The way we act in our relationships, referred to as an attachment style, is a direct reflection of how we were cared for as infants, according to attachment theory concepts. You may have an anxious attachment style if you’re uncomfortable in your relationships and need a lot of validation from your partners.
What does it mean to have an anxious attachment style?
Anxious attachment is a form of unstable attachment style that stems from a fear of abandonment and a sense of being undervalued. An distressed attachment type, also known as preoccupied attachment disorder, causes people to be anxious about being away from their partner. According to studies, about 19 percent of people have an anxious attachment pattern.
“When people have this attachment form, their inner life and the world around them seem unstable,” says a social psychologist. “There is no space to be empathic and extend out in their circle of interest,” writes Bobbi Wegner, Psy.D., in her forthcoming book Raising Feminist Boys.
Stable attachment (characterised by ease in forming safe relationships), avoidant attachment (characterised by emotional unavailability), nervous attachment, and fearful-avoidant attachment are the four major attachment types (a combination of anxious and avoidant attachment styles).
How does an anxious attachment form?
Anxious attachment develops in children who have a parent who is unpredictable or emotionally reactive. The parent will be caring and accessible one moment and unavailable the next. They aren’t satisfying basic needs for intimacy, comfort, or attention the next moment, according to Wegner. “A child is left unsure about what to expect and starving for love and interaction as a result.”
People with anxious attachment have a hard time relying on others because affection was not always given to them as children. “For others, childhood relationships may have taught them to fear closeness with others—that people you love and depend on may be emotionally unpredictable, sometimes violent,” says psychologist Debra Campbell, Ph.D.
Characteristics in an anxious attachment type include:
- Relationship insecurity
- Possessive or clingy
- Fearful of being rejected
- Others are distrusted.
- Intimacy overwhelms you, however you yearn for it.
- Self-esteem is described as a low or unfavourable opinion of oneself.
When it comes to dating, having an insecure attachment style can be difficult.
People with anxious attachment yearn for intense connection and affection because their parent-child relationships were not conducive to vulnerability or closeness. These same early memories, on the other hand, have made it impossible for them to trust anyone close to them, including their partners, and have created an intense sense of vulnerability in their relationships.
According to holistic psychology Nicole Lippman-Barile, Ph.D., this vulnerability can lead them to become possessive, excessively dependent, and clingy to their spouse. They may end up driving their partner away in an effort to hang on to them. “Afraidly attached people can come off as emotionally needy,” Wegner says.
They prefer to act on their needs rather than expressing them. This sometimes results in a cycle of acting out in the relationship, accompanied by a need for calming. When their significant other goes out with mates, for example, the nervous one gets a panic attack. They will sit at home the next time to satisfy the nervous partner’s needs. Unfortunately, this dynamic occurs often.
An anxiously attached person should look for someone who has a stable attachment style in order to have a good relationship (or someone who works with them to have a secure attachment together). Unfortunately, Lippman-Barile notes, their acts appear to draw avoidant styles, which reinforces their feelings of abandonment and rejection.
How to overcome an anxious attachment pattern?
Recognize the attachment style.
Understanding why you act a certain way in relationships is the first step in breaking those patterns.” Understanding why you behave a certain way in relationships is the first step in breaking those patterns.” Self-reflection and self-awareness are the foundations of every transition.
Change your habits.
You will start making more rational choices by becoming aware of how this attachment causes issues in your relationships. According to Lippman-Barile, the nervous habits you participate in on a regular basis don’t lead to the fulfilment of your true desires. And if it is frightening or awkward, making new choices will help you begin to make improvements that can lead to a secure relationship.
Speak with someone you can trust.
Overcoming a nervous attachment form normally necessitates assistance. Reaching out to trusted relatives and friends might be a good place to start. Wegner also suggests finding counselling because people with nervous dependence have a hard time trusting people close to them. “Having an insecure attachment style is really normal,” she says, “and it’s something that most therapists can assist with.”
It can be difficult to break free from these instinctual behaviours because attachment types are formed in response to our infantile sense of relation. Attachment wounds, on the other hand, may be healed. These negative habits can be overcome with self-awareness and hard work.