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Can attachment lead to panic disorder in a relationship?

Every romantic relationship is based on trust, love and compassion. But its takes a wrong turn when one of the partners exhibits an overbearing or demanding behavior, forcing the other partner to adopt avoidance and withdrawal behavior. This can trigger risk of attachment panic.

The kind of panic you face when your partner does not respond to your phone calls or you have a moot point with your partner, all these can be signs of attachment panic.

Humans have innate tendencies to develop attachment with parents or responsive caregivers right from infancy. People try to look for the same kind of love in their partners where they would find themselves protected, secured, valued and loved. But when the same partner becomes unresponsive, it fosters a feeling of dread, insecurity and isolation in the other. It causes a fear, which is known as attachment panic.

Psychologist Sue Johnson, in her book “Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love”, says, conflict within relationships shares a strong connection with attachment panic. Attachment panic is a reaction of the nervous system when you feel your partner is no longer responding to your emotional needs. As a result, a feeling of rejection and abandonment gets entrenched in your mind.

Attachment panic has symptoms similar to that of panic attack, and the symptoms include:

  • Accelerating heartbeat
  • Tingling or numbing of hands
  • Sweating
  • Feeling out of breath
  • Feeling frightened or anxiousness that is beyond control

Attachment panic is a condition that becomes palpable in two kinds of situations.

A person might adopt a demanding and argumentative behavior towards his/her partner demanding attention in a particular manner to feed their emotional need.

On the other hand, the person might completely withdraw and hide inside their shell—exactly same as fight-or-flight reflex during interim danger.

The partners follow a relational pattern that is called “demand-withdrawal”, where one partner is overbearing and the other partner acts in withdrawal. Demand-withdrawal is quite destructive for a relationship, say many studies. When one partner withdraws, the other partner turns to be much more curious and become extremely demanding.

The demanding behavior can include:

  • Overanalyzing
  • Overbearing
  • Demanding and argumentative
  • Constantly nagging
  • Experiencing mood change
  • Trying to remain in close proximity with the partner
  • Experiencing turbulence in relationships

The withdrawal behavior can include:

  • Refraining
  • Putting an end to communication
  • Trying to avoid contact with partner for weeks or months
  • Expressing reluctance to partner’s over indulgence and overbearing nature
  • Blaming partner as over-clingy

Anyone can experience attachment panic. People may develop attachment during infancy, which continues even in adulthood. People mostly with avoidance or anxious attachment styles are at greater risk to develop attachment anxiety.

There are three basic attachment styles that determine romantic relationship styles.

  1. Secure attachment—in which a person has positive self-image and positive attitude towards others leading to secured romantic relationship style.
  2. Dismissive-avoidant attachment—in which a person has positive self-image, but has negative thoughts about others leading to avoidant romantic relationship style.
  3. Anxious-preoccupied attachment—in which a person has negative self image and positive attitude towards others. They are likely to develop as ambivalent lover romantic relationship style.
How to cope with attachment panic?

For people with anxious attachment behavior and with a partner with withdrawal behavior must consider the partners’ quiet behavior. If your partner is not talking much that doesn’t mean they do not love you. Giving them some space will allow them to realize the potential of your relationship. Too much of aggressive attitude and intervening might aggravate their withdrawal behavior. Try to realize that withdrawal behavior is your partner’s natural instinct to cope with an adverse situation.

On the other hand, if your partner is having anxious attachment behavior and you tend to have withdrawal behavior, recognize your partner loves you and wants to be with you. If they are overbearing and argumentative, then consider this flaw is due to their unsecured upbringing. They are just feeling insecure while they are far from you. Your compassion and assurance can bring change in your relationship.

If you recognize these behaviors and response pattern in yourself and your partner, it can prove to be a stepping stone in the success of your relationship. With some effort in your relationship and understanding your partner can rescue your hurting relationship.

Find help with us

If you or a loved one is battling with panic disorder or any mental health disorder, do not suffer in silence. Reach out to Athena Behavioral Health at the earliest.

We provide panic disorder treatment along with customized treatment programs, outpatient care and psychotherapy. We conduct our programs both in English and Hindi. One can also avail our panic disorder treatment in Hindi.

To know more about our treatment programs, call us now on our toll free 9289086193 and get immediate assistance.