What Is Anxious Attachment Style & How Can It Affect A Relationship?

Attachment Theory is the scientific map of how we bond with others to increase our chances of survival!  As mammals, we quite literally depend on emotional bonds with others to survive. Scientific studies have continued to underscore that the warmth and quality of our connections is the number one factor predictive of quality of life, longevity, and is even a huge factor in financial stability.


Scientists divide the styles that people adopt to bond into roughly 4 categories. About 50% of the population had a development such that they bond in a “secure style.” The other 50% of the population develop attachment styles such as avoidant, anxious or disorganized. 


An anxious attachment style describes a person who finds it very difficult to rest in feelings of safety and security. Wondering if this is you? 


Do you: 


  • Feel heightened, uncomfortable anxiety when separating from your partner?


  • Find being alone to be highly uncomfortable for you?


  • Wonder constantly about what your partner is thinking or feeling?


  • Routinely find it hard to trust that your partner’s feelings remain steady? 


  • Constantly check your phone for messages; notice that your anxiety rises and falls contingent on not getting or getting messages? 


  • Need constant reassurance and affection to feel ok? 


  • Feel heightened or irrational levels of jealousy? 


  • Worry about being “clingy” or “needy”


  • Feel that your needs can never be met or satisfied? 

The more of these that describe you, the more anxious your attachment style. 


The implications of any attachment style are wide ranging. The anxious attachment style has some very unique challenges… and, luckily, some very unique solutions that do work. 


For starters, anxiously attached people tend to like to get into relationships quickly. Because there is a great deal of discomfort and pressure around being alone, the impulse to jump in to a relationship is quite strong! 


Often this impulse overrides the ability to see clearly what you are jumping into! Consequently, you might attach to someone who you later find out is either not right for you or whom isn’t or wasn’t in the relationship for the right reasons. 

This can be a vicious cycle, because you actually need someone who is quite consistent, present, and devoted to bring you into your best self. 

When an anxiously attached individual finds themselves attached to the wrong person, a painful battle ensues that tends to be fraught with confusion, self doubt, and pendulum swings in and out of a relationship or in and out of bad feeling states. 


Prepare to go more slowly than your instincts will suggest if you have an anxious attachment style. Going slowly will allow you to be sure when you have selected someone who is consistent and reliable enough to help you into a securely functioning relationship, which is your ultimate healing salve. 


Once you’ve found someone that you do feel safe enough with to commit, the real work and the real payoffs begin! 


Most importantly, you must be able to express your needs in a healthy way. (Hint, no game playing, no pouting, no passive aggressive comments when you don't get it). 


I’m guessing some professional help goes a long way here.  Why? Because you developed an anxious attachment style for a reason. That reason is some gap in emotional acceptance, understanding and unmet needs. Often neglect, abuse or loss are part of your history. 


These childhood experiences do not give you the tools to express your needs in a healthy way.  Unfortunately, you probably learned to hide or disguise your need. You likely feel guilty, ashamed or pathetic for even having needs to begin with. Ironically, you may also feel absolutely entitled to having your needs met immediately at times! 


The bottom line is that you will continue to feel anxious about having your needs met until you learn to identify and communicate your needs clearly and fairly. If you developed an anxious attachment style, this by nature means that you need to work on this skill. 


It is the repeated experience of expressing a need to your partner and having it reasonably met that will ultimately ease your attachment anxiety. This process is most profound and most rewarding. It is absolutely worth the work it will take. 


And… it WILL take work. Getting to the place where you can express your needs requires risk and often delving into painful memories of the times your needs were not met. I highly recommend that you get professional help for this process! 


If you’re not ready for therapy and/or like to begin this work online, start my Love Thyself Course today! I’ll walk you through what you need to master about your early attachment experiences to free yourself for the love you need and deserve.

I am a psychologist, psychoanalyst, author and teacher who helps clients get to the root of and heal their relational difficulties. Download my free eBook “The 7 Beliefs of Securely Functioning Adults” or enroll in my Dating Wisely Course today!


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