Understanding Anaclitic Depression: Symptoms Cause, And Treatment

Last Update on May 24, 2023 : Published on May 25, 2023
Anaclitic Depression

Having no support when you’re struggling with something as serious as depression can be distressing in itself, but when your depression stems from abandonment issues and dependency issues, then it can be even challenging to feel loved, trusted, and cared for. This type of depression can be from short or long-term separation from a loved one and can be called Anaclitic depression.

As a child, when you’re separated from your parents or caregiver for a long time, it can create feelings of isolation, anxiety, distrust, and fear, leading to feelings and symptoms of depression as time goes on.

While it may begin in childhood, anaclitic depression symptoms can continue to adulthood. When you begin to struggle with social, emotional, and physical discomfort as you seem to have no support (especially from a loved one), then it can cause feelings of distress and isolation that can eventually turn into something serious if left unaddressed.

In this article, we’re exploring more about what anaclitic depression is, its symptoms, its causes, and how you can find treatment options for the same.

Defining Anaclitic Depression

Anaclitic depression

Anaclitic can be defined as, “relating to or characterized by a strong emotional dependence on another or others.” But, how does this definition work in the psychological context? Well, let’s take an example of a baby. A baby, when taken away from the object (more often than not their mother) of their affection and safety, will present signs of emotional, social, and physical discomfort.

When the baby is reunited with their caregiver or loved one, their symptoms of depression and distress may disappear. But that’s not to say that the child won’t develop long-term behavioral issues as they grow.

Before we move on, let’s talk about the origins of anaclitic depression. This term was coined by psychoanalyst Rene Spitz in 1945. They observed that depression symptoms such as mental and emotional distress, isolation, and withdrawal, were present in children where there was a lack of caregiving.

They also found and coined the term “hospitalism” when they noticed that death was sometimes an outcome when children were kept from their caregivers for too long. In other observations, it was recognized that children who were kept away from their caregivers had halted development, cried more, and showed signs of social isolation.

Another psychologist, Sidney Blatt, expanded on Spitz’s theories and introduced another aspect of anaclitic depression – introjective depression. In anaclitic depression, people felt unloved and uncared for whereas in introjective depression, people were more worried about facing rejection and often heavily criticized themselves.

While anaclitic depression isn’t a recognized and formal diagnosis in the DSM-5, it is believed that the symptoms of anaclitic depression can affect your well-being and even the relationships you’re bound to develop in life.

Anaclitic Depression Symptoms to Watch Out

The impact of anaclitic depression is mostly on your relationships. If you feel like you can relate to this depression, here are the signs you need to watch out for;

In Adults, Symptoms Can Be;

  • Innate desire to be loved and be cared for
  • Experiencing fear of abandonment
  • Feeling loneliness
  • Experiencing fear of loss
  • Having a low or depressed mood
  • Having high anxiety
  • Wanting to cry frequently
  • Experiencing physical aches and pains
  • Distrusting others
  • Trouble with intimacy
  • Unhealthy emotional attachment

In Children, Symptoms Can Be;

  • Halted development and growth
  • Social withdrawal
  • Crying frequently
  • Poor weight growth

What Causes Anaclitic Depression?

What Causes Anaclitic Depression

Research on anaclitic depression is limited, however, a small-scale study from 2002 might have found some causes of anaclitic depression. It was found that the type of attachment between a child and their parent could contribute to anaclitic depression.

They found that people with secure attachment styles were less likely to show signs of anaclitic depression, but people with anxious attachment were more likely to show the signs of this type of depression. An anxious attachment style is developed when a parent figure or caregiver is emotionally unavailable to provide the foundation of healthy attachment in the child.

Other causes of anaclitic depression can be a dependency on others for emotional validation, feeling anxious when you don’t feel emotionally cared for, and long-term social isolation from loved ones.

How Can We Treat Anaclitic Depression?

Since the primary cause of anaclitic depression is recognized as insecure attachment styles, the primary treatment option to treat the symptoms of anaclitic depression can be learning how to form healthy and secure attachments with people in your life. A therapist can help you work on self-regulation, better communication with your loved ones, and recognizing empathy to develop secure attachment.

Psychotherapy, psychoanalysis, and mindfulness activities can be suggested methods of treatment to help you create and develop secure attachments. When you can build secure attachments, you can learn better and healthier ways to connect with others without emotionally depending on them.

If you or someone you know show signs of anaclitic depression or abandonment issues that are leaning towards depression, then it is recommended you speak to a mental health professional for a proper diagnosis and treatment.

If you want to consult with a professional on how to treat depression, you can click the link below to connect with one.

What Next?

Anaclitic depression might not be recognized as an official depressive disorder in the DSM-5, but it should not be left unaddressed nevertheless. This type of depression can affect your overall well-being and relationships, especially with your loved ones. What causes anaclitic depression might not be widely researched yet some causes can’t be overlooked.

While the symptoms of anaclitic depression can be widely seen in children, they can also affect you in your adulthood. More often than not, anaclitic depression may accompany the fear of abandonment and dependency issues.

With the right consultation, diagnosis, and treatment, you can learn to overcome anaclitic depression and improve your relationships as well as develop a healthy and secure attachment with the loved ones in your life.

I hope this article helped you understand what anaclitic depression is, its symptoms, its causes, and how to treat the symptoms of this depression.


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About The Author

Swarnakshi Sharma
Swarnakshi Sharma

Swarnakshi is a content writer at Calm sage, who believes in a healthier lifestyle for mind and body. A fighter and survivor of depression, she strives to reach and help spread awareness on ending the stigma surrounding mental health issues. A spiritual person at heart, she believes in destiny and the power of Self. She is an avid reader and writer and likes to spend her free time baking and learning about world cultures.

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