This blog will answer the question, “Why am I so attached to my stuffed animal” and its relationship with the concepts of attachment. It will further discuss the transitional objects, phenomenon, and the causes why one may feel too attached to their stuffed animal.
Why Am I So Attached to My Stuffed Animal?
Stuffed animals and plush toys such as teddy bears are more of an essential than merely a toy. Kids love them as they are cute and adorable. Women are also incredibly fond of teddy bears. A deep sense of connection and comfort is built between the owner and the stuffed animal. Although the stuffed animals are not living beings, they are treated almost like real pets.
Attachment is a significant component of human life. When these needs are not fulfilled in the normal ways, essentially through interpersonal relationships, people usually resort to stuffed animals or toys. This helps them in deriving a sense of comfort and belongingness, almost like the real relationship.
Most owners talk to their stuffed animals and share their secrets with these plush toys. In times of need, people need someone or something to lean on. Even though you may have friends and family but sometimes none of them genuinely understands your sorrow and discomfort. Sometimes you do not want to burden them with your worries, so you keep to yourself to avoid hurting others.
However, keeping grief to yourself may lead to depression. Some people resort to talking with their stuffed animals and become emotionally attached to their toys in these cases. Likewise, these stuffed animals usually hold fond memories from their past. These complicated attachment patterns are typically expressed when you hold on to your stuffed animals, even after your childhood.
Soft toys might be presented by a close one or is a token of nostalgia from their childhood. The memories and the emotional affiliation with their favorite stuffed toys make it challenging to part ways from them.
Additionally, these memories of the stuffed animals are a reminder of their first attachments from their childhood. Therefore, they serve as a safety blanket that helps them and ground them, thus being used as a coping strategy.
Finally, some people are used to sleeping with their stuffed animals since their childhood. Over time, they may not have found a reliable alternative for their comfort, and thus there had not been a need for changing this behavior.
The psychology behind Attachment to Stuffed Animals
Stuffed animals are said to provide comfort, warmth, and closeness to the owners, irrespective of their age. A study carried out at the University Hospital of Ulm observed that people with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) develop a strong emotional association with their stuffed animals. These soft toys help in regulating their emotions and feelings.
The emotional bonding with stuffed toys manifests as the attachment fears and depression observed in BPD patients.
Emotional attachments to the plush animals could also indicate the development of borderline personality disorder in adults. Clinical practices have shown that the stuffed animal helps to calm down the people during the day, whereas, at night, they help them put them to sleep.
One of the key authors of the research, Carlos Schonfeldt Lecuona, remarked, “If an adult cannot separate himself from his teddy bear because it has an important emotional meaning for him. It is an indication that there are deficits in the process of emotions and insecure attachment.”
Borderline Personality Disorder is described by emotional instability and impulsive behavior, attachment fears, and usually depression.
However, if an adult is attached to their stuffed animal, it does not imply that they have Borderline Personality Disorder or severe mental health issues. It could also be due to the underlying attachment pattern.
It is considered normal to possess the stuffed animals from your childhood or perhaps even have a certain degree of attachment to the soft toys, but when the attachment is too strong and is carried into adulthood, it indicates dysfunctional attachment styles that are likely to influence the interpersonal relationships.
Attachment is a vital component in the development of the toddler’s social and emotional well-being, primarily beginning to form in the initial six months of the infant, and it is manifested in numerous ways during this period, e.g., in the form of separation anxiety or stranger anxiety. Typically, the child is attached to the primary caregiver, usually the mother, but some children can attach to other parental figures or caregivers. This emotional bonding between the child and caregiver is known as attachment.
In some cases, emotional affiliation to stuffed animals in adults is observed due to the lack of absence of contact comfort from the caregivers in childhood. Contact comfort refers to the comfort through physical contact. This form of contact comfort is also exhibited when the person is anxious or stressed, a general practice they associated with relief in their childhood.
What are the Transitional Objects?
A transitional object or the attachment object is a physical item chosen by the child out of special affection. It becomes an integral part of their life, and they accompany them on most occasions, providing security and comfort, making them essential items during bedtime.
It indicates the child’s attachment to the parents. These help them control separation anxiety under challenging times or when the child starts learning to be independent of their mother.
The transitional objects are typically of fine texture and are soft to touch, reminding the soft mother theory, which explains the child’s innate need to hold on to a soft thing to feel secure and safe. Therefore, the attachment object is generally soft, like a pillow, blanket, animal, T-shirt, etc.
Some of the characteristics of the transitional objects are given below:
- The toddler selects the object arbitrarily. The attachment object cannot be imposed. Sometimes, it may look that the stuffed animal is not even striking. However, for some reason, it is selected by the child and becomes their favorite.
- It has a unique smell. Owing to the fact that the child keeps it so close to them, the object develops a specific smell and is suggested by the child not to be washed. If it is to be cleaned, it is recommended that the child should not see it; since it can be triggering for him to see the stuffed animal in the washing machine.
- It is irreplaceable. If the child loses the stuffed animal, they might experience extreme sadness, and it is impossible to be replaced. Also, the transitional object cannot be replaced by someone else until and unless the child decides it for himself.
- It is a sincere partner. The child does not part ways from it. He takes it to the park, to the school, in the car, and to the bed. It is always within sight and reach of the child, making it a faithful companion.
What is the “transitional phenomenon?”
Some children do not have any attachment object; however, they adopt specific behaviors at specific times; this is referred to as a transitional phenomenon. They are recurrent behaviors that they perform as a bedtime ritual or to calm themselves, like sucking their thumb or fingers, hair stroking, holding someone’s hand to sleep.
Hence, the purpose of transition phenomenon and object is to provide security and pleasure to the child, tending to squeeze it, keeping it close, and even speaking to it.
Generally, the child selects the transitional object or behavior between four to six months. Eventually, when they gain control of the separation anxiety and start being more independent, they will part ways with it.
It typically happens at about three to four years, although there are no set rules, and many children maintain this behavior and object beyond this age. It may also occur because of a particular event (birth of a little sibling, starting school, etc.), causing the child to find refuge in the attachment object that they had left long ago.
It is also not necessary for all children to have a transitional object in childhood either. The emotional process is unique to each child; some children have the mother herself as the transactional object while others would need to hold and pick the item.
All these behaviors are absolutely normal and are appropriate psychological development of the child. If you are an adult attached to your stuffed animal, then reflect on the question: is it your transitional object? Additionally, you can have a transitional object or stuffed animal at any age, not just in childhood.
This blog provided a detailed account of the question, “Why am I so attached to my stuffed animal” and its association with the concepts of attachment. The article discussed the transitional objects, the phenomenon, and the causes why one may feel too attached to a stuffed animal.
Attachment is a natural but complex process that can be expressed in everything we do and the relationships we develop in our lives. This implies that if any unusual and irregular attachment pattern anywhere in one’s life, it is most likely to impact other dimensions of their lives as well.
Moreover, a transitional or attachment object like a stuffed animal is an object freely chosen by the child and develops emotional affiliation from that object over time. Thus, it becomes an essential component of their life, giving comfort, safety, and warmth.
If you enjoyed the ”Why Am I So Attached to My Stuffed Animal?”’ take a look to ”Why am I so attached to someone I barely know?” too.
FAQS: Why Am I Attached to My Stuffed Animal
Is it normal for adults to like stuffed animals?
Yes, it is normal for adults to be attached to their stuffed animals since they have kept it from their childhood. A survey found that 44% adults continued to keep their teddies and stuffed animals, and about 34% adults still sleep with their stuffed animals each night. In fact, it is also observed that these toys even help people with low self-esteem.
Do stuffed animals help with anxiety?
Yes, stuffed animals help in calming your anxiety. A study from UV University Amsterdam informs that touching a stuffed animal, specifically those with lower self-esteem, helps in relieving existential angst. It also suggests that the contact creates a sense of social connectedness between the people during anxiety.
Is it weird to talk to your stuffed animal?
Not really; some people talk to their stuffed animals as they had developed an emotional attachment with the transitional object and thus said to provide comfort and joy to the owner. It is almost a relationship people usually have with living pets, the same way people with stuffed animals talk to them.
Kiefer, M., Neff, U., Schmid, M.M. et al. Brain activity to transitional objects in patients with borderline personality disorder. Sci Rep 7, 13121 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-017-13508-8