Attachment styles are how we respond emotionally to others and our own behaviors and interactions with them.
According to the attachment theory, which was first developed by psychologist Mary Ainsworth and psychiatrist John Bowlby in the 50s, attachment style is shaped and developed in early childhood in response to our relationships with our earliest caregivers. Essentially, our adult attachment style is believed to mirror the dynamics we had with our caregivers as infants and children.
When a child is brought into an uncaring environment and perceives that their needs aren’t met, they will develop a distorted sense of what relationships should look like. This leads to the anxious-preoccupied attachment style.
An anxious-preoccupied attachment style is a form of insecure attachment style rooted in deep fear of abandonment.
Children often develop an anxious-preoccupied attachment style when their caregiver is inconsistent with their response to the child’s needs.
Sometimes, the parents will be supportive and responsive to the child’s needs. Other times, they will be misattuned to the child.
This inconsistency often makes it difficult for a child to understand their parents’ behavior and what response they should expect in the future.
Another common way an anxious-preoccupied attachment style is developed is when caregivers seek emotional/physical closeness with their children to satisfy their own needs rather than the needs of their children.
These parents often appear over-protective or intrusive and use their children to satiate their own need for love or present themselves in a particular light (for example, as the perfect parent).
Parents who raise children in this way are often a direct result of an automatic and unrecognized pattern in the same way they were raised. These caregivers are often thought to have an anxious attachment style themselves due to a continuity of behavioral patterns throughout generations.
In addition, children who experience physical or psychological abuse or separation from their caregiver often develop anxious attachment styles.
Signs of anxious-preoccupied attachment styles in adults include:
- Insecure in relationships
- Clinginess or possessiveness
- Scared of rejection
- Distrusting of others
- Overwhelmed by intimacy, but long for it
- Low or negative view of self
Dating with an anxious-preoccupied attachment style is often difficult because of their general insecurities there are many incidents that can unintentionally trigger them, including:
One trigger for someone who has an anxious attachment style is their partner not responding to texts or calls for a prolonged period of time. Not knowing why their partner isn’t responding right away can cause them to worry about what they may have done to push their partner away. And while light anxiety is normal at the start of any relationship, people with anxious-attachment styles carry this worry throughout the entirety of the relationship.
Perceived Threat or Loss of a Relationship
Minor disagreements are often healthy within relationships; however, talking about issues often triggers fears of abandonment for people with anxious attachment. They often catastrophize and assume the relationship is failing, causing them to self-sabotage their relationship.
Their Partner Starts Acting More Independent.
If an anxiously attached person’s partner starts making new friends or picking up new hobbies, it can trigger fears of abandonment and feelings of not being interesting enough.
When someone with an anxious attachment style isn’t sure what to expect in terms of your relationship, it can create a significant amount of insecurities for them. This is directly tied to their early attachment with their caregiver and can be a partner who says all the right things but disappears suddenly.
A person who has an anxious-preoccupied attachment style needs constant validation, and distance can often be extremely triggering for them.
It’s possible to change your attachment style. Here are some ways to fix or change your anxious attachment style:
The first step to changing your attachment style is identifying your relationship patterns. This will give you more clarity on what may have shaped your attachment style. Understanding why you have certain tendencies in relationships is the first step to breaking those patterns.
Adjust Your Behavior
Once you become aware that your attachment style can lead to problems in your relationships, you can start making more informed decisions. The anxious behaviors you habitually engage in don’t portray what you truly want; choosing differently, even when it’s scary or uncomfortable, can help you start to make changes that will lead to a secure relationship.
Reach Out For Help
Overcoming an anxious attachment style is hard work and usually takes help. Don’t be afraid to reach out to family and friends you trust. Since people with anxious attachment find it difficult to trust people close to them, therapy is a wonderful way to help fix your attachment style. An anxious-attachment style is prevalent, and seeking professional help can help you sort through it.
Because attachment styles are developed in response to difficult experiences in our childhood, it can be challenging to overcome these patterns, but with self-awareness and work, you can overcome these unhealthy behaviors and develop healthier tendencies.