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Avoidant attachment style

Avoidant attachment style is one of the four main types of attachment that describe how people relate to others in close relationships. People with avoidant attachment style tend to value their independence and autonomy more than intimacy and connection. They often avoid emotional closeness, vulnerability, and commitment, and may appear distant, aloof, or detached. In this article, we will explore the origins, characteristics, and effects of avoidant attachment style, as well as some strategies to cope with it or overcome it.

What is an avoidant attachment style?

An avoidant attachment style is a pattern of relating to others that is characterized by emotional detachment, self-reliance, and a preference for solitude. People with an avoidant attachment style tend to avoid intimacy and closeness, and may reject or withdraw from potential partners. They may also have difficulty expressing their feelings, needs, and desires, and may cope with stress by distancing themselves from others. An avoidant attachment style is thought to develop in childhood as a result of unresponsive or inconsistent caregiving, which leads to a lack of trust and security in relationships. An avoidant attachment style can have negative consequences for one’s mental health, well-being, and satisfaction in romantic relationships.

Is an avoidant attachment style a bad thing?

An avoidant attachment style is one of the four main types of attachment patterns that people develop in childhood and carry into adulthood. People with an avoidant attachment style tend to be independent, self-reliant, and uncomfortable with intimacy and closeness. They may avoid emotional involvement, suppress their feelings, and distance themselves from others.

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There are some possible advantages and disadvantages of having an avoidant attachment style. Some of the pros are:

  • Avoidant people may have more autonomy and freedom in their lives, as they do not depend on others for validation, support, or happiness.
  • Avoidant people may be more resilient and adaptable to changes and challenges, as they do not rely on others to cope with stress or difficulties.
  • Avoidant people may be more objective and rational in their decision-making, as they are not influenced by emotional attachments or biases.

Some of the cons are:

  • Avoidant people may miss out on the benefits of close and meaningful relationships, such as trust, intimacy, affection, and mutual support.
  • Avoidant people may have difficulty expressing and regulating their emotions, which can lead to problems with mental health, physical health, and well-being.
  • Avoidant people may have lower self-esteem and self-worth, as they may internalize negative beliefs about themselves and others.

An avoidant attachment style is not a fixed or permanent trait. It can be changed or modified through therapy, self-awareness, and positive experiences with others. However, it may take time and effort to overcome the barriers and fears that prevent avoidant people from forming secure and healthy attachments.

Causes of an avoidant attachment style

There are many possible causes of an avoidant attachment style, but some of the most common are:

  • Having experienced rejection, neglect, or abuse in early childhood. Children who do not receive consistent and responsive care from their caregivers may learn to cope by shutting down their emotions and distancing themselves from others. They may also develop a negative view of themselves and others, and a belief that they are unworthy of love and support.
  • Having a temperament that is naturally more introverted, independent, or self-contained. Some people may prefer solitude and have less need for social interaction than others. They may also value their privacy and personal space, and feel uncomfortable with too much intimacy or dependence. These traits are not necessarily problematic, but they may make it harder for them to form secure and satisfying attachments with others.
  • Having experienced trauma, loss, or betrayal in later life. People who have been hurt or abandoned by someone they trusted may develop a fear of intimacy and a tendency to avoid emotional involvement. They may also have difficulty trusting others and feel the need to protect themselves from being hurt again. They may cope by becoming self-sufficient, detached, or dismissive of their own and others’ feelings.
  • Having internalized cultural or social norms that discourage attachment or vulnerability. Some people may grow up in environments that value independence, achievement, or stoicism over connection, emotion, or empathy. They may learn to suppress their feelings and needs, and to avoid relying on others for support or comfort. They may also view attachment as a sign of weakness or dependence, and intimacy as a threat to their autonomy or identity.
Therapies for trauma based avoidant attachment
  • trauma-based avoidant attachment is a pattern of emotional and behavioural responses that develops as a result of repeated exposure to traumatic events, such as abuse, neglect, or violence. People with this attachment style tend to avoid intimacy and emotional connection with others, as they fear being hurt, rejected, or abandoned. They may also have difficulty trusting others, expressing their feelings, or seeking support.There are various therapies that can help people with trauma-based avoidant attachment heal from their past experiences and develop healthier relationships. Some of the most common ones are:
  • cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT): This is a form of psychotherapy that helps people identify and challenge their negative thoughts and beliefs that stem from their trauma and affect their self-esteem, mood, and behaviour. CBT also teaches people coping skills to manage their emotions and stress, and to face their fears gradually and safely.
  • eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR): This is a technique that uses eye movements or other forms of bilateral stimulation to help people process and resolve their traumatic memories. EMDR aims to reduce the emotional distress and negative associations that people have with their trauma, and to enhance their positive beliefs about themselves and their future.
  • Attachment-focused therapy: This is a type of therapy that focuses on repairing the attachment bond between the client and the therapist, as well as between the client and their significant others. Attachment-focused therapy helps people understand how their trauma has affected their attachment style, and how they can develop more secure and satisfying relationships. It also helps them heal from the wounds of abandonment, betrayal, or loss that they may have experienced in their early life.
  • Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT): This is a form of therapy that combines CBT with mindfulness and acceptance strategies. DBT helps people regulate their emotions, tolerate distress, communicate effectively, and build interpersonal skills. DBT also helps people balance their needs for autonomy and connection, and to overcome their fear of intimacy.
  • Schema therapy: This is a form of therapy that helps people identify and change their maladaptive schemas, which are core beliefs and patterns that they have developed as a result of their trauma. Schemas can influence how people perceive themselves, others, and the world, and can lead to self-defeating behaviours and emotional problems. Schema therapy helps people challenge and modify their schemas, and to meet their unmet needs in healthy ways.

It’s important to note that often, trauma goes unrecognised by the parties concerned. Many children accept neglect, for example, as being “normal”, but also, sometimes a particular style of education can equate to trauma in the mind of a child. In short, any kind of event during upbringing, which causes a child to suppress their natural self or to blame themselves constitutes as a potential trauma, able to cause them to develop a deviant attachment style.

Coping strategies for avoidant attachment style

People with an avoidant attachment style may have learned to cope with their needs by avoiding closeness and depending on themselves, often as a result of early experiences of rejection, neglect, or abuse. However, this coping strategy can limit their ability to form meaningful and satisfying relationships in adulthood.

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Some coping strategies for avoidant attachment style are:

Recognize your attachment style and how it affects your behaviour and expectations in relationships. You may benefit from reading books, articles, or blogs about attachment theory, or seeking professional help from a therapist who specializes in this area.

  • Challenge your negative beliefs about yourself and others. You may have internalized messages that you are unworthy of love, that others will hurt or abandon you, or that intimacy is dangerous or undesirable. Try to identify these beliefs and question their validity. Replace them with more positive and realistic thoughts, such as “I deserve to be loved and respected”, “There are people who care about me and want to be close to me”, or “Intimacy can be rewarding and fulfilling”.
  • Practice expressing your emotions and needs to others. You may have learned to suppress or deny your feelings and desires, or to cope with them on your own. However, this can lead to isolation, resentment, or dissatisfaction in relationships. Try to communicate your emotions and needs to others in a respectful and assertive way, without being defensive or aggressive. For example, you can say “I feel hurt when you cancel our plans at the last minute”, or “I need some space right now to process what happened”.
  • Gradually increase your level of intimacy and trust with others. You may have difficulty opening up to others or letting them in, or you may push them away when they get too close. However, this can prevent you from developing deeper connections and mutual support in relationships. Try to gradually expose yourself to more intimacy and trust with others, without overwhelming yourself or compromising your boundaries. For example, you can share something personal or vulnerable with someone you trust, or accept their offer of help or comfort.
  • Seek out healthy and secure relationships. You may have a tendency to attract or be attracted to people who are unavailable, inconsistent, or abusive, or who reinforce your avoidant attachment style. However, this can perpetuate a cycle of dissatisfaction and distress in relationships. Try to seek out people who are available, consistent, and respectful, and who can offer you security and stability in relationships. Look for signs of healthy attachment, such as responsiveness, empathy, honesty, and commitment.
Avoidant attachment style versus avoidant personality disorder

Avoidant attachment style and avoidant personality disorder are two distinct but related concepts that describe how a person relates to others and themselves.

Avoidant attachment style is a pattern of behaviour that develops in childhood as a result of inconsistent or unresponsive caregiving. People with avoidant attachment style tend to avoid emotional intimacy, suppress their feelings, and value independence and self-reliance. They may have difficulty trusting others, expressing their needs, and accepting support.

Avoidant personality disorder is a mental health condition that is characterized by a pervasive and persistent fear of rejection, criticism, and social situations. People with avoidant personality disorder have low self-esteem, feel inadequate and inferior, and avoid interpersonal contact unless they are sure of being liked. They may also experience anxiety, depression, and loneliness.

The main difference between avoidant attachment style and avoidant personality disorder is the severity and impact of the symptoms. Avoidant attachment style is a relatively common and adaptive way of coping with early attachment trauma, whereas avoidant personality disorder is a rare and maladaptive disorder that causes significant distress and impairment in functioning. People with avoidant attachment style can still form meaningful relationships and seek help when needed, whereas people with avoidant personality disorder often isolate themselves and avoid treatment.

However, both conditions can be treated with psychotherapy, especially cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) and schema therapy, which can help people challenge their negative beliefs, develop coping skills, and increase their self-esteem and social confidence.

self-transcendence for people with avoidant attachment

self-transcendence is a psychological state of awareness that goes beyond the self and connects to something greater, such as nature, spirituality, or humanity. It can enhance well-being, meaning, and purpose in life. It can also foster compassion, altruism, and empathy for others.

People with avoidant attachment may benefit from cultivating self-transcendence, as it can help them overcome their fears of intimacy and vulnerability, and open themselves to deeper and more fulfilling connections. However, achieving self-transcendence may not be easy for them, as they may have learned to suppress or deny their emotions and needs.

Some possible ways that people with avoidant attachment can move towards and achieve self-transcendence are:

  • Practising mindfulness: Mindfulness is the ability to pay attention to the present moment with curiosity and openness. Mindfulness can help people with avoidant attachment become more aware of their thoughts, feelings, and sensations, and accept them without judgment or avoidance. Mindfulness can also help them cultivate a sense of connection to themselves and their surroundings.
  • Engaging in flow activities: Flow is a state of optimal experience that occurs when one is fully immersed and absorbed in an activity that challenges one’s skills and abilities. Flow can help people with avoidant attachment experience joy, satisfaction, and mastery, as well as transcend their sense of self and time. Flow activities can include hobbies, sports, arts, or work that one enjoys and finds meaningful.
  • Exploring spirituality: spirituality is a personal search for meaning and connection to something greater than oneself. spirituality can help people with avoidant attachment develop a sense of belonging, purpose, and transcendence. spirituality can take various forms, such as religion, meditation, nature, or humanism.
  • Seeking therapy: Therapy is a process of healing and growth that involves a professional relationship between a therapist and a client. Therapy can help people with avoidant attachment understand the origins and effects of their attachment style, challenge their negative beliefs about themselves and others, and develop new ways of relating that are more secure and satisfying. Therapy can also provide a safe space for people to express their emotions and needs, and receive support and validation.
Further reading

If you would like to learn more about avoidant attachment style, its causes, signs, triggers, and how to heal from it, you can check out the following weblinks:

Avoidant Attachment Style: Causes, Signs, Triggers & Healing by Anna Drescher on Simply Psychology:

Avoidant attachment: Symptoms, signs, causes, and more by Jennifer Huizen on Medical News Today:

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