friendship, brotherhood, love, Anxious attachment style

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Anxious attachment style

Anxious attachment style is one of the four main types of attachment that describe how people relate to others in close relationships. People with anxious attachment style tend to feel insecure, needy, and fearful of abandonment. They often seek reassurance and validation from their partners, but may also push them away with their clinginess and jealousy. Anxious attachment style can negatively impact one’s mental health, wellbeing, and relationship satisfaction. In this article, we will explore the causes, characteristics, and consequences of anxious attachment style, as well as some strategies to cope with it and develop a more secure attachment.

What is the anxious attachment style?

The anxious attachment style is one of the four main types of attachment patterns that people develop in childhood and carry into adulthood. People with an anxious attachment style tend to have a strong desire for closeness and intimacy, but also experience a lot of insecurity and fear of abandonment in their relationships. They often worry about their partner’s feelings, intentions, and commitment, and may seek constant reassurance and validation from them. They may also have difficulty trusting their partner and expressing their own needs and boundaries. Anxious attachment can result from inconsistent or unpredictable caregiving in early life, where the child learned to associate love with anxiety and uncertainty. Anxious attachment can affect one’s mental health, wellbeing, and relationship satisfaction in various ways. Some of the common challenges that people with an anxious attachment style face are:

  • Low self-esteem and self-worth
  • High levels of stress, anxiety, and emotional reactivity
  • Fear of rejection, criticism, and loss
  • Dependency and clinginess
  • Jealousy and possessiveness
  • Difficulty coping with conflict and separation
  • Unrealistic expectations and idealization of their partner
  • Tendency to ignore or suppress their own feelings and needs
  • Difficulty establishing healthy boundaries and autonomy

People with an anxious attachment style can benefit from therapy, self-care, and supportive relationships that can help them heal their attachment wounds and develop a more secure sense of self and trust in others. They can also learn to recognize and challenge their negative thoughts and beliefs about themselves and their partner, communicate their needs and feelings more effectively, cope with stress and anxiety more constructively, and cultivate more balance and independence in their relationships.

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Risk of narcissistic partners

There is some evidence that people with anxious attachment style may be more vulnerable to attracting narcissistic partners, or staying in unhealthy relationships with them. This is because they may mistake the narcissist’s initial interest and flattery for genuine love and care, and may ignore or rationalize the red flags. They may also hope that they can change the narcissist, or that the narcissist will eventually appreciate their devotion and loyalty. They may also fear being alone, or feel unworthy of a better partner.

Narcissistic partners are those who have an inflated sense of self-importance, a lack of empathy, and a need for admiration and attention. They may manipulate, exploit, or devalue their partners, and often blame them for any problems or conflicts. They may also be charming, charismatic, and seductive at first, but later reveal their true colours.

However, this does not mean that people with anxious attachment style are doomed to end up with narcissistic partners, or that they cannot have healthy and fulfilling relationships. There are ways to overcome the challenges of an anxious attachment style, such as seeking therapy, developing self-compassion and confidence, setting boundaries, and communicating effectively. There are also signs to recognize and avoid narcissistic partners, such as being aware of their manipulation tactics, trusting your intuition, and valuing your own needs and feelings. Ultimately, people with anxious attachment style deserve respect, love, and happiness in their relationships, just like anyone else.

What causes the anxious attachment style?

The causes of the anxious attachment style are not fully understood, but some factors that may contribute to it are:

  • Early childhood experiences: People who develop an anxious attachment style may have had inconsistent or unpredictable caregiving in their early years, such as having parents who were emotionally unavailable, neglectful, or abusive. They may have learned to associate love with anxiety, and to doubt their own worthiness and lovability.
  • Genetic and biological factors: Some studies have suggested that people with an anxious attachment style may have a genetic predisposition to be more sensitive to stress and emotional cues, or to have lower levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood and well-being.
  • Cultural and social factors: People who live in cultures or environments that emphasize independence and autonomy over interdependence and connection may be more prone to developing an anxious attachment style, as they may feel less supported and secure in their relationships. They may also face more challenges in finding compatible partners who share their values and needs.
The consequences of the anxious attachment style in relationships
  • The consequences of the anxious attachment style in relationships can be detrimental to both the individual and their partner. Some of the possible consequences are:Increased stress and anxiety. People with anxious attachment style may experience chronic stress and anxiety due to their constant fear of losing their partner or not being good enough for them. They may also have frequent negative emotions such as anger, jealousy, or sadness, which can affect their mental and physical health.
  • Reduced satisfaction and intimacy. People with anxious attachment style may have unrealistic expectations and demands from their partner, which can create conflict and resentment in the relationship. They may also struggle to communicate their needs and feelings effectively, or to respect their partner’s boundaries and autonomy. This can lead to reduced satisfaction and intimacy in the relationship, as well as increased insecurity and loneliness.
  • Impaired personal growth and development. People with anxious attachment style may depend too much on their partner for validation, support, and happiness, and neglect their own interests, goals, and values. They may also have difficulty forming healthy relationships with other people, such as friends, family, or colleagues, due to their fear of abandonment or rejection. This can impair their personal growth and development, as well as limit their opportunities and experiences.
  • Clinging on to negative and detrimental relationships. People with anxious attachment style may find themselves clinging on to abusive relationships, and relationships without love simply because of their need to be in a relationship, to feel whole, wanted and valid. This can mean, in some cases, people with anxious attachment will put up with, even hide domestic abuse and violence, putting their own health at risk, and that of their wider family.
How an individual can move beyond the anxious attachment style

Moving beyond the anxious attachment style is possible with awareness, self-compassion, and intentional practice. Here are some steps that an individual can take to develop a more secure attachment style:

Identify and challenge the negative beliefs and assumptions that underlie the anxious attachment style. For example, one may believe that they are unworthy of love, that their partner will leave them if they are not perfect, or that they have to sacrifice their own needs and boundaries to keep their partner happy. These beliefs are often rooted in early childhood experiences and can be modified by examining the evidence for and against them, as well as by replacing them with more realistic and positive affirmations.

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  • Learn to regulate emotions and cope with stress in healthy ways. People with an anxious attachment style may have difficulty managing their emotions and may resort to unhealthy coping strategies such as substance abuse, self-harm, or isolation. These strategies can exacerbate the anxiety and insecurity that fuel the attachment style. Instead, one can learn to recognize, label, and express their emotions in constructive ways, such as through journaling, talking to a trusted friend or therapist, or engaging in hobbies or activities that bring joy and relaxation.
  • Develop a sense of autonomy and self-worth that is independent of the relationship. People with an anxious attachment style may depend on their partner for validation, approval, and happiness. They may also neglect their own interests, goals, and values in favour of pleasing their partner. This can create an imbalance of power and a loss of identity in the relationship. To counter this, one can cultivate a sense of self-worth that comes from within, rather than from external sources. One can also pursue their own passions, hobbies, and aspirations that enrich their life and give them a sense of purpose and fulfilment.
  • Communicate openly and honestly with the partner about one’s needs, feelings, and expectations. People with an anxious attachment style may have difficulty expressing their true thoughts and emotions to their partner, for fear of being judged, criticized, or rejected. They may also avoid conflict or compromise too much to avoid upsetting their partner. This can lead to resentment, frustration, and misunderstanding in the relationship. To improve this, one can practice communicating clearly and respectfully with their partner about what they need, feel, and want from the relationship. One can also listen actively and empathically to their partner’s perspective and try to understand their needs, feelings, and expectations as well.
  • Seek professional help if needed. Sometimes, the anxious attachment style may be too ingrained or severe to overcome on one’s own. In such cases, it may be beneficial to seek professional help from a therapist or counsellor who specializes in attachment issues. A therapist can help one identify the root causes of their attachment style, provide guidance and support for changing it, and facilitate healing from any past traumas or wounds that may have contributed to it.
Therapeutic options for people with anxious attachment style

Therapeutic options for people with anxious attachment style aim to help them develop a more secure sense of self, cope with anxiety and distress, and communicate their needs and emotions more effectively. Some of the therapeutic options are:

  • cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT): CBT is a type of psychotherapy that helps people identify and challenge negative thoughts and beliefs that contribute to their anxiety and insecurity. CBT also teaches people skills to manage their emotions, relax, and cope with stressful situations.
  • Emotionally focused therapy (EFT): EFT is a type of couples therapy that helps partners understand and respond to each other’s emotional needs and attachment styles. EFT helps couples create a more secure and satisfying bond by fostering empathy, trust, and intimacy.
  • Mindfulness-based therapy: Mindfulness-based therapy is a type of therapy that incorporates mindfulness practices such as meditation, breathing exercises, and body awareness. Mindfulness-based therapy helps people become more aware of their present moment experience, accept their feelings without judgment, and cultivate self-compassion and kindness.
  • Attachment-based therapy: Attachment-based therapy is a type of therapy that focuses on the relationship between the therapist and the client. Attachment-based therapy helps clients explore their early attachment experiences, heal from trauma or neglect, and develop a more secure attachment with themselves and others.
The anxious attachment style compared to the dependent personality disorder

Anxious attachment style and dependent personality disorder are two different psychological concepts that may share some similarities, but also have important distinctions. Anxious attachment style is a pattern of relating to others that involves excessive worry about rejection, abandonment, or loss of approval.

Dependent personality disorder is a mental disorder that involves a pervasive and excessive need to be taken care of by others. People with dependent personality disorder have difficulty making decisions, expressing their own opinions, or initiating activities without the guidance and support of others. They may also have difficulty coping with separation, disagreeing with others, or being assertive. They may feel helpless, incompetent, and fearful of being abandoned.

The main difference between anxious attachment style and dependent personality disorder is that the former is a learned behaviour that can be modified with therapy, while the latter is a chronic and pervasive condition that requires more intensive treatment. Another difference is that anxious attachment style is not necessarily pathological, as it can be adaptive in some situations and contexts, while dependent personality disorder is always considered a maladaptive and impairing condition. Furthermore, anxious attachment style affects only the interpersonal domain, while dependent personality disorder affects multiple areas of functioning, such as work, education, social, and personal.

The benefits of self-transcendence for people with anxious attachment

People with anxious attachment tend to experience high levels of insecurity, fear of abandonment, and emotional distress in their relationships. They may also have difficulties regulating their emotions and coping with stress. One way to overcome these challenges is to engage in self-transcendence practices, such as meditation, spirituality, or altruism. self-transcendence is the ability to go beyond one’s personal concerns and connect with something greater, such as a higher power, a universal value, or a common humanity. self-transcendence practices can have various benefits for people with anxious attachment, such as:

  • Reducing negative emotions and enhancing positive emotions. Research has shown that self-transcendence practices can lower anxiety, depression, anger, and loneliness, and increase happiness, gratitude, compassion, and optimism.
  • Increasing self-esteem and self-acceptance. self-transcendence practices can help people with anxious attachment to recognize their inherent worth and value, and to accept themselves as they are, without relying on external validation or approval.
  • Improving relationship quality and satisfaction. self-transcendence practices can foster a sense of closeness, trust, and intimacy with others, as well as a willingness to compromise, forgive, and support. They can also reduce the tendency to be clingy, needy, or jealous in relationships.
  • Enhancing coping skills and resilience. self-transcendence practices can provide people with anxious attachment with a sense of meaning and purpose in life, as well as a source of strength and hope in times of adversity. They can also help them to adopt a broader perspective and to see the positive aspects of difficult situations.

self-transcendence practices can be a valuable tool for people with anxious attachment to overcome their insecurities and fears, and to cultivate more positive emotions, attitudes, and behaviours. By transcending their personal limitations and connecting with something greater, they can achieve greater well-being and fulfilment in life.

Self-transcendent practices for people with anxious attachment

Self-transcendent practices are activities that foster self-transcendence, such as meditation, prayer, altruism, gratitude, or awe. These practices may benefit people with anxious attachment by reducing their anxiety, enhancing their well-being, and promoting their growth.

Some examples of self-transcendent practices are:

  • Meditation: Meditation is a practice of focusing one’s attention on a chosen object, such as the breath, a mantra, or a sensation. Meditation can help people with anxious attachment calm their nervous system, regulate their emotions, and cultivate mindfulness. Mindfulness is the awareness of the present moment without judgment or reactivity. Mindfulness can help people with anxious attachment detach from their negative thoughts and feelings, and accept themselves and their partners as they are.
  • Prayer: Prayer is a practice of communicating with a higher power, such as God, a deity, or a sacred principle. Prayer can help people with anxious attachment find comfort, guidance, and meaning in their lives. It can also strengthen their faith and trust in a benevolent force that cares for them and supports them. This can also foster a sense of gratitude and humility, which can reduce their anxiety and enhance their well-being.
  • altruism: altruism is the practice of helping others without expecting anything in return. altruism can help people with anxious attachment shift their focus from their own worries and needs to the welfare and happiness of others. It can also increase their self-esteem, self-efficacy, and social support. altruism can also activate the reward system in the brain, which can produce positive emotions such as joy, satisfaction, and love.
  • gratitude: gratitude is the practice of acknowledging and appreciating the good things in one’s life, such as people, events, or experiences. gratitude can help people with anxious attachment counteract their tendency to focus on the negative aspects of their relationships and themselves. It can also enhance their happiness, optimism, and resilience. gratitude can also foster a sense of abundance and generosity, which can strengthen their relationships and reduce their anxiety.
  • awe: awe is the practice of experiencing wonder, admiration, or reverence for something that is vast, beautiful, or extraordinary. awe can help people with anxious attachment transcend their narrow self-interest and feel connected to something larger than themselves. It can also stimulate curiosity, creativity, and learning. awe can also elicit positive emotions such as joy, awesomeness (a combination of awe and happiness), and love.
Further reading

If you would like to learn more about anxious attachment style, its causes, effects, and how to cope with it, here are some weblinks that you can check out:

Anxious Attachment Style: Signs, Causes, and How to Change – Psych Central This article explains the characteristics of anxious attachment style, how it develops in childhood, how it impacts relationships in adulthood, and how to change it with therapy and self-care.

Anxious Preoccupied Attachment Style: Symptoms and How to Cope – Verywell Health: This article provides an overview of anxious preoccupied attachment style, which is another name for anxious attachment in adults. It also offers some strategies for coping if you have this attachment style or if you are in a relationship with someone who has it.

Anxious Attachment Style: What It Looks Like in Adult Relationships – Simply Psychology: This article explores the features of anxious attachment style in adult relationships, such as the tendency to be jealous, clingy, or insecure. It also discusses some of the factors that influence the development of this attachment style and some of the challenges that it poses for relationships.

Recognizing The Anxious Attachment Style | Psychology Today: This article describes the signs of anxious attachment style in yourself or others, such as the constant worry about the stability or security of the relationship. It also explains how this attachment style can affect your mental health and well-being, and how to overcome it with therapy and self-compassion.

Anxious Attachment: Signs in Children and Adults, Causes, and More – Healthline: This article covers the basics of anxious attachment, such as what it is, how it forms, and how it manifests in children and adults. It also gives some tips on how to deal with anxious attachment in yourself or your partner, such as communicating your needs, seeking professional help, and practising mindfulness.

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