How to fix an anxious attachment style in relationships (2023)

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Our relationship with carers is the foundation upon which we build all future relationships.

How our parents, grandparents, and grandparents respond to our emotional needs dictates our relationship with attachment, emotional security, and rejection.

When you grow up in a family environment marked by abandonment, trauma, or inconsistent parenting, you develop a deep sense of anxiety about any form of emotional closeness and security.

On the one hand, you crave intimacy and emotional connection.

On the other hand, the thought of losing it (or not getting it back all the time) is scary enough to keep you tense and overly vigilant whenever someone offers you closeness and emotional comfort.

Experts call this the "anxious attachment style."four attachment styles;that characterize interpersonal relationships.


A quick dive into attachment theory

Basically, attachment refers to the emotional bond between two people that involves the exchange of intimacy, affection, and care.

The way we communicate and behave in relationships is determined by the different attachment styles we cultivate from childhoodparent-child relationship.

Attachment theory was first developed in the 1950s by John Bowlby, a British psychoanalyst who sought to understand the stress and distress experienced by children separated from their parents.

In his opinion, attachment plays a key evolutionary role because the survival of the child depends solely on the care and protection of the adult.

HowJohn BowlbyHe said,the tendency to form strong emotional bonds with certain people is a basic component of human nature.

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Today we know that attachment determines how we deal with emotions. In particular, people with an anxious attachment style are more likely to have difficulty identifying their emotions and controlling their emotional impulses.

So what happens when we have difficulty controlling our emotions?

What happens when we are unable to form strong emotional bonds with those close to us?

What are the consequences when the love and emotional support we should receive from caregivers is inconsistent, conditional, or absent?

Anxious Attachment Styles: An Overview

As a rule, every child has a number of needs (physiological and emotional) that make them completely dependent on their caregivers.

For example, breastfeeding means being loved in the first months of life.

However, as a child grows, so does his biological need for food, along with other basic needs such as being loved, cared for, wanted and accepted as he is.

This is the reasonunconditional love and supportin childhood form the basishappy and full of life.

The safer a child feels with a parent who provides support, protection, and reassurance, the more secure the attachment to that parent.

Anxious attachment style has its roots in early childhood and results from:uncertain and ever-changing parent-child dynamics;.

Children who develop an anxious attachment style have a strong desire to feel needed, constantly seek security, and often become attached to their parents.

What happens when the presence of caregivers is irregular?

Over time, you will grow into an adult who spends a lot of time thinking about your relationship. an adult who is jealous or adores his life partner.

Your constant need for reassurance puts you on guard and makes you think about every little change in the relationship dynamic.

In other words, when you experience an anxious attachment style, you tend to doubt your partner just thinking about itbe abandonedenough to cause severe anxiety.

Whenever you feel insecure about your partner's feelings or the well-being of your relationship, you become demanding, anxious, or possessive.

For example, you can check your partner's phone or ask them to share their location and other details about the people they meet.

All these attempts to take control of the relationship are fueled by the fear of abandonment and the "emotional hunger" you hope to satisfy by clinging to your life partner.

The same feelings you experienced when your parents left (and you didn't know when they were coming back) come to the surface when your loved one goes out for a drink with friends or on a business trip.

What are the roots of an anxious attachment style?

Although the attachment style has its roots primarily in the mother-child relationship,some genes partly explain attachment insecurity.

In other words, certain genes responsible for emotions and social behavior may be the biological basis for insecure attachment, but only when environmental factors (e.g., inconsistent parenting or abandonment trauma) are involved.

And since we're on the subject of biology, you should also know that people with an anxious attachment style have a higher cortisol response.

From this finding, we can conclude that when you experience anxious attachment, it is inevitabledeal with a lot of stresswhich puts you at risk of all kinds of health problems.

Factors influencing the anxious attachment style:

  • Separation from parents or guardians. Change of nanny or kindergarten staff.
  • Physical neglect: lack of childhood play, unbalanced diet, unsupervised health problems.
  • Emotional neglector abuse: little effort to understand the child's feelings, very little attention given to the child.
  • Physical, verbal or sexual abuse.
  • Traumatic experiencessuch as accidents or chronic diseases.
  • Frequent changes, as in the case of children who grew up in care homes for neglected children and ended up in foster care.
  • An inexperienced mother who is too young and lacks proper guidance.
  • Maternal depression causing isolation and withdrawal from motherhood.
  • Parents struggling with alcohol or drugsaddictionand are emotionally unavailable.

As you can see, it is almost impossible to pinpoint the cause of an anxious attachment style to a specific factor or event.

Looking back at your past, you'll likely find that attachment issues have manifested themselves in almost every significant relationship.

Although it started with caregivers, this pattern likely influenced your romantic relationships in adolescence and early adulthood.

To do thisdiscovery of the defenselesseasier to practice, let me share some telltale signs of an anxious attachment style.

5 signs of an anxious attachment style

1. You need constant reassurance

When you're stressed, you're torn between the need to experience love, protection, and security, and the fear that you'll somehow lose the person who meets those needs.

As a result, you are constantly looking to your other half for reassurance that they may feel frustrated and exhausted.

2. You become attached and demanding

Every moment spent away from your life partner seems unpleasant to you, so you try to be close to him as often and as often as possible.

You may want to move in together after only a few weeks or feel anxious every time they go away for a few days.

When they are away, constantly text and voicemail them so they feel connected and can be avoidedfeel lonely or abandoned.

3. You are afraid of emotional intimacy

Even though you want to spend as much time together as possible, you somehow feel cut off

You miss the presence of your loved one, but at the same time you keep them at a distance (emotionally).

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To justify this fear of intimacy, you might label affectionate gestures as "gross," "creepy," or "salty."

In addition to not allowing yourself to enjoy a moment of intimacy, you feel uncomfortable when your loved one is emotionally vulnerable.

4. You feel like running away every time someone gets emotionally attached to you

Sometimes an anxious attachment style can be so severe that it prevents a committed relationship from starting.

Since you have no problem with physical intimacy, casual dating and relationships become a substitute for emotional intimacy.

But when your casual partner starts having feelings, you can keep him at arm's length, end the relationship, or scare him.

5. You tell yourself that you are independent and do not need anyone

This is one of the most common excuses people with an anxious attachment style use to justify their fear of abandonment.

It is easier to convince yourself that you are independent and self-sufficient than to "peek behind the curtain" and see if there are other reasons why you can keep others at a distance.

On the other hand, there can also be hyper-independencea sign of unresolved trauma.

Remember these signs as you think about your past relationships and how your attachment style influenced your choices.

Can my attachment style change?

It's generally easierraise a healthy childinstead of correcting a dysfunctional adult.

The family environment in which a child grows up must provide him with security, love, emotional warmth, protection and support at all stages of development.

More specifically, the child-caregiver relationship must be based on "emotional coordination", which leaves marks on the personality of the child and on what kind of adult he will become.

Unfortunately, not everyone is blessed with a loving, stable, and caring family environment.

Whenever I talk to clients about unhealthy attachment styles, the most common questions I hear are:Is it too late to solve this problem?I"What can I do to overcome my unhealthy attachment style?”

Although your attachment style is a deeply ingrained aspect of your personality,there is still a lot of room for change and development.

However, in order to cultivate a healthy attachment style, you need to think deeply about how old attachment patterns affect the present and work to change the way you think and behave in relationships.

It's a long and sometimes painful road, but it's worth it because it's the only wayovercome stressand build lasting romantic relationships.

How to deal with an anxious attachment style

As I mentioned earlier, attachment styles can change and adapt over time.

Once you discover the source of your fear and the defenses you used in previous relationships, you can focus on new ways to approach relationships to develop a more secure attachment over time.

Individual therapy

The most effective way to deal with adhesion problems is with the help of a licensed professional.

When resolving childhood issues in a therapeutic environment, the counselor or therapist will assume the role of a guardian, ensuring a safe and protected interaction.

your therapiststable and healthy presenceduring each session, this is what your inner child needs to be able to freely express themselves and feel safe enough to ask for what they (emotionally) want.

Besides, it's one thing to dwell on your past. It's another thing to explore your childhood under the guidance of an expert who will show you where and what to look for.

Since you cannot stay in therapy indefinitely, it is also necessary to work with an "adult".

Meaninglearn to take care of your child's inner needsand develop healthy coping skills to help you deal with attachment issues.

In short, the therapeutic process provides a safe space to raise sensitive issues, exemplifies a stable interpersonal relationship, and promotes healthy ways of dealing with stress and anxiety.abandonment problems.

Therapy par

You may not realize you are dealing with an anxious attachment style until you are in a committed relationship.

The moment you start to fall in love with your partner and inevitably start to invest (emotionally) in the relationship is usually when your anxious attachment style becomes problematic.

But that doesn't mean you two aren't compatible. it just means you shouldwork a little harder to fit in with the relationship dynamic.

Couples therapy or marriage counselingis a great way to solve this problem.

Because each person has their own attachment style, each relationship is unique in its structure, dynamics, intensity of interaction, and how it evolves over time.

The wrong combination of attachment styles can cause stress, anxiety and doubt in both partners.

Over time, the attachment, constant need for reassurance, and fear of emotional intimacy that people with an anxious attachment style bring to the table can lead to:separation or divorce.

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The main goal of couples therapy iscultivate and strengthen the emotional bondbetween partners by identifying and highlighting key elements of a lasting relationship.

To achieve this goal, the certified specialist will use different strategies - depending on the therapeutic approach - to discover valuable information about each partner's attachment style and help them shape the relationship so that it meets the needs and needs of the two companions.

Finally, it should be noted that emotions are crucial in the healing process.

Emotions organize bonds of attachment, shape themcommunication styleand elicit a response from each partner about attitudes or behaviors in the relationship.

Discovering key emotions and using them to generate new responses in a safe therapeutic environmenthelps couples adjust and grow.

At the risk of repeating myself, remember that your attachment style is NOT a rigid mental construct, but something you can shape, change, and adjust to create deep relationships and secure emotional bonds.

Final Thoughts on Anxious Attachment Style

Attachment is a strong emotional bond between two people.

Its roots go back to the mother-child relationship, from the very first moments of a baby's life.

The good news is that we can adjust our attachment style and work towards developing healthier and happier relationships.

To improve the quality of your relationship - if you have an anxious attachment style - the first step is to talk to your partner and share your emotional needs.

Communication is key when it comes to building strong romantic relationships.

If you're single, I encourage you to think about all the ways you can sabotage potential relationships and keep people at bay.

Ultimately, therapy (individual or couples) can be the perfect place to start your journey of self-discovery, understanding the root causes of anxiety, and moving towards a healthy attachment style.


[1]F. L. Stevens, "Styles of influence regulation in avoidant and anxious attachment",Research of individual differences,volume. 12, no. 3, ul. 123-130, 2014.
[2]O.Gillath, P.R. Golarka, J.-M. Baek and D.S. Chun, "Genetic Correlates of Attachment Style in Adults",Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,w 2008.
[3]N. Smyth, L. Thorn, A. Oskis, F. Hucklebridge, P. Evans, and A. Clow, "Attachment anxiety style predicts an enhanced cortisol response to group psychosocial stress."STRES: International Journal of Stress Biology,ul. 143-148, 2015.
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Aleksandar Dragićis a licensed clinical psychologist, cognitive behavioral therapy practitioner, and content writer for various mental health websites. His work primarily focuses on strategies to help people manage and prevent the two most common emotional problems - anxiety and depression.

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