Romantic attachment in patients with mood and anxiety disorders

CNS Spectr. 2007 Oct;12(10):751-6. doi: 10.1017/s1092852900015431.


Introduction: Romantic attachment is the establishment of a relationship with a partner and is strongly influenced by the individual's attachment style. While several studies have shown that attachment style may contribute to the development of psychopathology, less information is available for romantic attachment. The aim of the present study was to compare romantic attachment styles among patients with different mood and anxiety disorders and control subjects.

Method: The study sample included a total of 126 outpatients, 62 of whom were affected by bipolar disorders, 22 by major depressive disorder (MDD), 27 by panic disorder, 15 by obsessive-compulsive disorder, and 126 healthy control subjects. Romantic attachment was assessed by means of the Italian version of the "Experiences in Close Relationships" (ECR) questionnaire.

Results: The results showed that the secure attachment style was more frequent in the control group, while the preoccupied style prevailed among the patients, with no difference among the diagnostic categories. The scores of the ECR anxiety and avoidance scales were significantly higher in the patients than in the control subjects. A trend toward higher ECR anxiety scale scores in women with panic disorder was detected, with the opposite being true for MDD.

Conclusion: Our findings indicate that patients with different psychiatric disorders would be characterized by higher scores on both the ECR anxiety and the avoidance scales, as well as by the preoccupied style of attachment. In addition, women with panic disorder and MDD seem to be characterized by, respectively, higher and lower scores of the ECR anxiety scale than men.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety Disorders / diagnosis
  • Anxiety Disorders / psychology*
  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Love*
  • Male
  • Mood Disorders / diagnosis
  • Mood Disorders / psychology*
  • Object Attachment*