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Anxious Attachment Style: Do You Struggle To Feel Secure In Relationships

Those with an anxious attachment style can often struggle to believe a relationship is going well. It can also be so easy to jump to the negative as soon as there is a slight change in a partner’s behaviour.

This anxious attachment style is a term coined by the psychologist John Bowlby. It is one of four main attachment styles. Understanding the attachment style you relate to the most can really help you navigate relationship problems. What’s more, it gives you a deeper understanding of how you show up in relationships and what you can do to change any negative relationship behaviours.

In my last post, I covered avoidant attachment, which focuses on those who keep their guard up to avoid getting too close to someone. This week, I’m focusing on the anxious attachment, and I’ll be covering anxious-avoidant and secure styles in upcoming posts.

What Is An Anxious Attachment Style?

An anxious attachment style usually centres around how secure a person feels in a relationship. They may analyse a partner’s habits, words or actions and try to find meaning in them that relates back to the relationship. Often, this means looking for the negative rather than the positive.

Key traits of an anxious attachment style include:

  • Need for reassurance and external validation

  • Feeling low self-worth and low self-esteem

  • Can feel criticism deeply and be reactive to comments

  • Acting impulsively and emotionally

  • Maybe unpredictable in their responses.

Where Does An Anxious Attachment Style Come From?

While an anxious attachment style can have a range of reasons, one of the most common is the parenting and care you received as a child. Typically, an anxious attachment style can come from having inconsistency during your upbringing.

For example, parents may have given you excessive love on some occasions, but you may have felt ignored at other times. It can also be that one parent was overgenerous with affection, while another parent gave you very little attention.

This type of attachment can come from birth. For example, a baby may cry and be picked up and comforted straightaway. But, on other occasions, they’re left to cry with no response at all from their caregivers. All of these memories can form an anxious attachment style.

Whether from birth, childhood or adulthood, an anxious attachment style often comes from inconsistency in love, affection or care. As a result, you may become confused or anxious when someone has a different approach to meeting these needs with you.

How To Tell If Your Partner Has An Anxious Attachment Style

They may:

  • Worry that you will cheat on them

  • Say they aren’t good enough and think you’ll meet someone better

  • May describe themselves as a hopeless romantic

  • Fall in love hard and fast

  • Come across as needy and in need of constant reassurance or consistent behaviours.

How To Improve Your Relationship

Increase Self-Awareness

If you recognise that you have an anxious attachment style, it is helpful to increase your self-awareness to recognise the times when you feel most anxious. You may notice there’s a particular trigger for anxiety in a relationship. Understanding this and knowing how to express these needs constructively can be helpful for you and your partner.

Recognise Your Wants And Needs

If you find yourself feeling insecure, start to understand what’s driving that feeling. What want or need isn’t being met there? As soon as you have clarity around your expectations in a relationship as well as your wants and needs, then you may be able to meet these needs elsewhere. For example, could a need to be close be met by meeting up with friends?

Understand Your Love Languages

Having a clear understanding of your and your partner’s love language can make it easier for both parties to understand their preferred style of love. The five love languages are; words of affirmation, quality time, physical touch, gifts and acts of service. You can find out more about your love languages and how to demonstrate them in this post.

Up Your Self-Love

From healing your inner child to hypnotherapy, exercise and practising detachment, there are many self-love and self-care exercises that can help you feel more secure in a relationship.

Therapy For Anxiety

Psychotherapy is highly effective in the treatment of anxiety. Different therapies have proven to be effective in the treatment of anxiety, such as

CBT is one of the most used therapies in the treatment of anxiety. This model of therapy starts from the assumption that you can change the way you feel by changing the way you think. CBT looks at the thoughts that trigger and maintain anxiety. Working together with a qualified mental health professional, you will become skilled in recognising and understanding the thoughts that trigger your anxiety, as well as how these relate to and influence your feelings and behaviours. You will learn useful tools and skills to break the vicious cycle that contributes to keeping your anxiety going.


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