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Emotional attachment to soft toys in adults

Firstly, I'm sorry that this is not in the right category, but I struggled to find a specific mental health area ...

My mother (married but with no more children at home) and my brother (married, in his early thirties) have both formed attachments to soft toys. My mother began this when she travelled overseas for the first time. She was very anxious about flying and so she bought a soft toy (I'm not sure if she made this connection herself) and took it everywhere with her. She has commented that when she would feel stressed on the flight she would look at the soft toy which she addresses in first person, and see that 'he' wasn't stressed, so she didn't need to be. She continues to travel with this toy, and has it photographed with her when she is travelling. She also positions it in a pocket of her backpack so that it can see out, rather than just carry it in her bag.

My brother, a few years later, was given a soft toy (dog) after a fight with his current girl friend. She used it to make up with him, using the dog's voice to start a dialogue with him again. Ever since, he has treated the soft toy as a real dog. He brings it everywhere with him, including to his workplace, and is often seen at social gatherings, sitting on his own cuddling or stroking the dog. He does not hide this at all. He regularly posts photos of the dog, which has a name, and speaks about it in first person. I seem to be the only person in my family who is truly disturbed by this. My brother in particular is emotionally disconnected and I see this as symptomatic of emotional issues in his relationships. I feel that my mother is also projecting love (and a personality) onto a toy because she feels a need to care and be cared for and this is not being met in her relationships. Am I right to be upset by this? Whilst I can understand somewhat and make allowance for my mother's soft toy use, I feel greater concern for my brother. My subtle attempts at addressing it are not getting through. Other family members feel that there is nothing wrong with it. I am trying to work out why I am so upset and if I am the one who should just let it go, or if it is kinder to intervene?
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Avatar universal
Sorry it has taken me so long to reply, as I had seen your post earlier.  I am female, and all my life I have slept with stuffed animals.  They reassure me and comfort me, as I am afraid of the dark.  Recently I wound up in a psych ward for about ten days, and my brother, who is a psychologist and knows me very well, sent me a great stuffed bear while I was there.  This was a very big help to me, and I still sleep with it since I got out of there.

I would say that your mother is acting quite normal, she simply wants company while she's off to the middle of nowhere.  Your brother is using the stuffed dog to reassure himself, after fighting with his girlfriend.  Perhaps she thought the stuffed toy would help bring out any problems she sensed he had, since she used the dog to bring her and him back together.  But I have to say, with your brother, spending time at social gatherings with his stuffed dog is a little irregular, and so, sure, it might help him if you engaged him in normal conversation when you see him, to see will that help draw him out more naturally.

Now, keep in mind, I'm not the best source for advice, as I am quite depressed, I have panic disorder, and so I take a few medications for all that.  But as for keeping stuffed animals, I think in general this is normal... I recall seeing more than one adult bed with stuffed animals on it when watching the House & Garden TV station, where they try to make a house ready to sell, and also where they go into homes for sale.  Hope this helps.
Avatar universal
Hello. I'm new to this site--just looking it over and came upon your posts re: adult attachments to stuffed animals.  I'm a late-stage Baby Boomer and have developed such an attachment for the 1st time in my life, as of 2014.  Never was the type of female who would have appreciated/wished for stuffed animals as romantic tokens back in my romantic days...never really understood the interest.  I have been very attached to living pet animals throughout my entire life, tho.  In the Summer of 2014, I was shocked and saddened by the unexpected death of a young, wonderfully affectionate and seemingly healthy pet cat due to previously undetected heart failure. After discovering him breathing with much difficulty, I rushed him to a Vet ER, where he received testing and time in an O2 tent, but it ended with a prognosis that had no hope---I found no choice other than euthanasia, with me having to order his immediate death---or watch him clawing the walls, gasping for breath which would never again come naturally--- then having to leave without him, but with a $900 bill. It was surreal and broke my heart, left me with pangs of loss, sadness and guilt (although, in reality, there was nothing else I could have/should have done earlier). I've since found some healing and comfort due to the acquisition of a small, cute and cuddly stuffed toy--fashioned in the shape of a bewhiskered kitty cat, wearing a neckerchief with "2014" on it.  I've named him "Kitty" (see? I call it a 'him'---like my dear little cat was---but, not with the same name---too painful). I carry him from room-to-room with me and use him as a neck pillow when sitting, reading, watching TV and sleeping.  It's my secret that my neck pillow is really a kitty memento...and that having it/him in my life does help me with the heartache of his unexpected and irreversible passing from my life... and, yes, I do sometimes talk to him and give him a kiss or two on his little stuffed toy head!        
Ever since I was separated from my beloved dog Franny about 20 months ago (she's staying with friends while I'm in a skilled nursing facility recovering from a serious illness) I've been sleeping with, kissing, cuddling and yes, often talking to a small plush white llama with black eyelashes and a pink nose that I confess I bought for myself on Amazon. Like you, I've given my toy a name ("Simone") and also like you I've been passing her off as a neck pillow, for fear the CNAs and nurses here might think me very strange--or even arrested in my development, lol--for such childlike behavior.

Even *I* began to wonder whether I'd gone around the bend a bit with this, so tonight I decided to do a Google search to see if it is anything, you know, that doctors consider markedly abnormal. Is appears that most psychiatrists and psychologists say it isn't at all abnormal and really nothing to worry about (provided, they say, your spouse or bed partner doesn't mind), so that's good news. In addition to the  professional opinions I was able to turn up, your sweet, well-written, bittersweet little story has touched my heart and eased my mind a great deal. I'm so glad you decided to post your experience and share it with the world. Thank you.
Sorry to hear about the loss of your dog.  Hey, whatever gets us through mourning period and if it brings you comfort, so what.  I hope you are healing well and will get to return home soon.  hugs
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