What Does It Mean to Have an Anxious Attachment Style?

When you think of attachment theories, you probably about babies and their caretakers, right? While they were originally created for that purpose, they’ve expanded throughout the years to help explain how adults attach to each other in romantic relationships. There are four different attachment styles:

  • Secure: Able to connect with partners on a deeply emotional level, but not too reliant on them for feelings of self-worth and importance. (The healthiest of all the attachment styles.)
  • Avoidant: Prioritizes independence and freedom over deep emotional connections, often afraid of getting too close to someone.
  • Anxious: Insecure and overly reliant on their partners, often worried about rejection and abandonment.
  • Disorganized: Craves emotional closeness as a need for validation, but is deeply fearful of abandonment, resulting in erratic, disorganized behavior.

The last three types are considered insecure attachment types. Here, we’ll take a more in-depth look at the anxious attachment style and how it can affect your relationships.

Identifying Anxious Attachment in Yourself

A large part of identifying anxious attachment in yourself is having solid self-awareness. One of the biggest signs you have an anxious attachment style is your constant insecurity about the status of the relationship. You drive yourself crazy wondering whether your partner truly likes you or if they’re looking for reasons to end it. You read too much into their emotions, take things personally, overanalyze off-handed comments, or obsess about the possibility they might leave you.

You may also find yourself being controlling towards your partner, requiring them to do things to make you feel secure in the relationship that are out of character for them (making them send you good morning and good night texts, for example). Anxious attachment can also cause you to act jealous and overly emotional. You’re not likely to see or value your self-worth, which hinders your ability to feel comfortable in the relationship.

Addressing Anxious Attachment in Yourself

If you’ve noticed signs of anxious attachment in yourself, it’s helpful to determine the root cause. Many times, anxious attachment stems from past relationship trauma or deep-seated insecurities. It could also simply be an attachment preference. Regardless of the reason, it’s completely possible to address them and create a more secure attachment style within yourself.

The first step is to do a little self-reflection to determine where your anxious feelings originated. Did an ex cheat on you? Are you still recovering from a time when someone broke your trust in a serious way? Or are your feelings of insecurity affecting your relationship?

Identifying the root cause of these problems can help you make a plan to move forward. A great way to find some resolution to past problems is through journaling. Writing things down can help you look at things more objectively, and can help you reduce your anxiety about menial, off-handed things. Even if it’s not effective in reducing your anxiety, it can at least show you a pattern of what types of things make you anxious.

The best way to address anxious attachment? Communication! Talk to your partner about your concerns, no matter how insecure or emotional you think they sound. If your partner understands where your behavior comes from, they can find ways to help you feel more secure. Open communication is key in a healthy relationship, whether you do it on your own or with a couples therapist.

Identifying Anxious Attachment in Your Partner

Because you don’t know everything that is going through your partner’s head, identifying an anxious attachment style in them might be a little different than trying to identify it within yourself. Anxious attachment style is also known as preoccupied attachment, meaning that your partner may become more preoccupied with overanalyzing the relationship and what your perceptions of them are. They might act extremely clingy and require constant reassurance that you’re committed to the relationship. You may see their interests and hobbies start to align with yours as they try to find ways to spend more time together. They might also avoid arguments by being overly pleasing due to the fear of being abandoned.

Alternatively, they may also be combative, often lashing out if they feel threatened. Even if they are not aggressive, they may be overly emotional, which can cause arguments. They’re out of touch with how they feel, which can lead to inability to see flaws in the relationship.

Addressing Anxious Attachment in Your Partner

Confronting your partner about their anxious behavior isn’t easy, but it’s necessary for the relationship to thrive. Because of their hypersensitivity, they might have trouble accepting any fault for their behavior. A great way to bring up anxious attachment is to suggest taking an attachment style quiz, which you can access for free on Relish.

Ultimately, the best way to address the issue is to speak with them about it calmly and gently. If you have attachment issues yourself, including them in your conversation can help you empathize with your partner. Helping them identify issues will hopefully inspire them to address their insecurities and their anxiety related to the relationship. While a lot of the work of addressing attachment issues is done on a personal level (through journaling, communication exercises, and even therapy) there are things you can do as their partner to help alleviate some of the burden it puts on the relationship.

Engaging in an open dialogue is so important to moving forward in your relationship. Knowing which types of things cause your partner anxiety is essential for understanding their actions. It’s also necessary to create healthy boundaries to limit behaviors that are hurting the relationship.  Above all else, it’s important to show an anxious partner affection and love, since it helps reduce their fears of rejection and abandonment.

Attachment Pairings

It’s important to note that some attachment styles pair better than others. For example, people with secure attachment styles can pair in a relatively healthy way with any other attachment style, often serving as the stable rock on the relationship. But if you have insecure attachment styles, attaching with a different insecurely-attached person can create a lot of problems – even toxicity in the relationship. A double dose of insecurity can result in extreme jealousy, volatile fights, and damaged self-esteem. It is possible for two anxiously attached people to have a good relationship as long as they are able to communicate their emotions.

Ultimately, understanding the attachment style of yourself and your parter is a key way to determine compatibility. While different attachment types aren’t necessarily deal-breakers for many relationships, they can be tough to navigate. If you and your partner are committed to making it work, taking a deper look into each other’s attachment styles is the first step to a happy, healthy relationship.


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