Have you looked up some signs in your partner online, and you are forced to ask the question, “what is attachment anxiety?”
Attachment anxiety means the anxiety people experience in their relationships with people with meaningful ties in their lives, like parents, friends, and romantic partners.
Generally, attachment anxiety takes its root from childhood experiences, and it becomes fully blown when the individuals are adults. Attachment anxiety tends to impair relationships if it is not addressed correctly.
In this article, we will be delving deep into the concept of anxious attachment and what it entails, particularly in romantic relationships.
Symptoms of attachment anxiety
Do you want to have a broad idea of how individuals with attachment anxiety behave? Here are some common symptoms to watch out for.
1. Constant reassurance of love and support
Someone with attachment anxiety will constantly need their partner to reaffirm their show of love and support to temporarily quell the budding insecurity within them.
If they don’t get this reaffirmation often, their insecurity gets out of hand and affects the relationship.
2. Fear of being underrated and underappreciated
If you notice that your partner always underrates or underappreciates themselves, there is a chance they have an anxious attachment.
They will always feel they are not enough for you, and they can even give you reasons to look elsewhere even though they don’t mean it.
One of the common anxious attachment disorders in adults, particularly those in a relationship, is the feeling of not being sure if they can rely on their partner.
This is one of the reasons why they are insecure because they don’t think their partner can be counted on.
4. Constant worries of losing a partner
In an anxious attachment relationship, the partner with this disorder often fears losing the other party.
They cannot get these worries out of their head, and it increases the feeling of uncertainty.
5. Highly emotional and unpredictable
One of the symptoms of having anxious attachment is being too emotional and unstable. One moment you are feeling too sensitive to your partner’s words and anxious, and the next minute, you are acting like you don’t care.
Anxious relationship style begins in childhood. The kind of interactions and relationships you have in childhood determines if you will have anxious attachment or not.
Here are some causes of attachment anxiety
1. Absence of consistency
One of the highlights of anxious ambivalent attachment psychology is the lack of consistency.
This is when the child experiences bouts of both caring and neglectful attitudes from their parents. Hence, the child is unable to clearly state that this is how their parents feel towards them.
2. Excessive parenting styles
There are various parenting styles used on children that shape their behaviors over the years.
For instance, a child might have a parent who is too obsessive, which means they never want to let their child out of their side. Another example is a parent absent in their children’s lives, giving them the complete luxury to do what they want.
Traumatic situations: A child who experienced an unstable home that probably resulted in a divorce or other distressful problems like poverty or domestic violence can develop attachment anxiety.
4 Common anxious attachment triggers
Are you wondering what causes anxious attachment? It would interest you to know that some situations can unintentionally or deliberately trigger anxious attachment.
Here are some of the triggers that cause attachment anxiety:
One of the triggers that reflects in someone with insecure attachment is when their partners do not respond to their messages or calls for a long time.
If they are unaware of why their partner isn’t responding to your calls or messages, they can start to imagine various scenarios.
Also, they can think that their recent actions are responsible for their partners not replying to their messages.
2. Assumed fear of relationship loss
It is healthy for a relationship to have conflicts because it helps both parties understand each other better to come to a consensus.
However, when conflicts happen in a relationship, it is usually challenging for those with anxiety attachment.
This is because whatever happens during the conflict triggers the fear of the unknown that has been buried in their hearts and minds.
For instance, if their partner mentions some fears they have harbored about the relationship, it can trigger fear of loss or abandonment in the partner with attachment anxiety. This fear of loss or abandonment is called anxious preoccupied attachment.
3. When the partner begins behaving more independent
People with attachment anxiety love it when their partner is dependent on them for almost everything.
When their partner goes out of their way to sort out some things without their knowledge, it can cause conflict in the relationship.
In addition, when the partner of someone with attachment anxiety starts getting involved with new engagements, it can trigger the feeling of fear.
The anxiously attached individual begins to think that they are not good enough and could lose their partner to their newly-found engagements.
It is vital to mention that people with anxious relationship styles need regular validation. Sometimes, when distance is in the picture, it might be challenging to achieve this.
In addition, if the partner of an anxiously attached individual is very busy, a distance can be created in their minds that makes them doubt the relationship’s success in the long term.
People who have anxious attachment or ambivalent, anxious attachment tend to be more needy than usual. They are primarily uncertain and anxious about the relationship, as there is the lingering fear that their partners could dump them someday.
Also, they regularly crave emotional intimacy with their partner, but they worry that they would be labeled as being overbearing.
This book helps you spot some behavior patterns in your relationship and some dangerous effects that you should be aware of.
Here are some effects of anxious attachment on relationships
An anxiously attached person needs a relationship, and they crave intimacy with someone they love. However, they feel that it would be challenging to rely on or trust their partner entirely.
It is difficult for them to focus on other aspects of their lives because they are too busy building intimacy in their relationships.
Individuals with anxious attachment see space and boundaries as a threat in their relationship, so they fight against it at the slightest chance. When they detect a little space or boundary in their relationship, they begin to feel unloved.
The self-worth of people with attachment anxiety depends on how they are treated in the relationship.
Most of the time, they look down on themselves during conflicts because they feel they are not good enough. This is why they need unending reassurance from their partners.
People with anxious attachment are always jealous and worried when they are not around their partner. Hence, they use some tactics like guilt to ensure they contact them over the phone.
Since anxious attachments originate from childhood, it is best to prevent them in childhood.
If you are looking forward to having children with your romantic partner someday, you need to create a healthy attachment pattern, which is the secure attachment style.
The secure attachment style helps individuals communicate their needs and emotions to their partners without being insecure. They also appreciate their self-worth within their intimate relationship.
More so, they don’t become too anxious when they are not around their partners like those in fearful-avoidant relationships. When their partners rely on them for support, they are happy, and when they don’t, they don’t take it to heart.
The process of imbibing the secure attachment style as a parent is the key to preventing anxious attachment. This is because it creates a strong foundation for the child to be self-confident, comfortable, and trusting in their relationships as they get older.
To know more about anxious attachment, you can check this video:
3 Ways to help a partner with anxious attachment
If you are confident that your partner’s attachment style is anxious attachment or insecure-ambivalent attachment, you can help them become better.
You need to help your partner understand that there is no need to feel ashamed for desiring to be loved or cared for so badly.
Here are some ways to help your partner who has an anxious attachment:
1. Let your partner how you feel towards them regularly
People with attachment anxiety often need to be reminded that they are loved and cared for. If they don’t get this constant validation, they find it impossible to believe that you love them if you don’t show or act on it.
It might sound difficult for you to always provide this validation, but it is pretty simple. All you need to do is notice their love language or what makes them tick.
2. During conflicts, reassure them that you are not leaving
Usually, conflicts have a more significant effect on people with attachment anxiety because they will start thinking that you want to leave them.
People with this anxious attachment style are overly sensitive and emotional, and they are quick to fathom the worst-case scenario during conflicts.
You must remind and reassure them that you are not leaving even though there is a pending fight.
3. Avoid invalidating their feelings
Since you understand that people with attachment anxiety tend to crave more security, intimacy, and love, you should not judge them for how they feel.
When you judge them, it will make them feel more insecure in the relationship. Always offer support and help them move transit gradually from the anxious attachment style to the secure attachment style.
Two standard treatment options to handle attachment anxiety are:
Cognitive-behavioral therapy: It helps the individual with anxious relationship style identify or spot thought patterns that negatively affect their emotions and behaviors.
Interpersonal therapy: This is generally a 12-16 week treatment program initially set up to treat depression. These days, interpersonal therapy effectively treats individuals with social anxiety disorder, attachment anxiety, and a host of other disorders.
Coping strategies for attachment anxiety
According to several studies including one published in the Universal Journal of Educational Research, there is a close connection between coping strategies, attachment styles, and self-esteem. Based on that and a number of other factors, here’s a look at some strategies that can be useful in dealing with attachment anxiety:
1. Date someone with the secure attachment style
Someone who has attachment anxiety will be making a big mistake dating someone like themselves. The reason is, they will only be alleviating their attachment anxiety symptoms rather than reducing them.
If you have attachment anxiety, it is important not to be excited about dating someone new. Instead, find out if they have the same insecure attachment issues as you or not.
When you date an individual with the secure attachment style, it would be easier for your emotional needs to be met, and with time, the dysfunction will fade off.
2. Make detachment a habit
If you feel that your attachment anxiety has gotten the best of you in your relationship, you need to practice the opposite — detachment.
Instead of spending your time thinking about what your partner is currently doing at the moment, or other activities that are beyond your control, focus on other things.
You can spend your time being more invested in work, friends, and family. When you practice this for a while, you will discover that you can cope without feeling insecure when your partner is several miles away.
3. Speak with trusted friends and loved ones
You can also discuss with friends and loved ones how you feel. When you discuss with them, you will be offloading a huge burden on your chest, and you will get their compassion, love, and support.
4. See a professional
If you feel that you need a deeper perspective into what is attachment anxiety, you can see a mental health coach or a therapist. They will take you aided into a self-exploration journey where you can understand more about yourself.
If you have ever asked yourself what attachment anxiety is, you will understand that there is a general root cause, and it can also be prevented or treated.
Also, if you are struggling with this relationship style, you can use the strategies mentioned in this piece to make yourself more secure in your relationship.
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.
Rachael Pace is a noted relationship writer associated with Marriage.com. She provides inspiration, support, and empowerment in the form of motivational articles and essays. Rachael enjoys studying the evolution of loving partnerships and is passionate about writing on them. She believes that everyone should make room for love in their lives and encourages couples to work on overcoming their challenges together.