Anxious attachment refers to one of the three main attachment styles identified in attachment theory, a psychological framework that explores the dynamics of relationships between individuals, particularly in the context of early caregiver-infant relationships. The three primary attachment styles are anxious (or anxious-preoccupied), avoidant (or dismissive-avoidant), and secure.
People with an anxious attachment style typically exhibit a strong desire for closeness and intimacy in relationships. However, they also tend to be more sensitive to perceived threats of rejection or abandonment. Individuals with anxious attachment may have experienced inconsistent caregiving during their early years, leading to an increased need for reassurance and a fear of rejection as adults.
Characteristics of anxious attachment
- Fear of abandonment. Individuals with anxious attachment often worry about their partner’s commitment and fear being abandoned or rejected.
- Intense emotional responses. They may have heightened emotional reactions to relationship events, interpreting neutral situations as threatening and reacting with strong emotions.
- Seeking reassurance. Anxiously attached individuals may seek constant reassurance and validation from their partners to alleviate their fears.
- Difficulty trusting. Trusting others can be challenging, and they may have a tendency to doubt the intentions of their partners.
- High emotional dependency. Anxious individuals may rely heavily on their partners for emotional support and may feel incomplete or insecure when not in close contact.
It’s important to note that attachment styles, including anxious attachment, are deeply ingrained patterns of relating to others that develop over time. While it may not be accurate to use the term “cure” in this context, individuals with anxious attachment styles can work towards developing more secure attachment patterns and fostering healthier relationships.
Some strategies that may be helpful
- Self-awareness: Understand and acknowledge your attachment style. Awareness is the first step toward change. Reflect on your past experiences and how they may have shaped your attachment style.
- Therapy. Seek the guidance of a mental health professional, such as a therapist or counsellor, who specialises in attachment issues. Therapy can provide a safe space to explore and understand your attachment patterns and work on developing more secure ways of relating to others.
- Mindfulness and self-regulation. Practise mindfulness to become more aware of your thoughts and emotions. Learning to regulate your emotions can help you respond to relationship stressors in a more balanced and constructive way.
- Communication skills. Develop effective communication skills to express your needs, fears, and concerns to your partner. Open and honest communication is crucial to fostering a secure attachment.
- Establish boundaries. Learn to set and maintain healthy boundaries in your relationships. This includes respecting your own needs and the needs of your partner.
- Build self-esteem. Work on building a strong sense of self-worth and self-esteem. This can reduce dependency on external validation and help you feel more secure in yourself and your relationships.
- Challenge negative thoughts. Identify and challenge negative thoughts and beliefs that contribute to anxious feelings. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) techniques can be particularly helpful in this regard.
- Develop a secure base. Cultivate a network of supportive relationships, including friendships and family connections, to provide a sense of security beyond your romantic relationship.
- Educate your partner. If you are in a relationship, share your attachment style with your partner. Open communication can foster understanding and help both partners work together to create a secure and supportive relationship.
- Patience and persistence. Changing attachment patterns takes time and effort. Be patient with yourself and persistently work on implementing positive changes.
It’s essential to remember that personal growth and change are ongoing processes. While it may not be possible to completely “cure” an attachment style, individuals can make significant progress in developing more secure and fulfilling relationships through self-awareness and intentional efforts.
It’s important to note that attachment styles are not fixed or permanent; they can be influenced by various factors, including experiences in current relationships and personal growth. Additionally, many people may exhibit a combination of attachment styles, leaning more toward one style in certain situations or relationships.
Understanding one’s attachment style and that of their partner can be valuable for improving relationship dynamics, communication, and overall emotional well-being. Therapy, self-reflection, and communication with a partner can all be helpful in navigating the challenges associated with anxious attachment.
Dina Relojo is a social media manager at Psychreg. She is a high school teacher from the Philippines.