Anxious Attachment Style: Causes, Signs & How To Fix

A personality type anxious attachment style is a way of feeling about oneself that can be harmful to one’s mental health. You can characterize it by strong feelings of insecurity and fear. Unhappy people with anxious attachment styles don’t know their worth and cannot control their life. Most of them are constantly worrying about the future. They pay more attention to negative thoughts and destructive behaviors. Such as being perfectionistic or over-protecting oneself.



  • Anxious Attachment Theory – Anxious attachment type stems from abandonment worries and childhood care discrepancies. Unreliable caregivers often cause it. They learn that caregivers may or may not help. Anxious attachment develops in early childhood. Inconsistent parenting typically causes nervous attachment. Low self-esteem, fear of rejection or abandonment, and clinginess in relationships are indicators.
  • Types of Anxious Attachment Styles – Someone who has an anxious attachment type might find a person who is firmly attached to be the most compatible partner. They can comprehend the requirements of their spouse, and as a result, they can assist in the management of their partner’s feelings. These are:
    Secure attachment, Anxious-insecure attachment, Avoidant-insecure attachment, and Disorganized-insecure attachment.
  • Anxious Attachment Solution – Understanding past life experiences helps recover. Therapy helps people comprehend their past. Develop better awareness of your attachment style and be conscious of how you behave in relationships. Understanding your attachment history can help you improve your relationships. High anxious attachment is associated with emotional manipulation and other undesirable actions to prevent a partner from leaving the relationship, which reduces relationship happiness.

Anxious attachment is one of four child-to-adult attachment styles. Attachment styles pertain to how people interact. The unnatural type of attachment is indicated due to strong fear and anxiety toward others. This fear often leads to looking for validation, which can lead to problems in social situations. The anxiety can make it difficult to detach from those around us.  It is important to note that an anxious attachment style is not the same as a secure attachment style.

A securely attached child will store an internal working model of a responsive, loving, reliable care-giver, and of a self that is worthy of love and attention and will bring these assumptions to bear on all other relationships. Conversely, an insecurely attached child may view the world as a dangerous place in which other people are to be treated with great caution, and see himself as ineffective and unworthy of love. These assumptions are relatively stable and enduring: those built up in the early years of life are particularly persistent and unlikely to be modified by subsequent experience.

– Jeremy Holmes, John Bowlby and Attachment Theory

Victims seek connection but worry if other partners will meet their emotional demands. Anxious attachment individuals worry about the trauma bonding and response of parents, friends, and love partners. They’re anxious about misunderstanding, autonomy, and independence. Anxious attachment relationships involve fear that others won’t reciprocate one’s need for connection. They can become troubled if they perceive dishonest or inadequate appreciation and value from others.

1. What is Anxious Attachment in Early Childhood?

Anxious children are upset when their caregiver departs and hard to calm when they return. Appreciation, attention, support. We want it. We want love, security, and appreciation. Nobody likes being alone. Family, friends, and partners are natural sources of approval, help, and emotional support. Anxious attachment is unstable. They act like they can’t trust the caretaker and dislike being abandoned.

Inconsistent or hardly detectable social patterns may exist. Each attachment type has certain indicators. Fearing someone’s love is normal. What if needs and worries become too great? Can safety and abandonment fears control relationships? Adult insecurity may not be obvious to spot. Some symptoms of an anxious attachment style include:

  • Separation anxiety
  • When upset, inconsolable
  • Parental clinging
  • Strangerphobia
  • Poor friendships
  • Limited exploration
  • Anxious-looking
  • Negative emotion regulation issues
  • Aggression

2. How Many Types of Attachment Styles Develop in Children?

John Bowlby proposed the Attachment Theory in 1950. Children establish an attachment type based on their primary caregiver according to him.

The idea comprises one’s confidence in the attachment figure as a safe harbor from which to seek support, protection, and comfort in times of difficulty. Bowlby suggested that childhood security affects the adult attachment type. Ainsworth, Blehar, Waters, & Wall identified four attachment styles in 1978:

2.a. Anxious

Anxious people struggle to trust others. They fear abandonment and appear clingy or needy.

2.b. Avoidant

This attachment style is characterized by intimacy issues and low emotional engagement.

2.c. Secure

Trust and safety in relationships. Securely bonded children feel safe and supported. Attached folks can create meaningful partnerships.

2.d. Disorganized

This includes avoidance and clinginess. This attachment style craves close relationships yet fears being hurt.

The attachment type you adopt in early childhood may affect how you communicate emotions and needs, handle conflict, and form relationship expectations. Understanding your attachment style may assist explain relationship patterns. Your attachment style doesn’t explain everything about your relationships or who you are as an adult.

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3. Which children Have a Higher Risk of Erupting Anxious Attachment?

Inconsistent parenting typically leads to children developing an anxious or preoccupied attachment style.

Parents are sometimes helpful and responsive to children’s needs. Sometimes people misread a child. This discrepancy may make it hard for the child to interpret the parents’ conduct and predict their future actions.

Children may be confused by caregivers’ inconsistent signals. “Emotional hunger” of caregivers is also associated with uneasy ambivalent attachment in children. Caregivers seek emotional or physical intimacy with children to satisfy their own needs. Such parents may seem overprotective. They may utilize the child to satisfy their “hunger” for affection or to promote themselves.

Raising a child this way may be an automatic and unrecognized tendency for adults reared the same way. Caregivers whose child has ambivalent attachment tend to be anxious. This isn’t about genetics, but rather generational behavioral tendencies.

4. How Do Children Develop Insecure Attachment Styles?

Inconsistent responsiveness to a child’s emotional needs, misattunement, emotional distance, and preoccupation with and intrusion in the child’s life are risk factors for uncertain attachment. Insecure attachment is not a mental illness. It’s common in adults and usually harmless. Insecure attachment can cause distress and harm relationships.

Why a child develops an anxious attachment it’s not always clear. But some factors may include:

  • Physical or psychological exploitation
  • Premature separation with Caregiver

A child won’t feel secure and stable if a parent or caregiver is distant or neglectful. Children who don’t get their emotional needs met are more distressed and anxious. They may develop an anxious attachment style if children’s emotional needs are ignored. This can continue throughout a person’s life in friendships and romantic relationships. These three are the secret deep roots that may have grown in your child or life partner:

4.a. Attachments with Caregiver

A child’s anxious attachment style may be linked to a caregiver’s emotional hunger. The child may put others’ needs before their own because they’re used to it. They may substitute using their child for love and affection. These caregivers may seem intrusive and overprotective. This is when caregivers seek emotional or physical closeness with the child. The child’s emotional and physical needs are neglected.

4.b. Parenting Blind Spot

A child is confused by a caregiver’s mixed signals. Inconsistent parenting can cause anxious attachment. Some caregivers are cold, insensitive, and emotionally unavailable. Parents mostly are supportive and responsive to their children’s needs, but other times they’re not. This inconsistency can make it hard for a child to understand their parent’s behavior and what response to expect, causing insecurity and anxiety.

4.c. Caregivers are Humans Too

Caring is rewarding. Most caregivers value being there when a loved one needs them. Roles and emotions will likely change. Anger, frustration, exhaustion, loneliness, and sadness are normal. Caregiver stress is emotional and physical. Caregiver stress can affect health. Anxious children often have anxious parents. This is likely not due to genetics, but rather repeated generational behaviors. Without management, anxiously attached children may have anxiously attached offspring.

5. What are Relationships with Anxious Adults Like?

Anxious adults fear or can’t be alone. They seek intimacy and are emotional and dependent. The loved one’s presence soothes their emotional needs. Anxious attachment style can affect relationship joy. Those with anxious attachment styles may have lower relationship satisfaction. Those with an anxious attachment style can sabotage their relationships by worrying about minor details.

How to spot an anxious attacher? Anxious/preoccupied adults may have high self-esteem but low self-worth. These people are sensitive to their partners’ needs but insecure about their worth. If loved ones reject or ignore them, they may blame themselves or feel unlovable.

Anxious adults need constant reassurance that they’re loved, worthy, and enough. They may be jealous or suspicious of their partners out of fear of abandonment. This fear may make them desperate, clingy, and relationship-obsessed. Anxious adults fear or can’t be alone. This may cause:

  • Clingy or needy.
  • Problems communicating.
  • Ghosting fueled arguments.
  • Self-destructive behavior.
  • Dependent on others.
  • Constantly needing reassurance.
  • Rejection causes hypersensitivity.
  • Low self-esteem.
  • Overly sensitive to others’ moods.
  • Intimacy-hungry.
  • Set and respect boundaries poorly.
  • High emotional reactivity when alone.
  • Alone-phobic or unable.
  • Overthink small matters.

Insecure attachment is tiring. It can feel like an emotional roller coaster. Stress, anxiety, unhappiness, and low life satisfaction may result. Relationships can be “life-saving” and “life-threatening” for adults with anxious attachment styles.

Fear of being alone or rejected is the poison, causing doubt and worry. The remedy is the loved one’s presence and affection. An anxious person may also be insecure about their relationship and whether their partner loves them. The slightest disappointment or sign of rejection from a partner can damage self-esteem.

They seek intimacy and are emotional and dependent. The loved one’s presence soothes their emotional needs.

6. How to Heal from Anxious Attachment?

Can you change attachment styles? Yes. Switching from an unsecured to a secure attachment style is something that can be done.

Therapy can be helpful, as well as learning to build safe, trustworthy relationships with individuals who are healthy and secure. Connections such as these are sometimes referred to as “corrective emotional experiences.” A corrective emotional experience is when you update an old memory or belief system with something new.

6.a. Practice Vulnerability

One way to become more secure is to demonstrate to oneself that taking a risk is worthwhile by focusing on developing emotional safety and engaging in vulnerable behaviors such as practicing exposure therapy. Step out of your comfort zone and ask specifically for what it is that you want. Say no when it’s something that you don’t enjoy. Having a straightforward conversation with other people about your wants, needs, and emotions.

Being upfront with others about your wants, desires, and feelings, even when you worry it could disappoint or upset them. These are both things that need you to say no to protect your peace. Relationships with emotionally stable individuals can teach you that it is emotionally healthy to take up space with other people.

6.b. Consult with a Therapist

Work with a therapist or couple’s counselor who specializes in attachment theory if your attachment style is the cause of instability in your relationships. You may find this to be beneficial if you are finding that your relationships tend to be unstable.

EFT(Emotionally Focused Therapy) is a method that is useful for addressing issues related to attachment styles.

You can create a secure attachment style by going to therapy and getting to know and understand yourself better. This will help you develop self-compassion and higher self-esteem, which are the building blocks of a secure attachment style.

6.c. Practice Mindfulness

Give some thought to establishing a mindfulness practice. Overanalyzing the relationship with a negative prism and obsessing about the ‘what ifs’ instead of what is actually happening can be harmful to your relationship. The most important thing you can do to be present at the moment is to practice mindfulness.

Your consistent practice of mindfulness may be able to assist you in tuning into the here and now and moving through unsettling feelings with good intentions. Cultivating mindfulness deepens your connections with people, become more present, and strengthens the safety of your relationships.

Investigate the cognitive distortions you engage in and the contexts in which you do so. The negative filters you put on your thoughts are blocking you from noticing the positive aspects of the relationships you have.

6.d. Educate Yourself on Attachment Theory

Learning more about your attachment style and the steps to take to get into a stable relationship can be empowering for you. Attachment theory is a developmental psychology hypothesis that individuals are born with a need to build a tight emotional link with a caregiver. If the caregiver is receptive, this bond will develop in the first six months of a child’s life.

Attachment theory helps us understand how early attachments affect brain development.

Bowlby’s evolutionary theory of attachment claims that children are physiologically pre-programmed to create attachments to survive. A youngster has an inborn need to cling to one person. It covers Secure, Anxious-Ambivalent, Dismissive-Avoidant, Fearful-Avoidant, Dependent, and Codependent attachment styles.

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Wrap Up

Anxious attachment style people can alter when they’re around securely attached. Being aware of and working to change undesirable behavior patterns might make someone more relationally aware. The past shouldn’t predict the present and future events.

Anxiously attached people can attempt to feel more confident in themselves and their relationships, but it’s not always easy to reverse a childhood attachment type.

Secure, anxious, and avoidant are attachment styles. These are founded on childhood ties. Anxious people prioritize others’ needs before their own. Avoidant people overestimate their independence and avoid contact.

Secure attachment people are more trusting and responsive. It requires conscious effort and self-awareness and is not a passive activity. An anxiously connected person can benefit from a spouse with a secure attachment style. This could change their perception and behavior.

Changing your attachment style takes work. Seek professional counsel. A therapist can help you understand your attachment style and create more secure ties.

Brenda Hannor

Brenda Honnor aims to share actionable tips to revitalize relationships. She has a Master’s degree in Human Psychology and a Ph.D. in marriage counseling. Brenda… More »

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