Affective dependence, anxious traits and attachment style
Recent research has investigated some specificities of Love Addiction, in particular the relationship between Love Addiction and state anxiety, as well as between Love Addiction and anxious relationship style. In fact, anxiety, according to the theoretical model suggested by Sassaroli (Fiore, Ruggiero & Sassaroli, 2013), would seem to be an important factor in the cognitive functioning of the emotional employee: anxiety would play an important role in maintaining the disorder.
Advertising message Affective Addiction (or Love Addiction) can be framed in the general field of “new addictions”, a class of heterogeneous disorders (such as addiction to gambling, work, the internet) characterized by a strong involvement in repetitive behavior and persistent, which significantly compromise the person’s relational, social and professional life (Fiore, Ruggiero & Sassaroli, 2013).
As attachment studies teach us, the need for physical and psychological closeness to another human being is a basic need of the individual.
There is talk of Love Addiction when the search for the other is obsessive, characterized by continuous requests for absolute devotion and renunciation by the beloved, closure and social avoidance, total dedication to the wishes of the other and a lack of recognition of one’s needs , needs, desires and even of one’s identity (Fisher, 2006; Sussman & Ames, 2008).
This is a very often dangerous disorder, as the affective dependent subject tends to become involved in entangling relationships with people who tend to be violent and aggressive towards which it triggers their addiction, capable of filling old emotional gaps.
Love Addiction is a pathology still little known, which only in recent years has become an object of interest in the field of scientific research, probably because that of the “new addictions” is, in general, a clinical category that has emerged especially since last years. In fact, this disturbance has not yet found space within an official classification, however it is an increasingly visible phenomenon in the context of clinical activity (Manfredi, 2016).
So as not to find ourselves disoriented and disoriented with respect to those who bring us problems of this kind, it is therefore important to direct the research activity in this direction, in order to learn more about emotional dependence and obtain the necessary tools for effective psychotherapy.
Consequently, we thought of carrying out research that investigated some specificities of this form of psychopathology. In particular, we were interested in deepening the relationship between Love Addiction and state anxiety, as well as between Love Addiction and anxious relationship style. In fact, anxiety, according to the theoretical model suggested by Sassaroli (Fiore, Ruggiero & Sassaroli, 2013), would seem to be an important factor in the cognitive functioning of the emotional employee: anxiety would play an important role in maintaining the disorder.
The research was carried out on a non-randomized sample of 112 subjects, made up of 62.5% of female subjects and 37.5% of male subjects. No exclusion criteria have been applied except for the request to join the informed consent.
The tests were administered online, through the use of the Google Modules platform.
Affective dependence was measured through the use of the Love Addiction Screening Test (LAST), consisting of 25 items. The self-report tool assesses the presence of characteristics linked to emotional dependence, such as total involvement in the relationship with the partner and a limited social life, or the exhilaration experienced in relation to the closeness to the partner.
The variable “state anxiety” was measured by the State Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI), where state anxiety is defined as an interruption of the emotional continuum, that is, it causes a break in the emotional balance of the person, which it expresses by means of a subjective sensation of tension, worry, restlessness, nervousness, reactivity (Cattel and Scheier, 1961).
Advertising message The relationship style was instead evaluated with the use of the Experiences in Close Relationship – Revised (ECR-R) test which explicitly assesses the style of adult attachment in the context of couple relationships, referring to how the subject you feel in intimate relationships in general and not so much to what happens in a possible relationship in progress. It consists of two scales that measure respectively the dimension of Anxiety with respect to abandonment and Avoidance of closeness, two dimensions that generally characterize the attachment behavior of individuals (Brennan, Clark & Shaver, 1998). Items that refer to the Anxiety dimension evaluate the level of concern in relationships, the fear of rejection and the desire to merge with others.
The data were processed through parametric statistics. To prepare the mediation model, first of all, preparatory statistics have been created: a Pearson correlation that allows to verify if there can be a relationship between the variables; subsequently a linear regression that allows to verify the presence of cause – effect relationships and finally a hierarchical regression that highlights the order of arrival of the independent variables on the dependent variable Love Addiction.
Anxious traits measured by the STAI test were found to be the major predictors of Affective Dependence (p <0.01 at Student’s t test).
The anxious relationship style, measured through the use of the ECR-R test, has also been shown to correlate significantly with Love Addiction (p = 0.002 at Student’s t test). The latter was instead correlated in an inversely proportional way with the avoidant relational style (p = – 0.485 at the Pearson correlation coefficient R).
Through the statistical test of Preacher & Hayes (2008), the hypothesis that anxious relational style is a mediator of the effect of state anxiety on Affective Dependence has also been confirmed (p <0.05 at Student’s t test)
On the basis of the statistical results just reported, the initial hypothesis therefore appears confirmed and it is possible to affirm that state anxiety is significantly correlated to emotional dependence, on the contrary it is the greatest predictor among those measured, with a significant direct effect on the manifestations of this pathology. The power of anxiety as a factor implicated in the cognitive functioning of the emotional employee is also demonstrated by the existence of a statistically significant correlation between anxious relationship style and emotional dependence, which suggests the existence of an important mediation effect exerted by the anxious traits of the subject in the development and maintenance of emotional dependence.
What emerged therefore opens a scenario in which it is possible to explore new and interesting perspectives aimed at guaranteeing an approach to the treatment of affective dependence on a broader spectrum.
On the one hand, the classification of anxious factors in the development and maintenance of the pathology allows a timely treatment of the disorder on the basis of what have already proved to be the protocols already effective in the management of pathologies connected to the anxious spectrum. The intervention on those that have been identified as the main factors implicated in anxiety disorders would allow to interrupt a vicious circle that, within the relational context, often acquires an even greater gravity and great suffering from which, however, the patient struggles to move away due to the strong fear of loneliness, which today perhaps constitutes the greatest fear within our society which, in order to stay away from it, is constantly looking for new means of digital and technological connection. On the other side, the identification of the more nuclear aspects linked to self-image and to the vision of the Self with Others allows to arrive at the central node of the pathology and to prepare the conditions for a lasting change. Considering that most people who experience a situation of emotional dependence show anxious traits, the goal of therapy should first of all be the creation of a setting capable of offering a sense of security that allows a free exploration of oneself and relationship towards the achievement of the expression of one’s true Self. Finally, from the point of view of the therapeutic alliance, the identification of these factors could facilitate the clinician in enhancing the aspects that can guarantee the creation of a genuine, authentic relationship, non-judgmental and really helpful for the patient, allowing him to live the experience of an emotionally corrective relationship. In this way it is possible to create the necessary conditions to be able to access what is the painful theme, often linked to a lived experience of unworthiness or non love, which characterizes people who suffer from emotional dependence.