anxious attachment what to know

Anxious Attachment Style: 9 Things You Should Know

Attachment theory is a psychological theory used to describe how adults connect in romantic relationships - based on how they form their initial attachments in life, those with their caregivers or parents. There are four different types of attachment styles: secure, avoidant, anxious and disorganized. Attachment styles are often defined in childhood by the relationship that children have with their primary caretaker, but the styles can affect how people connect in their adult life and in their romantic relationships.

Here are nine things that you should know about anxious attachment style:

1. It’s an insecure attachment style

Of the four attachment styles, anxious attachment is one of the three insecure attachments in addition to avoidant attachment and disorganized attachment. These insecure attachment styles can make it difficult to maintain healthy relationships because people with insecure attachment need extra validation from their partners and often look to relationships as a source of self-confidence or self-esteem.

While we have preferred attachment styles, it is possible to learn new, healthier ways to attach to emotional partners. Download Relish to help you identify healthier patterns of behavior. Click here to start your free 7 day trial!

2. It develops in childhood

Anxious attachment style often develops in response to being abandoned as a child or living with the persistent fear of being abandoned throughout childhood. This abandonment/fear of abandonment causes children and then their adult selves to feel insecure in their close relationships. This insecurity can lead to behaviors such as excessive clinginess, doing anything to please a partner, and trying to control a partner so that they do not leave. It can also cause lots of internal insecurity, which can lead to low self-esteem, people-pleasing behavior, anxiety, and emotional outbursts.

3. It persists into adulthood

Like we mentioned above, attachment styles develop in childhood based on the relationship between primary caretakers and infants, but these attachment styles follow people into adulthood and dictate how they behave in friendships, with family members, and with romantic partners. Insecure attachment styles can also develop later on in life as a result of relationship trauma such as betrayal or cheating by a significant other.

4. Signs of anxious attachment in yourself

Attachment styles are often not openly discussed outside of a therapist’s office or a psychology classroom, so you may be wondering what it looks like in real life and whether or not you have an anxious attachment style. It is totally possible to have healthy relationships even if you do have anxious attachment, which can also make it difficult to identify. If you are a person with anxious attachment, you might:

  • Feel insecure about the status of your relationship
  • Question whether your partner really likes you
  • Expect your partner to leave you at any given moment
  • Obsess over/read into insignificant things in the relationship

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5. Signs of anxious attachment in a partner

If your partner has an anxious attachment style they will probably be feeling all the things that we described above (insecurity, fear of abandonment, etc.), but they may not communicate exactly how they are feeling. Even if your partner doesn’t communicate they are feeling this way, these feelings normally manifest into actions that you can observe. If your partner has an anxious attachment type they might:

  • Try to control your actions
  • Feel jealousy over your platonic relationships
  • Look to you for validation and self-confidence
  • Have emotional outbursts or become defensive and lash out

6. It can work in relationships

Though anxious attachment is an insecure form of attachment, it is possible to make it work in a relationship. People with anxious attachment styles can have success in relationships with people who have secure attachment styles and with people who also have anxious attachment styles. People with these styles can often understand how an anxiously-attached person is feeling (either because they read the signs well or because they themselves experience similar emotions), which allows them to support an anxiously attached person in the relationship.

7. It can turn into codependency

Though anxious attachment styles can work in some relationships, that is not always the case. A partner with an anxious attachment style can often put an undue burden on their partner because of the insecurity they feel internally and within the relationship. Anxious attachment styles can also lead to codependency in a relationship if they are paired with a partner that takes advantage of the people-pleasing tendency of people with this attachment style. People with anxious attachment styles will often bend over backwards to make their partner happy or to avoid conflict. This can lead to an unhealthy relationship dynamic in which an anxiously-attached person does everything for their partner in return for validation, but in the process enables their partner’s bad behavior.

While we have preferred attachment styles, it is possible to learn new, healthier ways to attach to emotional partners. Download Relish to help you identify healthier patterns of behavior. Click here to start your free 7 day trial!

8. It can be possible to develop more secure attachment

Even though attachment styles are formed in childhood, it is possible to develop a more secure attachment style through therapy, hard work and communication. In many cases, developing a more secure attachment style involves addressing childhood trauma (or in some cases past relationship trauma) that caused the insecure attachment in the first place. It can also involve working on feelings of self-worth and self-confidence so that these feelings come from within rather than from a relationship. In addition to personal things you can do to develop more secure attachment, you can work with your partner to improve your communication so that your partner understands your wants and needs and so that you feel more secure in the relationship.

9. How to talk about anxious attachment with a partner

If you feel as if you or your partner have anxious attachment, it can be difficult to bring this up with them. Identifying anxious attachment in yourself can lead you to feel even more insecure in the relationship while identifying it in a partner may be perceived as a criticism that can make the relationship anxiety worse. Having an honest conversation about attachment, the different styles, and the attachment styles of you and your partner can help you navigate your relationship in a healthy and open way.

Even people with secure attachment styles can have insecure behavioral habits that can lead to difficulties in the relationship. Bringing up attachment issues in your relationship can ensure that you and your partner are supporting one another and helping to create a secure and healthy environment in which you, your partner and the relationship can thrive.

Discussing challenges and conflict doesn't have to be awkward. Download Relish and learn how to navigate difficult conversations with your partner. Get full access to our expert relationship coaches, therapist approved quizzes, and more free for one week!

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