Attachment Styles: Dealing with Anxious Attachment
Updated: Oct 27
We as humans are inherently social creatures, seeking connection and emotional bonds with others. As children, our relationships with caregivers shape our attachment styles that drive our social interactions
Emotionally immature parents, a golden child of a sibling, or an event of a lost close friend in childhood can all lead to a more anxious attachment style. Our self-worth becomes a focus and we believe that others are in charge of determining that worth
All children at some point are constantly seeking validation from others. Think of junior high and how important it was that others thought you were “cool”. This is a normal part of development
This need for reassurance and validation from others should wane as you transition into adulthood. For some, it never does, and people wind up living with an anxious attachment style that causes tremendous anxiety and strain on relationships their entire adult life
What is anxious attachment?
Anxious attachment refers to a pattern of behavior in relationships characterized by a deep fear of abandonment and an intense desire for closeness and reassurance. This means exhibiting clingy behavior, constantly seeking validation, and having unrealistic expectations of friends and family
This leads to living life with a heightened sensitivity to a plethora of cues of rejection or abandonment, leading to persistent anxiety and worry in relationships
Do they really care about me?
Is this relationship real?
Why is it taking them so long to reply to my text?
They obviously don’t care about me because they didn’t call me on my birthday
It is normal to have these fears as well as these desires for validation and reassurance. Everyone has them! It is the extent to which these emotions are felt that can cause trouble
If a friend doesn’t call you back, it bothers you. But you are comfortable enough in the relationship to understand they are busy working professionals with a family to attend to and life probably just got in their way
With anxious attachment the thought patterns don’t work that way. The thought is directed more towards what is wrong with you that caused them to not call back. Your value and self-worth are at risk. There is no reason you didn't get that call back besides the thought that you are unworthy of their time
You can see how this can be draining not only on you, but your friends as well. Always needing to validate another person can feel more like a chore than a friendship
Fears that lead to anxious attachment
A core fear with anxious attachment is the fear of being abandoned or rejected. This fear is all-consuming, causing constant worry and anxiety in relationships. The fear often leads to overanalyzing behaviors and intentions of friends, creating a cycle of distress
A constant need for frequent reassurances of friends love and commitment is exhausting
Self-worth is often tied to the approval and attention received from others. This constant need for reassurance places a significant burden on self and others
Anxious attachment style often leads to emotional instability and intense mood swings. The fear of abandonment triggers feelings of anxiety, anger, and jealousy, causing turbulent emotional states
This emotional rollercoaster leads to strained relationships whether it is family, friends, or colleagues
This attachment styles tends to rely heavily on relationships for emotional support and validation. It causes struggle with maintaining a sense of self and often prioritizes the needs of friends and family over your own
This overdependence creates an unhealthy dynamic, leading to feelings of helplessness and vulnerability
Faulty thought patterns derived from anxious attachment style
The worst part about anxious attachment is that you often find thoughts harboring negative beliefs about yourself, doubting worthiness of love and affection. You can develop a negative self-image, feeling unworthy or unlovable, which often exacerbates the anxiety and stress levels
Recognizing anxious attachment and its associated stressors is an essential steps towards personal growth and relationship improvement
What are some strategies you can use to cope with anxious attachment?
1. Self-awareness: Through cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), develop self-awareness by recognizing patterns of anxious attachment and the triggers that intensify anxiety
2. Challenging negative thoughts: Also with the help of CBT, identify negative thoughts and challenge them. Our reactions whether behavioral or emotional derive from our thoughts. Going back to the source of reactions help drive understanding of why you feel a certain way
3. Mindfulness: Taking time to quiet the noise around you allows you to focus on your thought patterns. Quieting the stimulus from friends and family allow time to reflect on a more macro level which helps silence rumination on inconsequential stimuli
4. Communication: Open and honest communication with friends and family about needs, fears, and anxieties help foster understanding and build a secure foundation. Expressing emotions help alleviate stress and promote healthier relationship dynamics
5. Self-care: Prioritizing self-care practices builds a stronger sense of self and boosts self-esteem. Engaging in activities that promote relaxation, reduce stress, and improve overall well-being like running and swimming help tremendously
6. Healthy boundaries: Establishing and maintaining healthy boundaries in relationships. Clearly define your needs, limits and expectations. This also means respecting the boundaries of others and not putting your desire of validation on to them
By understanding the dynamics of anxious attachment and implementing coping strategies, you can work towards developing more secure and fulfilling relationships. It doesn’t come naturally and is best done with help from a counselor or trusted friend
Remember, seeking professional help and engaging in self-care practices are crucial steps on the path to personal growth and healthier attachments
Being aware of your thoughts and not blindly believing they are true has proven to help people with anxious attachment more than anything else. It will also bleed into other areas of your life
Anxious attachment can be a superpower instead of a struggle. Let's get started on this transformation!
Matthew Schubert is a mental health counselor in Boise, Idaho that owns and operates Gem State Wellness. Matt specializes in using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to help children and adults overcome mental health struggles