A person with an anxious attachment style may fear abandonment and need consistent reassurance from their loved ones to feel secure. If an anxious attachment style negatively affects how a person relates to others, it is possible to change it.
From childhood to adulthood, experiences can shape a person and ultimately define how they form healthy and loving attachments and relationships with others. Attachment theory
If a child experiences issues with emotional bonding, mainly with the mother, it may result in overall feelings of insecurity and distrust. As the child grows up, this insecurity may pervade relationships they encounter, with them needing constant reassurance.
It is possible, however, to change an attachment style from anxious to secure. Corrective emotional experiences can ensure a person builds healthy, secure relationships with others who are also healthy and secure.
This article will explain if you can fix an anxious attachment style, how to start, and what steps and techniques can help.
Attachment theory or style centers on how a person forms emotional bonds with their parent or primary caregiver during childhood. Initial interactions and experiences that are had early will shape how a person learns to form relationships.
Negative experiences during childhood that resulted in feelings of insecurity, distrust, and abandonment can later manifest as insecure attachment. Examples include doing everything a person thinks their partner wants without considering their own needs out of fear their partner may leave them.
Some people may want to heal unresolved childhood traumas to overcome their anxious attachments in relationships.
The first step to fixing an anxious attachment style is recognizing the signs.
Although sources can vary, it is widely recognized that Bowlby put forward three attachment styles. These include:
- Secure: People with secure attachments can navigate relationships confidently and easily without fear of abandonment.
- Anxious: People with anxious attachments tend to sacrifice their happiness for their partners, need constant reassurance, and have an overall fear of abandonment.
- Avoidant: People with avoidant attachments overly advocate for independence, declining emotional or intimate relationships with an emotional distance between partners.
The attachment styles depend on a person’s interactions and experiences with their primary caregiver in their childhood. Understanding attachment theory and recognizing the signs can help a person begin to turn negative experiences in relationships into positive, secure ones.
Signs of an anxious attachment style may include:
- intense emotional discomfort at the thought of being alone
- being codependent, which includes elevating the needs of others above oneself
- low self-esteem, insecure or anxiety about their own self worth
- fear of being abandoned
- fear of rejection
- needing validation from others rather than feeling secure in oneself
- feeling unworthy of love from others, or self-love
- harboring negative emotions such as jealousy and distrust
- highly sensitive to others and their emotions
- preoccupation with relationships
Examples of an anxious attachment style may include:
- needing constant reassurance about whether they are attractive or not to their partner
- difficulty setting boundaries or saying “no” to things a person does not actually want to do
- not breaking up with a partner despite a relationship being unhealthy
Corrective attachment experience
Once a person recognizes the signs of an anxious attachment style, they
Ways a person can do this are by acknowledging the pain of the experience and updating it with something positive. Updating the old ways of thinking for new ways of thinking, one that centers around positive emotions, can help overcome an insecure attachment.
For example, a painful experience may include feeling unworthy of love from others. A corrective attachment experience would be to remember the times of feeling worthy of love from others but worthy of love from oneself also.
Forming relationships with others who have a secure attachment style can help a person to see that it is important both needs are met for both partners.
Ways a person can learn from others with a secure attachment include:
- understanding how important it is to have emotional closeness, calmness, and stability in a relationship
- understanding that a person may not be able to change past experiences, but they can change present experiences
- understanding that it is important to voice emotional needs and wants, even over fears of disappointing others
This can also involve setting boundaries and learning to say “no.”
Those with an anxious attachment style may have various negative worries that link to low self-esteem. This can include:
- being overly worried that their partner may leave them
- fears of not being able to contact them at all times
- having a deep fear of rejection, which may validate feelings of unworthiness
- needing constant reassurance that they are good enough, attractive enough, or worthy overall
Being open with emotions and needs authentically and accepting that some partners may not be able to meet these needs is a good step for building self-esteem.
- thinking of positive things about oneself
- increasing knowledge
- feelings of well-being
- acceptance of mind and body without feeling the need to change
- acceptance of skills, ability, and experience without comparison to others
Someone with high self-esteem will worry less about rejection and will not need constant reassurance. Understanding that other people’s actions are uncontrollable and are not a reflection of oneself is important for maintaining high self-esteem and changing an anxious attachment.
Mindfulness is a practice that involves being aware of the present moment and noticing what is happening at that particular moment. Being mindful of potential triggers is the first step to not reacting.
Being mindful of how some situations are simply triggers and are actually not big threats can help overcome an anxious attachment style. Attachment style directly influences how a person responds to emotions, and controlling these emotions, also known as self-regulation, alongside being mindful of them, is a good step to overcoming an anxious attachment.
Self-regulation practice includes:
- controlling emotions and actions in response to them
- learning to calm oneself down
- resisting big emotional outbursts and reactions in situations
- handling conflict without negative emotions such as aggression
Self-regulation can help solve conflicts in relationships and overall contribute to higher confidence. Mindfulness can help people be present in their surroundings, building stronger emotional connections in their relationships.
Therapy can be an important step if a person feels their anxious attachment style is affecting their relationships. It can help:
- show what a secure, healthy relationship looks like
- help recognize anxious attachment behavior patterns
- help recognize signs of anxious attachment styles
- explore ways to form healthy and secure bonds with others
Psychotherapy could help people understand what past issues influence or dictate their current emotions and attachment style.
Psychotherapy can include:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy: This type of therapy can focus on how thoughts can influence beliefs, attitudes, and behavior.
- Emotionally focused therapy: This therapy looks at emotion and emotional regulation.
- Interpersonal therapy: This therapy finds new ways to express emotions and feelings, managing negative ones constructively.
Alongside therapy, other ways to help change an anxious attachment style include:
- recognizing that there are two people in a relationship and how behavior may be affecting the other person
- keeping an emotions journal or diary, noting down patterns where a person may not feel loved enough
- being self-aware about which type of people or partners are involved in the person’s life, including ones that may contribute to an insecure attachment
Those with anxious attachment styles may have experienced:
- being seen as clingy
- having more arguments with more partners
- mental health issues such as depression and anxiety
Those with secure attachment styles can benefit from various positive changes to their relationships. These may include:
- being less likely to experience depression or anxiety
- being physically and mentally more healthy
- having better, more fulfilling relationships
With the intention to change and support from loved ones, communities, and professionals, a person can go from having an anxious attachment style to forming healthy, secure attachments with others.
An anxious attachment style is usually the result of feelings of insecurity and abandonment during childhood. It may manifest in interpersonal relationships, such as feeling unworthy of being loved or forgetting personal needs in favor of a partner’s needs.
With help and support, it is possible to overcome an anxious attachment style. Tips and techniques may include therapy, self-regulating emotions, and recognizing the signs of anxious attachment before they manifest into bigger conflicts.