According to Attachment Theory, a psychological, ethological, and evolutionary theory that explores how people connect to one another, people can be either secure or insecure in their attachments. Individuals with insecure attachments can be either anxious or avoidant. Anxious attachment style manifests as fear of rejection and abandonment while avoidance attachment style shows up as a distrust of others and avoidance from intimacy. Insecure attachment, regardless of style, is a source of much suffering and struggle for many in relationships. Although attachment styles are considered relatively stable, some evidence suggests that they can indeed change over time.
A recent study published in ACS Pharmacology & Translational Science, suggests that psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy might help reduce attachment anxiety. The researchers performed a secondary analysis of the data from a previous open-label psilocybin-assisted group therapy pilot study.
The initial study included 18 male AIDS survivors who received a combination of individual and group psychotherapy followed by a single psilocybin session. The focus of the initial study was demoralization, “a form of existential suffering characterized by poor coping and a sense of helplessness, hopelessness, and a loss of meaning and purpose in life.”
"Exploring attachment styles in this sample was particularly relevant, the researchers said, because the openly gay participants had experienced a variety of attachment-related traumas, such as the loss of loved ones and rejection from their families." reported PsyPost.
The new follow yup analysis found that the participants had markedly lower attachment anxiety scores at the 90-day follow-up point but the attachment styles were not significantly changed.
Interestingly, the researchers also discovered that the attachment styles of the participants predicted the qualities of their psilocybin experience. Higher levels of attachment anxiety were associated with more mystical experiences while higher levels of attachment avoidance were associated with more challenging experiences, including grief, fear, physical distress, and paranoia.
“These findings have important implications for the general treatment of psychiatric disorders as well as optimizing psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy as a broadly applicable treatment modality,” said study author Christopher S. Stauffer and his colleagues.
While the study was limited in both scope and sample size and additional research is warranted, “The suggestion that a brief intervention — psilocybin-assisted group psychotherapy — might aide in the development of a greater sense of attachment security is clinically intriguing,” the researchers concluded. “If replicated, these findings could affect treatment for a wide range of psychiatric disorders, against which attachment security is protective.”