12 signs of an anxious attachment style and how to treat it

We all approach relationships in different ways. While some people can trust others quite easily, others may avoid them out of fear of rejection. These behaviors are referred to as attachment styles.

What does an anxious attachment style look like? Well, we’re here to help you figure that out.

Read on to learn about the basics of attachment styles, signs of anxious attachment and how to treat it when the behavior affects your mental health.

What is an attachment style?

An attachment style refers to patterns of behavior and characteristics for how people respond to relationships with other people. It’s mostly based on interpersonal trust and self-worth. 

The research on the theory of attachment styles dates back to the 1930s, but it has continued to evolve over the years. Even though the research originally focused on children, it’s now believed that a child’s attachment style with a caregiver will affect their future attachment in relationships as they become adults.

The four types of attachment styles are:

  • Secure attachment
  • Anxious-preoccupied
  • Dismissive-avoidant
  • Fearful-avoidant

What is an anxious attachment style?

If you have an anxious attachment style, also known as anxious-preoccupied or anxious-ambivalent, it means that you struggle with solitude and you’re highly dependent on others. It can make you doubt the feelings of others toward you, and this insecurity manifests as a need for constant reassurance from others.

Common characteristics of anxious attachment include:

  • Fear of abandonment
  • Fear of rejection
  • Codependency
  • Needing validation and emotional regulation from partners

If you feel hesitant to trust others, you’re not alone. A research study showed that about 5.5% of the participants reported having anxious attachment.

The psychology of attachment styles shows that anxious attachment often stems from inconsistent and neglectful caregiving as a child. It can also occur if the caregivers themselves have an anxious attachment style.

12 signs of an anxious attachment style

When it comes to your relationships, whether they are with friends, family members or significant others, you might not even recognize your own behavioral patterns. It’s not always easy to notice signs of an anxious attachment style in yourself. But by being introspective and examining your connections with others, you can determine if you have this style. 

Twelve signs of anxious attachment are:

  1. Having difficulty trusting others
  2. Needing constant contact with others
  3. Feeling incapable of being alone
  4. Needing constant reassurance that you’re enough
  5. Feeling intense fear of abandonment and rejection
  6. Having low self-esteem or negative self-worth
  7. Craving intimacy or having clingy tendencies
  8. Struggling to set boundaries and respecting the boundaries of others
  9. Sacrificing your own needs and emotions to help others
  10. Having a highly positive view of others
  11. Being highly sensitive to criticism
  12. Displaying jealous tendencies

By acknowledging your attachment style, you can start to work through any harmful behaviors that come from it. 

How therapy can treat an anxious attachment style when it affects your mental health

Based on the name of the style, it’s clear that there can be a connection between an anxious attachment style and anxiety disorders. 

People with anxious attachment can develop generalized anxiety disorder or panic disorder, making it even harder to form healthy connections with others. Fortunately, there are ways you can treat the signs of anxious attachment that affect your mental health.

Therapy is one of the best ways to help you manage your anxiety and improve your relationships with others. If you have an anxious attachment, a mental health provider may recommend cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT will help you replace harmful behavioral patterns with healthier ones by reworking how your thoughts, emotions and actions affect one another.

A mental health provider may also recommend interpersonal therapy, which can help you focus on how your anxious attachment manifests as a response to relationship problems. 

Lightfully Behavioral Health helps when your anxious attachment style affects your mental health

Forming healthy personal relationships with others can help ensure that you have people to share memories with and provide support in your times of need. But if your anxious attachment style is affecting your mental health and preventing you from forming genuine connections with others, we’re here to help.

At Lightfully, we offer four programs that can help you address signs of anxious attachment: residential treatment, Virtual Intensive Outpatient Program (vIOP), Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP), and Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP), also called our Day Treatment Program.

Change is possible. When you’re ready to take the first step toward treating your anxious attachment, reach out to our Admissions Concierge Team. We’ll take the next steps together, toward the fullest, brightest version of you.

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