Why Am I So Attached To My Stuffed Animal? (A guide to attachment)

In this brief guide, we will look at the question “Why am I so attached to my stuffed animal?”, as well as some other concepts related to attachment.

Why Am I So Attached To My Stuffed Animal?

You might be so attached to your stuffed animal for three reasons:

  • It represents a time in your life where you were happy and content.
  • It was given to you by someone you are extremely attached to.
  • You have difficult patterns of attachment in your life overall

Many studies have found that even adults or older children can be attached to stuffed animals well into years that one would not necessarily associate with attachment to stuffed animals, and there are a lot of causes for this, but almost all causes of this attachment assume a break or curiousness in the pattern of attachment.

Attachment is a significant part of our lives and when this need is not fulfilled in the normal and necessary ways, which are usually interpersonal relationships, many people may turn to sources like stuffed animals or stuffed toys, which tend to offer the same degree of comfort and contentment that one might receive from a real relationship.

However, it does not always need to be that odd, and in some cases people may also be attached to their stuffed animal because they were very attached to the person who gave it to them, or perhaps they received the stuffed animal at a time in their life when they were happy.

Memories related to touch, much like those related to smell or sounds (like songs that remind you of the time when you first or most heard them), can evoke strong responses from people, and in cases where something like a stuffed animal is involved, touching the soft cloth or hugging the animal may feel comforting and familiar, especially if the person is experiencing stress in the current stage of their life.

Additionally, one might find that they received the stuffed animal when they were younger, and perhaps one of the first attachments they formed was with the stuffed animal, and now it is almost like a safety blanket (which, incidentally, people also tend to be attached to very frequently), that makes them feel tethered and grounded, and helps them cope better.

Lastly, some people may also be attached to their stuffed animal because they are just too used to sleeping or being with it, and they have not been able to find an adequate substitute for the comfort that the stuffed animal brings them, and therefore there has simply never been a need for them to change anything about that situation.

Adults With Stuffed Animals: Psychology

The psychology behind adults with stuffed animals may be complicated, and while in some cases an adult with a stuffed animal might be stressed or anxious and using it for relief, in some cases it could be simply because they are emotionally attached to it.

In most cases of adults with stuffed animals, psychological theories imply that they might simply be treating it as a transitional object, and that the adult might be attached to the stuffed animal because they are memorabilia of a simpler, happier time.

Almost all adults have some extent of nostalgia and longing for the days of the yesteryear, and anything that reminds them of that time might be seen with fondness and efforts may be made to keep that thing in one’s life, and in most cases of adults with stuffed animals, this might simply be it.

A study was conducted on the subject of adults with stuffed animals by the hotel chain Travelodge, in which some rather interesting findings were reported, about adults with stuffed animals and how these are used as comfort objects in the United Kingdom. 

The study first reported that about 75,000 teddy bears had been left behind in 452 English hotels, and when efforts were made by the employees of Travelodge to reunite the bears with their owners, it was noted that the owners of these stuffed animals were not always children, and in many cases they were actually adults, after which this study surveyed about 6,000 Britons about the role of teddy bears in their lives, the findings of which are given as follows:

Approximately 25 percent of male respondents admitted that they took their teddy bear with them when away on business and most said that this was because the stuffed animals were reminiscent of home and cuddling with them helps them to nod off.

Furthermore, about One-in-ten single men in England said that they hid their teddy bear when their girlfriend stayed over, and about 14 percent of married men admitted to hiding their teddy bear when any family and friends came to visit.

About 51 percent of British adults reported that they still had their teddy bear from childhood and the average teddy in Britain was 27 years old, the survey said.

It was also seen that about 15 percent of men, as compared to about 10 percent of women, reported they still thought of their childhood teddy as their best friend and felt comfortable sharing their intimate secrets with their stuffed animal.

Lastly, about 26 percent of male respondents said that it was quite acceptable to have a bear regardless of your age.

It has long been assumed that when adults mature and learn to self-soothe, they give up their security blankets and their stuffed animals, bu clearly, this is not the case, and it could be assured that this may be because of rising nostalgia in society or simply because psychological theories weren’t built to last through major changes and therefore did not account for psychological evolution of human beings, but whatever the reason, it is evident that not all people give up their comfort objects. 

Despite those 26 percent of men who said it was acceptable to have a bear at any age, many of them nonetheless felt ashamed about having one, which was obvious in the fact that they hid their teddy bear when their girlfriends, family, and other visitors came to call. 

Emotional Attachment to Stuffed Animals in Adults

It may be normal to have stuffed animals from your childhood or even have some attachment to stuffed animals, but when people have too intense an emotional attachment to stuffed animals well into adulthood it may be a sign of dysfunctional attachment patterns that likely affect their interpersonal relationships as well.

John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth, the pioneers of attachment theories, came up with many concepts related to adult attachment styles, and they suggest that patterns of dysfunctional attachments that plague the person in their childhood often tend to stick around till adulthood, meaning that if someone is overly dependent for their emotional attachment on stuffed animals in their childhood, the likelihood of that persisting till adulthood is quite high.

The emotional bond that forms between an infant and a primary caregiver is called attachment. Attachment is an extremely important development in the social and emotional life of the infant, usually forming within the first 6 months of the infant’s life and showing up in a number of ways during the second 6 months, such as stranger anxiety (wariness of strangers) and separation anxiety (fear of being separated from the caregiver). Although attachment to the mother is usually the primary attachment, infants can attach to fathers and to other caregivers as well.

In some cases, emotional attachment to stuffed animals in adults may also be a consequence of lack of contact comfort in the person’s childhood or because they are feeling stressed and anxious and they are craving the contact comfort they learned to associate with relief as a child.

Contact comfort is a term given by psychologist Harry Harlow, whose famous experiments with monkeys taught the world that infants don’t just attach with their mothers because mothers nourish them, they also attach with them because the mothers provide them with comfort through physical contact.

Psychologist Harry Harlow conducted a number of studies of attachment using infant rhesus monkeys. Noticing that the monkeys in his lab liked to cling to the soft cloth pad used to line their cages, Harlow designed a study to examine the importance of what he termed contact comfort, the seeming attachment of the monkeys to something soft to the touch.

He isolated eight baby rhesus monkeys shortly after their birth, placing each in a cage with two surrogate (substitute) “mothers.” The surrogates were actually a block of wood covered in soft padding and terry cloth and a wire form, both heated from within. 

For half of the monkeys, the wire “mother” held the bottle from which they fed, while for the other half the soft “mother” held the bottle. Harlow then recorded the time each monkey spent with each “mother.” 

If time spent with the surrogate is taken as an indicator of attachment, then learning theory would predict that the monkeys would spend more time with whichever surrogate was being used to feed them.

The results of these experiments show that regardless of which surrogate was feeding them, all the infant monkeys spent significantly more time with the soft, cloth-covered surrogate. In fact, all monkeys spent very little time with the wire surrogate, even if this was the one with the bottle. Harlow and his colleagues concluded that “contact comfort was an important basic affectional or love variable”. 

Harlow’s work represents one of the earliest investigations into the importance of touch in the attachment process and remains an important study in human development.

Conclusion

In this brief guide, we looked at the question “Why am I so attached to my stuffed animal?”, as well as some other concepts related to attachment.

Attachment is a complicated process that permeates into nearly everything else we do, and all the relationships we create in our lives, which means that if there is an abnormal pattern of attachment anywhere in our life it is likely to affect other aspects of our lives too.

If you have any more questions like “Why am I so attached to my stuffed animal?” or any comments about this topic, please feel free to reach out to us at any time.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Why Am I So Attached to My Stuffed Animal?

Why am I attached to my stuffed animal?

You might be attached to your stuffed animal because of what they represent for you as it has been seen that in many cases stuffed animals are transitional objects, which often makes them objects with emotional value that help the person feel comfortable, safe, cared for.

In many cases people are also attached to their stuffed animal because they experience a feeling of joy and comfort from them, which may even be minor substitutes of human contact if that is something a person is missing.

Is it normal for adults to like stuffed animals?

Yes, it is normal for adults to like stuffed animals, particularly if they are feeling emotionally volatile in any way or if they are going through a period of stress.

The fact that it is normal for adults to like stuffed animals is evident in a survey that was carried out last year, in which the findings indicated that about 44% of adults have held on to their childhood teddies and dolls, and as many as 34% of adults still sleep with a soft toy every night.

Do stuffed animals help with anxiety?

Yes, stuffed animals can help with anxiety, says a new survey by BestMattressBrand.com, which found that about seven percent of adults sleep with a stuffed animal, among with teddy bears have been found to be the top choice, and these adults also report that stuffed animals help them with stress and anxiety.

Do stuffed animals have feelings?

No, stuffed animals do not have feeling, but in cases where the person who has the stuffed toys is feeling particularly emotional or vulnerable, they may attribute some of their negative feelings or emotional states to the stuffed animals, and through projection they may feel like the toy is also experiencing emotions, like the fact that it looks sad or seems happy, and so on.

Citations

https://www.bustle.com/articles/64413-stuffed-animal-attachments-are-perfectly-healthy-science-says-so-go-ahead-cuddle-up-with-your

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/shame/201806/no-shame-in-adult-comfort-dolls

Divya is currently a Clinical Psychology Trainee in a Master of Philosophy program and holds a Master’s in clinical psychology. She has a special interest in Personality studies and disorders, having researched the subject before, and Neuropsychology; with an additional interest being Mood disorders. She likes to write about Psychiatric issues, having worked in multiple specialty setups during her time as a clinical psychology student, and in her free time she likes to cook and read.