Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Obsessions As Attachments

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on June 14, 2012

Sherry, has trouble holding on to the notion that relationships persist in the mind, as well as through face to face contact. She copes with these slippery attachments by developing obsessions which help her latch on to people. When she feels fondly for someone she becomes preoccupied with their life, often by internet stalking. This connection to the person, through her intense focus, helps her feel more securely attached. When she stops focusing on their life, then she becomes sullen and depressed. Her obsession protects her from feeling alone and empty. One could also argue that the wiring in her brain predisposes her to get locked into a feedback loop in which she cannot stop. She is anxious about feeling alone, leading her to use the internet as a “transitional object,” thereby calming her down temporarily, but soon she has to start the loop over again.

“I remember when you were obsessed with Mark and you created multiple narratives in your head about his lifestyle, based on your internet research, and then the obsession went away and you felt very down,” I say, discussing this issue that her obsessions are her way of feeling connected and the loss of her obsession leads her to despair. “Yes, that is how it works. I go from obsession to obsession, and in between I feel empty,” Sherry says with remarkable candor. “It is because it is hard for you to trust that people care about you, even if you are not actively thinking about them.” I say, highlighting the developmental notion of object permanence, the stage of infancy where a baby begins to know that people are still there, even if they don’t see them. “Yes, I do not think anyone thinks about me at all when I am not sitting in front of them” Sherry says, without a sense of sadness. “I think about you when you are not here,” I say, pointing out that she sticks in my mind. “You do,” she says with utter surprise. “That is so nice. I am going to have a good day,” Sherry says, with a childlike sense of enthusiasm.

3 Responses to “Obsessions As Attachments”

  1. Shelly said

    Your parting statement just reinforces what I said in your last blog, that Sherry is indeed lucky to have you in her life. I am once again impressed by the level of commitment you impart upon your patients. I have had enough experience via my children and husband’s therapists to know that not enough psychiatrists are like you. You are indeed unique. This particular blog helped me better understand what it is about stalking, attachments, and the internet which helped sooth the internal compulsions and obsessions for some people. Thanks very much.

    • Your welcome, Shelly. I appreciate your comments. I also want to say that the dedication I have towards my patients comes both from my internal sense of commitment, as well as my training from incredibly dedicated clinicians who have taught me how to care for people, while at the same time, maintaining the appropriate boundaries in order to offer professional advice. Thanks again

  2. […] The other piece of research that’s got a lot of press this week is the “Freud was right” stuff about how anxiety (and particularly phobias) might, after all, all be down to unconscious conflict. Who knew.  And continuing the therapeutic theme, I really enjoyed this post (as always!) from shrink blogger Shirah Vollmer on the parallels between obsessions and attachments. […]

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