Do you feel anxious when your partner doesn’t text back immediately or you’re away from your child? You might have an anxious attachment style.
- Characteristics of an anxious attachment style
- 5 triggers associated with anxious attachment
- How to recover from an anxious attachment style
Attachment styles depend on how secure we feel in relationships with other people and ourselves.
Characteristics of an anxious attachment style
People with an anxious attachment style fear abandonment. Every ounce of their behavior traces back to that fear.
How it affects relationships
People-pleasers are more likely to have an anxious attachment style. They want to be as close as possible and feel anxious when they’re not near their partner, caregiver, or favorite people.
Since they fear abandonment and cling when they are triggered, those with anxious attachments often seek to control their life and those around them. This keeps their life certain.
Control and domineering behaviors help keep the fantasy alive. To someone with an anxious style, the relationship feels real when they’re close and imaginary when apart. If they are not reassured the relationship is real and good, their anxiety will creep in.
Unfortunately, any closeness is short-lived and does not remove the fear of abandonment.
Codependency is associated with the anxious attachment style. Someone who has anxious attachments will fear their partner is cheating on them or something bad has happened if they do not text back immediately.
Sex is used to gain their partner’s attention, availability and love. It is a tool to fulfill their needs for security and love. In other words, sex provides people with anxious attachments emotional closeness, reassurance, and approval.
Unfortunately, this attempt to prevent abandonment is short-lived. Any distance apart will cause them to turn to sex once again. This may result in addictive or cheating behaviors.
A person with an anxious attachment might stalk their partner or people they like, as well as get jealous of their partner’s friends. They suffer in long-distance relationships because they struggle without physical closeness.
Additionally, their romantic fantasies may threaten their relationship because reality doesn’t match their fantasy.
The best match for someone with an anxious attachment style is someone else with an anxious style. The worst match for an anxious is with an avoidant, as this is actually a trauma bond resembling their childhood dynamic.
Anxious attachment in children
If you were not easily soothed by your parents and didn’t trust or consider their support reliable, you likely developed an anxious attachment style due to the insecure bond.
Children exhibit anxious attachment by mirroring their caregiver’s traits. In a child’s mind, mirroring their parent means they will have a greater chance at receiving approval. Having the same interests and dislikes helps them to feel close to their parent(s), which reduces feelings of abandonment.
Kids with anxious attachments may be jumpy or fearful of parental or caregiver feedback. They worry what their parent will think and are constantly vying for approval, rather than embracing their own identity and trusting themselves.
Relationship with self
People with an anxious attachment style have a positive view of others and a negative view of themselves. They trust others and don’t trust themselves. This causes the external validation-seeking behavior.
Rather than meeting their own needs first, they put other’s needs above their own (people-pleasing) and do not view themselves as worthy. In return, they are highly dependent on other people meeting their needs. A person with an anxious attachment style might go as far as projecting their wants, needs and feelings onto another person.
Without therapy, inner child work, and self-awareness, a person with an anxious attachment style lacks boundaries that helps them avoid enmeshment. An anxious attachment style is fueled by a need for intense closeness, or enmeshment, to avoid feeling abandoned.
They do not view themselves as an individual person. They also feel as though nothing is ever good enough or like they are always doing the wrong thing.
Long-term effects of an anxious attachment style on mental health
It might not come as a shock that people with this attachment are prone to anxiety disorders. It’s in the name itself. However, not all anxiety pertains to an anxiety disorder; sometimes, it is merely a side effect of an anxious attachment style.
Ultimately, all of their behavior is a result of unresolved trauma that they repress and reject due to invalidated needs in childhood. Basically, they gaslight themselves, and it works well because they do not trust themselves due to an insecure attachment to their parents. This is where the need for a secure parent-child dynamic comes full circle.
If a child had to ignore their own needs or feelings, rely on themselves to make their own food or drink, or soothe their parent — then they are a victim of parentification, which is a form of neglect and contributes to their trauma.
Since anxious attachers need certainty, diversity of thought causes discomfort and is often rejected. Other disorders associated with an anxious attachment style include Cluster B personality disorders (narcissistic, borderline, sociopathy, etc.), rejection-sensitive dysphoria, and autism.
Autistic people are likely to have an anxious attachment because their neurotypical parents were less able to quickly soothe them and meet their needs, and their unique perceived life experience and differing feelings were rejected due to the double empathy problem.
Unfortunately, emotional abuse may be perpetuated by someone with an anxious attachment since they need to control their fantasies to keep them real. They may seek to control the lives of people around them and use gaslighting or psychological abuse tactics to keep their idealized version of you and their life alive.
5 triggers associated with anxious attachment
When someone with an anxious attachment is triggered, they will become more emotionally abusive and clingy to quell their anxiety.
Any change, including behavior and patterns, like less physical contact, slower response, no longer saying good morning or calling them a certain pet name, etc., will trigger the fear of abandonment in the anxious attachment style.
The fear of abandonment often forms in childhood due to a dismissive parent.
The unhealed person with an anxious attachment style is not connected to themselves as a person, so they’re disconnected from their needs and feelings.
They do not know how to enjoy their own company so they seek external means to compensate for unmet needs and lack of validation.
This trigger is especially common in children raised by dismissive parents and caregivers who also developed insecure attachment styles in their own childhoods.
Daughters of emotionally unavailable mothers grow into adults who desperately, even if unconsciously, seek their mother’s approval. They will go back again and again until they begin working through their trauma.
Any form of rejection triggers fears of abandonment. A person with an anxious attachment style ties their identity to inclusion and being needed. They do not see themselves as a whole person, but a part of the people in their lives.
To feel secure in relationships, an anxious attacher will thrive in enmeshed relationships wherein the family or couple exists akin to a hive mind.
When their partner or caregiver feels happy, they feel happy.
When their child or favorite relative feels sad, they feel sad.
Feeling what other people feel is enmeshment, not empathy. Empathy is feeling for and with the other person, but still having your own feelings.
4. Feeling disliked or inadequate
Trauma (parental, emotional abuse, being a victim of bullies, or neglect) contributes to low self-esteem, a lack of confidence, and no solid sense of self.
With this trigger, an anxious attacher will start blaming themselves, feeling inadequate, and possibly even contemplate suicide because they feel like they can never do anything right.
5. Feeling dismissed
As a child, feeling unseen or unheard means your needs went unmet and experiences were invalidated. You probably had a dismissive parent who said, “Brush it off, you’re fine!” or something else emotionally abusive.
This causes a sensitivity in the brain that is difficult to heal from, which turns into fears of abandonment from compromising your needs to receive approval in exchange for love.
A person with an anxious attachment style does not respond well to being ghosted, stonewalled or feeling closed off. They may engage in stalking behaviors or emotionally abusive tactics in hopes of fixing the relationship.
How to recover from an anxious attachment style
Overcoming an anxious attachment style is hard work, but it isn’t impossible. While it might feel that way, it is easier to develop a secure attachment style from here since you already trust other people — it just means you need to learn how to trust yourself!
Inner child work with the help of a therapist will help you unlock your repressed trauma and begin recovering.
Reparenting is a part of the trauma healing process that results in either:
- Your therapist adopting a surrogate parent role during your healing journey that validates your feelings and experiences, and helps teach you how to meet your needs as an adult OR
- You doing all of that by yourself, with the help of a therapist, self-help books and videos.
Affirmation sticky notes or flash cards help with self-validation. Journaling is a wonderful way to develop more self-awareness.
Unlearning toxic behaviors and recovering from trauma is exhausting, but it is worth it.
The ultimate goal to getting from anxious attachment to secure attachment is learning who is actually supportive of you and keeping them in your life, and learning how to love yourself enough so you don’t sacrifice your peace for love.
Can you relate to this attachment style? Share about it in the comments.
If you have any questions or comments about this post, feel free to contact us at [email protected] or leave a comment below.
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Adelaide Dupont says
I thought “feeling what other people feel” was mirroring or reflection.
[and not empathy in contrast to enmeshment].