by Amanda Ng (’17)
Much of the mental health profession, both today and in the past, has been focused on alleviating the psychological distress experienced by the everyday person, which is often anxiety or depression. An individual’s psychological well-being, or often lack thereof, can affect their cognitive and physical processes, leading to changes in their physical and mental health. The theory of attachment hypothesizes that a secure or insecure attachment developed with a primary caregiver within the first two years of life provides a framework for dealing with these psychological distresses and decreases the chance of depressive or anxious symptoms.
In order to test this notion, researchers at Charles Darwin University in Australia recruited 167 participants to answer a series of questionnaires on Facebook that tested their adult attachment, mindfulness, and overall well-being. Adult attachment was measured using the “Experiences In Close Relationships- Revised Questionnaire”, which consists of 36 self-report items that measure an individual’s anxiety and avoidance. Insecure attachment is indicated by high scores on both anxiety and avoidance measures, and secure attachment is indicated by low scores. Mindfulness was measured using the Freiburg Mindfulness Inventory, in which participants rated statements such as “I accept unpleasant experiences” and “I am open to the experience of the present moment” on a scale from 0 (rarely) to 3 (almost always) in order to indicate their level of mindfulness. The Depression Anxiety Stress scale was used to indicate participants’ overall well-being and involved rating statements concerning their experiences, such as “I couldn’t seem to experience any positive feeling at all” (depression), “I felt I was close to panic” (anxiety), and “I found myself getting agitated” (stress). These statements were rated on a scale from 0 (did not apply to me at all) to 3 (applied to me very much).
As expected, the researchers found that those with more insecure attachments possessed lower levels of mindfulness, and so were more susceptible to expressing their psychological distress as depression, anxiety, and stress. Additionally, anxious individuals seemed to be distracted by potential threats and feared abandonment, while less anxious individuals did not search for threats and avoided rumination, thus increasing their levels of mindfulness.
Future research should focus on confirming these findings, as well as use different measures of attachment to see its association with psychological distresses
- Davis et al., The moderation effect of mindfulness on the relationship between adult attachment and wellbeing. Personality and Individual Differences 96, 115-121 (2016). Doi: 10.1016/j.paid.2016.02.080
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