Attachment anxiety is related to Epstein-Barr virus latency

Brain Behav Immun. 2014 Oct;41:232-8. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2014.04.002. Epub 2014 Jun 16.


Attachment theory provides a framework for understanding individual differences in chronic interpersonal stress. Attachment anxiety, a type of relationship insecurity characterized by worry about rejection and abandonment, is a chronic interpersonal stressor. Stress impacts cellular immunity, including herpesvirus reactivation. We investigated whether attachment anxiety was related to the expression of a latent herpesvirus, Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), when individuals were being tested for breast or colon cancer and approximately 1 year later. Participants (N=183) completed a standard attachment questionnaire and provided blood to assess EBV viral capsid antigen (VCA) IgG antibody titers. Individuals with more attachment anxiety had higher EBV VCA IgG antibody titers than those with less attachment anxiety. The strength of the association between attachment anxiety and antibody titers was the same at both assessments. This study is the first to show an association between latent herpesvirus reactivation and attachment anxiety. Because elevated herpesvirus antibody titers reflect poorer cellular immune system control over the latent virus, these data suggest that high attachment anxiety is associated with cellular immune dysregulation.

Keywords: Attachment anxiety; Attachment theory; Close relationships; Herpesvirus; Immune system; Psychoneuroimmunology; Stress.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Antibodies, Viral / blood
  • Antibodies, Viral / immunology
  • Antigens, Viral / immunology
  • Anxiety Disorders / etiology
  • Anxiety Disorders / immunology*
  • Anxiety Disorders / virology
  • Breast Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / virology
  • Capsid Proteins / immunology
  • Colonic Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Colonic Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Colonic Neoplasms / virology
  • Comorbidity
  • Depression / etiology
  • Depression / immunology
  • Depression / virology
  • Female
  • Herpesvirus 4, Human / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin G / blood
  • Immunoglobulin G / immunology
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Object Attachment*
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / immunology
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / virology
  • Social Support
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Stress, Physiological
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology
  • Stress, Psychological / immunology
  • Stress, Psychological / virology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Virus Activation* / immunology
  • Virus Latency / immunology*


  • Antibodies, Viral
  • Antigens, Viral
  • Capsid Proteins
  • Epstein-Barr viral capsid antigen
  • Immunoglobulin G