Does your anxiety act up when your partner doesn’t answer your call or text you back? Does your imagination run wild with made-up scenarios of them cheating on you or leaving you? Do you end up dating people who are emotionally unavailable or dismissive about your feelings? These are some classic behavioral traits exhibited by a person who has an anxious attachment style. It is one of the four types of attachment styles where the person is often insecure in relationships.
Keep reading to find out what are the causes and signs of anxious attachment style, how it affects relationships, and how to manage it.
In This Article
What Is Anxious Attachment?
Anxious attachment is a type of attachment style based on a theory developed by John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth (1). According to this theory, you can broadly categorize attachment styles as secure, avoidant, disorganized, and anxious. Anxious attachment is a type of insecure attachment where the person may have low self-esteem, trust issues, and a fear of abandonment which makes them highly insecure, emotional, sensitive, and dependent on their partner.
According to the attachment theory, your early childhood experiences with your primary caregiver(s) play an important role in the way you perceive and behave in close relationships (2). It is believed that the attachment style you develop in early childhood has a lifelong influence. This theory also links maternal loss or deprivation to personality development (1).
Understanding a person’s attachment style can give you an insight into how they communicate their emotions and respond to conflict. It also helps you manage expectations from your partner. Extensive research has been conducted to understand the neurological, behavioral, emotional, and biological basis for this theory (3).
Anxious Attachment Style In Relationships – Causes And Signs
The exact cause of anxious attachment style is still unknown. Genetics and parenting style may contribute to a person developing an anxious attachment style. However, the most probable factor could be inconsistent parenting where the primary caregivers were occasionally nurturing but also emotionally unavailable, insensitive, or overly critical. This confuses the child, often leading them to feel insecure and anxious.
Another common childhood parenting style where the parents do not soothe their children to avoid pampering or spoiling them is believed to be the cause for developing an anxious attachment style. This emotional neglect can manifest in adults as codependency, craving intimacy, and the need for constant validation or reassurance from their partners.
Learn the common signs of anxious attachment style below.
Common Signs Of Anxious Attachment
The most common signs of anxious attachment style include:
- Poor self-esteem
- Fear of abandonment
- Craving closeness and intimacy yet being scared of it
- Highly emotional
- Vulnerable to depression
- Trust issues
- Worrying about infidelity
- Constant need for validation
- Sensitivity, especially to your partner’s moods and needs
- Social anxiety
- Being impulsive, unpredictable, and moody
- Trying to control the situation or your partner
- Being prone to panic attacks and anxiety disorders
This behavior makes romantic relationships tumultuous, stressful, and unstable. The good news is that identifying this attachment style can help you manage expectations in a relationship. Keep reading to find out how to do so in the next section.
Anxious Attachment Style – How To Heal
Although most attachment styles dictate the type of relationships we develop later in life, they are open to revision based on experiences – especially in romantic relationships (2).
If you are aware that you exhibit traits of anxious attachment, it is a great start. It will help you adjust better to relationships and be more considerate toward your partner. Journaling, therapy, and having open and honest conversations with your partner can help you manage the situation.
On the other hand, if you are in a relationship with someone who has anxious attachment style, you can try to make them more comfortable by showing them you truly care about them. This assurance will help them feel more secure. Thus, it takes constant effort from both sides to make the relationship work.
Check out the next section for some tips that you can follow if you have anxious attachment style.
10 Dating Tips For People With Anxious Attachment Style
- Be open. Communicate often with each other. It may seem hard, but with a little practice, you can learn to be emotionally vulnerable with each other. Express your feelings and what you want from each other clearly. Having clarity about your needs and values can solve many misunderstandings.
- Discuss your fears and insecurities with your partner. Tell them when you worry about infidelity or get jealous of someone. Be on the same page, and let your partner know something they do triggers your jealousy.
- Practice self-care. Meditation, journaling, and self-reflection are great ways to be aware of your needs. They also help you calm down, especially if you are moody and unpredictable. Being mindful can help you pause before you jump to conclusions or overreact.
- Have a strong support system apart from your romantic partner. Maintain a healthy bond with friends and family who understand that you need assurance and comfort when you are emotionally vulnerable.
- Seek professional help. A therapist will help you navigate different situations of conflict. They can also help you become more secure so you can have a healthy, thriving relationship.
- Avoid lashing out or making impulsive decisions – like breaking up or moving out – every time you have a minor disagreement with your partner. Even trivial things can trigger the fear of abandonment, leading you to want to break up immediately. It is at these times that you need to realize that it is your anxious attachment style that is making you behave this way.
- Figure out each other’s love language and make an effort to make each other feel appreciated and loved.
- Try to date a person with secure attachment style. This can help you overcome your own anxious feelings and develop a healthy emotional bond.
- Learn to identify and label all your feelings and emotions. A healthy dose of detachment may help you avoid being dependent on others for constant validation and assurance. It is important to understand that a person’s reaction can be dependent on multiple factors, and this has nothing to do with you personally.
- Make a conscious effort not to date anyone with avoidant attachment style or a narcissistic personality. Often, people with anxious attachment style gravitate toward such people, which only makes their insecurities worse.
Now, let us look at 5 tips that you can follow when your partner has anxious attachment style.
5 Dating Tips For People Dating Someone Who Has Anxious Attachment Style
- Be Available: Your partner’s anxiety may be triggered if you are unresponsive or distant. So, try to answer their calls and texts as much as possible. This does not mean that you have to be at their beck and call. Do set healthy boundaries. Let them know in advance when you will be busy. It is important for them to feel safe and secure with you.
- Be Predictable: Playing hot and cold can bring out the trauma response in your partner. They may get clingy and possessive or act out to cope with their highly volatile emotions. Therefore, it will be good if you stay true to your words, follow up on your promises, and do not give them false hopes and expectations about you or the relationship.
- Show Your Commitment: Since your partner has a deep fear of abandonment, you may have to go out of your way to ensure that you will not leave them. Even when things do not work out, prepare them mentally and let them down gently.
- Stay Loyal: This holds true for any relationship. Loyalty and fidelity are the bedrock of any relationship. Also, try to be sensitive to your partner’s insecurities and make sure you do not fan them. Be transparent and open with your feelings and expectations. Shower them with attention and quality time so they know that they are loved and cherished.
- Be Emotionally Vulnerable: Understand that your partner is working on treating their relationship anxiety and needs someone who can relate to them. So, it would be a good idea if you were also emotionally vulnerable with them to show them that everyone feels anxious and insecure in their relationship from time to time.
Anxious attachment style is common in people who had a childhood where they were neglected or abused, which made them develop relationship insecurity and low self-esteem. This spills into their adult interactions, especially romantic relationships. They tend to be highly sensitive, jealous, and anxious.
The good news is that you can develop a more secure attachment by being self-aware. Mindfulness, a good support system (family and friends), and therapy can help you overcome and manage your emotions better. If you are dating someone with such an attachment style, you need to be extra conscious of their needs and make them feel safe.
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- The origins of attachment theory: John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth.
- Does Attachment Get Under the Skin? Adult Romantic Attachment and Cortisol Responses to Stress
- Contributions of Attachment Theory and Research: A Framework for Future Research Translation and Policy