Why am I so attached to my stuffed animal?

In this article, we will answer the following question: Why am I so attached to my stuffed animal? We will speak about transitional objects, the transitional phenomenon and the possible causes for why you may feel too attached to a stuffed animal.

Why am I so attached to my stuffed animal?

Stuffed animals and soft toys like teddy bears are more than just toys for many. Children love them because they are very adorable. Teddy bears are popular among older women too. There is a sense of connection that is created between these stuffed animals and their owners. Even though they are not living objects, they are almost treated like live pets by many.

Many of them even share their deepest secrets with soft toys or stuffed animals. When you are feeling low, you need someone to cling on to. Friends and relatives may not really understand your sorrow completely. Some even think that they should not share their worries with their dear ones as they would be hurt in some way or the other.

Keeping sorrow within oneself can also lead to depression in the long run. That’s the reason why many start getting emotionally attached to soft toys. Another reason why people get close to their soft toys is because of the memories they hold. 

Soft toys could have been gifted by someone special or might bring back some fond memories of your childhood as well. That’s the reason why many find it very difficult to stay away from their favourite stuffed animals or soft toys!

You might also get attached to people whom you barely know and you don’t need to worry why you feel that way because it’s very natural.

Studies on attachment to stuffed animals

Stuffed animals have a protective and at the same time beneficial effect: they provide warmth, comfort and closeness. And not just to children. Scientists at the University Hospital of Ulm have discovered that patients with a borderline personality disorder also create an intense emotional bond with stuffed animals. These toys appear to benefit their ability to regulate feelings and emotions. 

The emotional relationship with stuffed animals reveals the fear of attachment and depression that adult patients with borderline personality disorder present.

Emotional attachment to stuffed animals may be an indicator of the diagnosis of borderline personality disorder in adults.

For some time now, daily clinical practice has revealed that patients with one or more plush toys in their room frequently experience borderline personality disorder. During the day they help those affected to calm down; at night, to fall asleep. As with young children.

 “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 an insecure attachment,” said Carlos Schönfeldt-Lecuona, one of the authors of the study. 

Borderline Personality Disorder is characterized by emotional instability and impulsivity, fear of attachment, and often depression.

However, if you are attached to your stuffed animal, it doesn’t necessarily imply that you also have BPD or other serious mental health issues. Below we will explain what are transitional objects (such as stuffed animals) so important to us. 

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Transitional objects

In psychology, a transitional or attachment object is a material object that the child freely chooses and has a special affection for. It becomes so important in your life, that it accompanies you most of the time, giving you comfort, security and becoming essential at bedtime.

It represents the baby’s attachment to its parents and helps it control separation anxiety at certain times, or during the stage when the baby begins to experience being independent of its mother.

The transitional object usually has a nice texture and is reminiscent of the soft mother theory, which talks about hatchlings’ innate need to latch onto a soft object to feel protected. For this reason the object of attachment is usually soft, such as a stuffed animal, gauze, a blanket, a pillow, a T-shirt …

These are the characteristics of the transitional object:

The child chooses it arbitrarily, that is, the object of attachment cannot be imposed. Perhaps it seems to us that the chosen stuffed toy is not the most beautiful or the most striking that your little one has, but for some reason, she has chosen it and will become her favourite.

It has a special smell. Due to its manipulation (the baby bites, drools, drags, hugs it, sleeps with it) that object has a particular smell, so it is recommended not to wash it so as not to erase its trace. If it had to be done, it is recommended that the child does not see it, since it can be shocking for him to see his object of attachment inside the washing machine.

It cannot be substituted. If the child loses his object of attachment, he will feel deep sadness, and no matter how hard we try to find a substitute, we will not succeed. And it is that the transitional object cannot be changed by another, unless it is the child himself who decides to replace it.

It is a faithful companion and the child does not separate from it. He takes it to the nursery, out for a walk, to bed, in the car … It always remains within sight and within reach of the child.

What is the “transitional phenomenon”?

There are children who do not have an object of attachment as such but adopt certain behaviours at certain times. It is what is known as “transitional phenomena”, and they are repetitive behaviours that they do at bedtime or to calm down, such as sucking their fingers, stroking their hair, asking for your hand to sleep …

In short, the object of attachment is a source of pleasure and security for the child, who tends to squeeze it, keep it close and even speak to it.

In general, the child adopts her transitional object or behaviour between four and six months, and as she gains control over separation anxiety and begins to appear more independent, she will leave it aside.

This usually occurs around the age of three or four, although there is no set rule and many children continue to show special affection for a specific object beyond this age. It can also happen that a certain event (the arrival of a little brother, the start of school, a move …) causes the child to resort to the object of attachment that she had left behind long ago.

It is also important to note that not all children adopt a transitional object in childhood. The emotional process is different in each child: for some, the transitional object is the mother herself, while others also need to hold on to an object. There is no need to take it off or replace it with another one.

In any case, all these behaviours are absolutely normal and are part of the correct psychological development of the child. If you are an adult attached to your stuffed animal, the question here should be: is this your transitional object? And remember, you can have a transitional object at any age, not only in childhood. 


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FAQ on Why am I so attached to my stuffed animal?

Why am I attached to stuffed animals?

The reason why you are attached to stuffed animals is because of what they represent for you. For many, stuffed animals are transitional objects, thus objects of great value that make them feel comfortable, safe, cared for.

Is it normal for adults to sleep with stuffed animals?

Yes, it is normal for adults to sleep with stuffed animals, especially if these are transitional objects from their childhood. This type of behaviour can manifest especially in periods with extreme stress and emotional despair.

Do stuffed animals help with anxiety?

Yes, stuffed animals can help with anxiety. For many stuffed animals represent comfort, bring joy and create a sense of safety. In psychoanalysis we call this regressions, however, it is not a bad thing. 

How many adults still sleep with stuffed animals?

Four in 10 adults still sleep with their stuffed animal, according to a 2018 study conducted by OnePoll and Life Storage. 

When should a child stop sleeping with a stuffed animal?

A child can stop sleeping with a stuffed animal around 10 years old, marking the transition from childhood to adolescence. However, each child is different, so are the circumstances he is raised in. Thus, some children may stop sleeping with their favourite stuffed animal sooner or later than 10 years old. 

Conclusions

In this article, we answered the following question: Why am I so attached to my stuffed animal? We spoke about transitional objects, the transitional phenomenon and the possible causes for why you may feel too attached to a stuffed animal.

Soft toys could have been gifted by someone special or might bring back some fond memories of your childhood as well. That’s the reason why many find it very difficult to stay away from their favourite stuffed animals or soft toys!

In psychology, a transitional or attachment object is a material object that the child freely chooses and has a special affection for. It becomes so important in your life, that it accompanies you most of the time, giving you comfort, security and becoming essential at bedtime.

Thus, it is very likely that your stuffed animal represents a transitional object for you (even if you are long past childhood). 

If you have any questions or comments, please let us know!

Further reading

Attached: Are you Anxious, Avoidant or Secure? How the science of adult attachment can help you find – and keep – love, by Amir Levine

Between Fantasy and Reality: Transitional Objects and Phenomena (Classical psychoanalysis and its applications), by Simon A. Gronlnick 

The Maturational Processes and the Facilitating Environment: Studies in the Theory of Emotional Development (Maresfield Library), by Donald W. Winnicott

The Body Keeps the Score: Mind, Brain and Body in the Transformation of Trauma, by Bessel van der Kolk

References

Bretherton, I. (1992). The origins of attachment theory: John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth. Developmental Psychology, 28 (5), 759–775.

Wikipedia – Attachment Theory

Nature.com – Brain activity to transitional objects in patients with Borderline Personality Disorder

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