Anxious Attachment Style - Signs and How To Overcome It

An anxious attachment style is characterized by a need for constant reassurance, control, and dependency. Anxious people are always scanning the environment looking for clues that their needs will not be met. They have trouble trusting others and often find themselves feeling stressed or worried when things go wrong.

Having an anxious attachment style is not a disease and is not a lack of character. It's an adaptive way that you learned to cope with your upbringing.

anxious attachment style

How an Anxious Attachment Style Develops

Attachment theory shows that this insecure attachment style develops due to childhood experiences with their caregivers, which are their attachment figures.

Primary caregivers of individuals with this style will often be inconsistent in meeting their needs. So the child's emotions aren't consistently met by their attachment figure, so they don't know how to relate to other individuals comfortably.

Sometimes the caregiver will meet the child's needs and demonstrate closeness, and other times they won't. This can lead to emotions like insecurity, fear, unworthiness, or unlovable when things don't go right all time.

An anxious attachment style in children will look like clinginess and fear of abandonment or rejection. They may want to spend a lot more time with their parents than other children who are securely attached. 

An anxious style in children is more likely than people from other attachment styles to have caregivers who are also anxious. Anxious caregivers tend to treat their children differently. They may be more likely to over-protect their children or they may not give them enough attention.

Anxiously attached people are also at risk for developing a coexisting disorder, such as depression and anxiety because of trust issues that were developed early on from inconsistent behaviors from caregivers.

Signs of an Anxious Attachment Style in Adults

In adults, a majority of people with this style can look like being overly dependent on others for emotional support. Simultaneously they question whether the other person is there because he or she wants to be there and not because they feel obligated.

People with this attachment style tend to think highly of others but suffer low self-esteem or imposter syndrome.

They are tuned into their romantic partner's needs and deeply crave intimacy but are anxious about their own needs or worth in a relationship. They have a deep fear of rejection. Although they crave emotional intimacy they are often overwhelmed by negative emotions, like worry, about their life experiences. 

Learn about your type of attachment with the Attachment Style Quiz now! 

Anxious Attachment Styles in Relationships

In relationships, the anxious partner can be overly sensitive and reactive when their partner does not do what they want them to or if the other person is unavailable for some reason (e g., work).

When loved ones fail to respond to their needs, these individuals blame themselves as unworthy of love. They may be suspicious or jealous of their partners due to a fear of abandonment.

They may fear being alone and are highly dependent on others for emotional support. They may be insecure about where they stand in a relationship.

Any disappointment could be seen as a rejection. Their perceptions may mean they take it personally if their romantic relationship partner doesn't want to spend time with them. They may assume that their partner doesn't care about what the anxious person wants.

The anxious attachment pattern may make it difficult to talk to their partner about their feelings or needs, which can lead to a lack of intimacy in the relationship.

This can cause preoccupation in relationships, especially when stressed.
 
For example, a person with an anxious style might have difficulty asking their partner or spouse about how he is feeling if something has gone wrong at work. Instead of talking through it together as a couple, the anxiously attached person may assume that the partner is upset due to something they've done.

Anxious Attachment Styles at Work

This style can impact your life at work.

For example, if you are a manager and your employee is having difficulty with their work or has made an error that needs to be corrected you may take it personally. You may assume that the employee is not doing their best or that they are intentionally trying to make you look bad.

As a worker, someone with an anxious attachment style might take criticism or feedback as a personal attack. They may feel like they're under constant emotional pressure and scrutiny which makes stressful situations difficult. 

They tend to fear that if things go wrong it will reflect badly on them personally. This could lead them into taking jobs where there is no room for advancement so then if things don't go their way they aren't to blame. It can also lead them to overperform at work so that they are perceived positively. They crave positive praise but don't believe it when it's given. 

They may have difficulty focusing on tasks and projects that require long periods without interruption from other things going around them due to their preoccupation with their relationships and how they're perceived. Their minds wander too much which makes it difficult when trying to complete tasks.

Anxious Attachment and Parenting

An anxious attachment may cause a parent to be too overprotective. Being overprotective means that the parent may not allow the child to explore and learn on their own.

The parent may also be too controlling of what the child does and who they are around. Parents with this style may also make their children feel like they are not good enough and that their children will never be able to do anything right. This may be because they're preoccupied with how they are perceived and project that fear onto their child.

Parents with an anxious attachment style often lead to children having an anxious style of attachment because children model their parents' behaviors.

The parent may live vicariously through their child or be over-protective or overfocused on the child's performance or appearance.

The parents will often overstep boundaries and not give children sufficient privacy.

Anxious Attachment Styles and Finances

They may have a lot of fears and anxieties related to their finances. This results in them being unable to save money, or they may have a lot of debt.

They may also make decisions about money that are not in their best interest, such as spending too much on a vacation or buying something they can't afford because they're focused on other's perceptions of them. 

An anxious person may refuse to look at their bank account because they are afraid of what might be in there. So they may miss the bigger picture. 

They may feel overwhelmed by financial matters and never learn about investment or good money management because it feels too stressful.

This type is more likely than other types to have deep-seated insecurities that result in seeing their net worth as an extension of their self-worth. 

People with anxious attachment styles may have difficulty talking about money because they are anxious about being taken advantage of.

They may be overly concerned about how much money the other person makes, or they might feel like it's not enough and that there is a power imbalance in terms of who earns more than whom (even if this isn't true).

Anxious people are also likely to have an intense fear of being abandoned by someone close to them, and money can exacerbate that feeling.

Anxious Attachment - Relationships with the Other Types

This style can also cause problems with relationships with the other adult attachment styles, especially if the person has a partner who has an avoidant attachment style or dismissive attachment style. These different types of attachment may have difficulty trusting each other because of the anxious person's need for reassurance and their partner not being able to provide it.

Discover your attachment styles with The Attachment Style Quiz

ambivalent attachment

How to Improve an Anxious Attachment Style

  • Practice self-care, create positive experiences and cultivate positive perceptions of yourself and the world. Be the sort of person who creates a meaningful life by being comfortable with yourself. Security is available to you even when you feel lonely or alone. 
  • Learn how not having a romantic relationship doesn't mean that you are unlovable or unworthy of love.
  • Learn to manage emotions and self-regulate so that emotions don't overwhelm you.
  • Learn to sit with uncomfortable emotions and not run away from your perception that they threaten your sense of security.
  • Learn how to communicate your needs and wants in a way that isn't demanding or controlling, which is what the anxious person might do when they're feeling insecure about their partner's feelings for them (or if there are other issues going on).
  • Learn to ask for reassurance when you need it. Establish stable relationships with others who communicate clearly with you that are built on a strong foundation of mutual trust. 
  • Remind yourself that your partner does love you, that no one is perfect, and not every mistake by your partner means they're abandoning you.
  • Learn to identify what triggers your fear of abandonment and how to avoid them by writing in a journal. 
  • Learn the difference between asserting your needs and being "needy" or "clingy." 
  • Get support from someone who is objective about the situation. Consider seeking therapy with someone who can help you work through your feelings and give feedback on what they see.

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