This post was updated on Jan 10, 2024
We all want to be loved, to feel valued, secure, and appreciated. We seek help, approval, and emotional response from our partners, family, and friends. We also fear losing someone’s love. Now, what if we experience these fears and needs so powerfully that they control our behavior in relationships?
Anxious attachment styles aren’t easy to recognize in adults, and by exploring the delicate nuances, we embark on a journey that delves into the intricate web of emotions, vulnerabilities, and longing for connection, typically stemming from our childhood. The bond we develop with our parents is ingrained deeply within us, setting the pattern for relationships later in life.
What is an anxious attachment style, and what does it mean for you? Navigating the intricate dance of relationships with a deep-seated fear of abandonment and yearning for reassurance like a delicate flower seeking the warmth of sunlight is one way to put it.
What Is An Anxious Attachment?
Attachment refers to our ability to form emotional bonds with others. We start developing it as early as we’re born and continue to build it through early life and adulthood. Depending on the circumstances we grow up in, we can develop 4 different styles of attachment, including secure, avoidant, disorganized, and anxious attachment styles. The last three fall under the category of insecure styles.
However, even if how you relate to others has a great impact on your life, if you tend to be insecure or need continual validation from your partners, it’s essential to understand that there are ways to change that.
How Does Someone With Anxious Attachment Act?
How you feel about yourself, the way you respond to conflict, and how you behave in a relationship can all be affected by your attachment style. However, one of the hallmark signs of anxious attachment is hyperactivation or constant search for signs that your partner will leave you. This can include:
- Needing repeated reassurance.
- Observing small issues as threats to the relationship.
- Obsessively searching for signs your partner is pulling away.
- Suspecting the worst about your partner’s behaviors. For example, assuming they didn’t text you back because they stopped caring about you rather than taking other considerations into account.
Some other common signs can include:
- Ruminating on worst-case scenarios.
- Having a negative self-perception.
- Being unable to solve problems without your partner.
- Constantly worrying about the relationship.
- Experiencing a sense of urgency when it comes to spending time with your partner.
- Feeling the urge to know what your partner is feeling or thinking all the time.
While satisfying these needs and receiving reassurance can provide temporary relief, it is often not enough to make you feel secure in the long run. Moreover, you may have a hard time believing that your needs will be met at all, and this anxiety can trigger behaviors that can make you seem clingy or mistrustful. What are attachment issues that can affect your relationship? Some of the effects include:
- Less trust in your relationship
- More conflict with your partner
- A lower satisfaction within the relationship
Outside of a relationship, you may also experience individual mental health effects such as low self-esteem and a higher risk of developing depression or some anxiety disorders.
What Is The Root Cause Of Anxious Attachment?
From the very moment we’re born, we rely on our parents for survival and for emotional and biological needs. For example, an infant will turn to their mother when they are in distress by seeking comfort when they are afraid or crying when they’re hungry. How reliably the parent reacts to meet these needs shapes how this little human being will come to perceive themselves and others later in life. This is how we develop attachment or “working model”, which influences how we view our relationships as adults.
When parents consistently meet a baby’s emotional and physical needs and provide them with a sense of security as they begin to explore their environment, the baby is more likely to develop a secure attachment. However, what causes anxious attachment is when there’s inconsistency in meeting the child’s needs or if they’re not met at all.
Children who develop this type of attachment style may have learned they need to act out, perform perfection, or fight to keep their parents close and get their needs met. However, while these behavioral patterns might have been helpful in childhood, they become the very opposite in adulthood. Some additional factors that can lead to this type of attachment include:
- Genetic factors (having a family history of anxiety).
- Your parent’s (caregiver’s) attachment style.
- Losing a parent as a child.
- Childhood abuse (particularly from a parent).
- Lack of support from adults during childhood.
- Any life stressors that made your parent(s) less available during childhood.
It’s essential to recognize that, even though you may be experiencing challenges in relationships, it doesn’t mean you’re destined for unhappiness. There’s room for growth, understanding, and cultivating fulfilling and supportive relationships with compassionate self-awareness and effort. In fact, studies have shown that individuals with anxious attachment styles tend to show more appreciation and are often very empathetic and synchronized with their partner’s emotions.
Moreover, your style can also change over time. You may start feeling safer in a relationship with a secure and committed partner with whom you’ve been for several years. A healthy relationship with mutual respect and clear communication can make the effects of your attachment less invasive, shifting your working model.
Overcome The Effects Of Your Anxious Attachment With PIVOT
When you’re experiencing the consequences of an insecure attachment and expressing signs of anxious attachment, PIVOT is here to provide you with professional care, support, and guidance.
Our highly committed and accomplished specialists will listen to your needs and concerns and devise a fully personalized plan to help you heal, both through effective coaching for individuals and our transformational Glass House retreats. Whether you are in a relationship or not, reach out to us today and rely on our devoted experts to help you overcome any obstacles and heal from within!