Can You Fix Your Anxious Attachment Style?

In the 1950s, psychologist Mary Ainsworth and psychiatrist John Bowlby came up with the theory of attachment styles. According to Ainsworth and Bowlby, there are four attachment styles, and each of us has one: secure attachment, anxious attachment, avoidant attachment, and fearful-avoidant attachment (also known as disorganized attachment). Based on their theory, our attachment styles develop in childhood, created by our parents (or whomever primary caregivers were); they follow us into adulthood in how we have relationships with other people (via MindBodyGreen).


In romantic relationships, those attachments show themselves in how we emotionally respond to certain scenarios, how we engage with our partner on a daily basis, and our overall behavior. Although no attachment is better than another, as they all have aspects that can negatively affect our relationships, if one could choose an attachment style, secure attachment would be the easiest to navigate, especially when it comes to partnerships. "[With secure attachment] whenever the child needed protection, the caregiver was there to create a secure, nurturing, and safe place for them," family therapist Dana Dorfman, Ph.D., tells Healthline. Therefore creating a secure adult. 

But not everyone is fortunate to have such security in their lives when it comes to their relationship. For example, those with an anxious attachment style don't have it as swimmingly as those with secure attachment — which is fine because we're not all the same. But knowing about your attachment style will help you better understand your behavior, so you can take steps to change it.


What is anxious attachment style

According to The Attachment Project, those who have anxious attachment are usually the children of inconsistent parenting. As they grow up, that results in adults who tend to have low self-esteem, be needy, and have an intense fear of rejection. In relationships, this can cause issues because there's so much anxiety in there that the person with this type of attachment style is constantly worrying about what their partner is up to, leading to a lack of trust and even jealousy.


"[Anxious attachment style] can lead to conflicts as the partner may feel that no matter what they do, their partner remains worried, anxious, and even paranoid about the relationship," licensed psychologist Jessica January Behr, Psy.D. tells Insider. "It can be difficult on the partner whose attempts at reassurance and commitment are doubted and negated by the anxious partner's attachment insecurity."

While no one wants to be that needy or clinging partner who is constantly worrying about their partner's intentions, both when they're away and even on the couch with them at home, those with anxious attachment style can't help it. However, there is hope.

How to fix your anxious attachment style

Although our attachment styles stem from childhood, it doesn't mean they have to be set in stone, especially once you realize what yours is because then you can work with it and pinpoint the triggers that can kick your anxious attachment style into overdrive. "The most important takeaway is realizing that someone can change from an insecure attachment style and develop healthy and secure bonds in future relationships," relationship counselor Katarzyna Peoples, Ph.D., tells PsychCentral.


But how?

"By having an awareness of our attachment style, we can not only identify when the actions of a potential partner are triggering us, we can also have the words to express our needs to our partner so that they can help us feel more secure," licensed clinical social worker Briana Driver tells Bustle. "You might relay ... to a partner by saying, 'Hey, I really appreciate that you respond to my texts quickly,' or 'Sometimes I feel really let down when plans change unexpectedly ... means a lot to me that you always do your best to keep our plans.'"

Of course, people forget to text back and people break plans for any number of reasons, but someone with an anxious attachment style tends to take these things more to heart than others. But once you can see that about yourself, you can take a step back and not let the paranoia get to you too much. It won't happen overnight, but it will happen as long as you work on it and communicate how your partner can help.