights with a[…]