We all have been taught the importance of attachment from our early days. It has been so well ingrained in our psyche that it is hard to shake it off.
Our ability to form attachments is often used as a measure of our personality. How you are viewed by others and how you treat others and yourself is the yardstick used by society to measure your character.
Not everyone can live up to the rules set by society. Many people struggle to keep up with this standard. They have trouble establishing strong and healthy relationships.
These difficulties are often linked to panic, stress, and anxiety disorders, and related mental health issues. Anxiety-related attachment disorder is termed as anxious preoccupied attachment style.
What is anxious preoccupied attachment?
Attachment style is the particular way an individual relates to others. Your attachment style is established very early on in life. And, once formed, it stays with you throughout life. It defines how you form intimate relationships and how you raise your children.
Anxious preoccupied attachment is an attachment style in which anxiety plays a major role. You experience anxiety in the relationships you develop with others.
The attachment theory tells us that the reasons for this disorder are childhood experiences and traumas.
Our guide to symptoms of childhood trauma in adulthood may be of interest to you.
Understanding attachment theory
Attachment theory was developed in the 1950s by psychologists John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth.
It states that the early experiences as an infant and the level of childcare received from the primary caregivers have a long-lasting effect. It is carried into adulthood and can influence the attachment style.
The four main attachment styles are:
Secure – when the child feels secure with the caregiver
Avoidant – when the caregiver is indifferent and the child avoids display of emotions
Anxious – when childcare is inconsistent and the child seeks reassurance and exaggerate distress to garner attention
Disorganized – when childcare is inconsistent and abusive and the child seeks attention at the same time feels scared
Anxious attachment style in adult relationships
Adult relationships differ vastly from those between the child and caregiver. However, it is possible to draw parallels in the attachment styles.
For adults, the attachment styles translate into:
- Secure – autonomous
- Avoidant – dismissing
- Anxious – preoccupied
- Disorganized – unresolved
The attachment style established in childhood is carried through into adulthood and will influence how you relate to others later in life. It not only affects your relationship with others, but it also plays a major role in your notions of self-esteem.
While the first attachment style is healthy as the name suggests, the rest of the three are insecure attachment styles.
Insecure attachment styles make it difficult to develop and maintain healthy adult relationships.
Anxious preoccupied attachment style can lead to high levels of anxiety and depression in close adult relationships and consequently, these individuals are more vulnerable to anxiety disorders and mental health problems.
What causes anxious attachment?
It is believed that genetics and childhood environment are equal contributing factors in the development of an anxious attachment style.
Unpredictable and inconsistent parenting is considered one of the major contributing factors for a child developing an anxious attachment style. Unpredictable and inconsistent parenting means the parent/parents are attentive and nurturing at times but antagonistic and insensitive at others.
This kind of childcare can result in the child feeling confused, troubled, and insecure. The child will react to this by being clingy and needy. They tend to exaggerate their distress and discomfort or create a scene to get more attention and care.
Attachment styles once established in early childhood continue into adulthood and stay with the individual for life. There will be slight modifications in the behavior pattern but essentially the attachment style remains the same.
Symptoms Of Anxious Preoccupied Attachment
The most common symptoms of an anxious preoccupied attachment in adults are:
- Low self-esteem
- Constant demand for intimacy and proximity
- Fearful of being rejected and abandoned
- Excessively dependent on the relationship
- Urge to please others and seek approval
- Have a hard time trusting the partner
- Seeking constant reassurance of being loved
- Overly sensitive to the partner’s actions and words, both direct and perceived
The insecurity in the relationship can manifest in a range of negative behavior. Clingy, needy, possessive, controlling, demanding, and jealous are some of them. When such behavior fails to elicit the desired effect, it can worsen the situation. The relationship may become strained as a result.
A person suffering from an anxious preoccupied attachment style has a hard time dealing with conflict situations. They may continue to persist with their line of argument until they get the desired result which may never come.
They find it difficult to calm down after conflicts unless they get the reassurance they are seeking.
How to fix anxious relationship attachment?
Indeed, you cannot change the attachment style you developed as a child. However, you can learn to deal with it and overcome it so that you feel more secure in your relationship with your partner as well as yourself.
People with anxious attachment disorder respond to therapies and treatments well when compared to those affected by other insecure attachment styles like avoidant attachment.
Some effective strategies to overcome anxious attachment style in relationships are:
- Becoming aware of your affliction and investing time to gain a better understanding of it. When you are aware of your behavior and its effect on your partner and relationship, you can work on it to keep it within limits.
- Tracing back your behavior to understand why you behave in this way.
- Picking partners with a secure attachment style. They could tolerate your aberrations in behaviors to a large extent.
- In case your partner also has an insecure attachment style, you can opt to attend couples therapy to help you understand the problem and keep things under control.
- Having an open discussion with your partner about your situation and seeking support and understanding. You can ask them to be more empathetic towards your behavior.
- Practicing mindfulness exercises like meditation to keep your emotions and thoughts in check.
- Undergoing cognitive behavior therapy to identify your problem areas and correct and improve the maladjusted emotions and behavior.
- Undergoing therapy to manage anxiety and deal with your anxious attachment style. If done right, therapy can guide you from insecure to secure attachment.
Instead of resigning yourself to your difficult situation, get proactive and take the right steps to take back control of your mental faculties and behavior. In this competitive world, even with all your sanity and intellectual abilities intact, you would have a hard time surviving.
Understand the necessity and urgency to overcome anxious relationship attachment disorder and act upon it. With honest effort and support from your partner, you can make it happen.