Anxious preoccupied attachment can result in people having low confidence and requiring a lot of reassurance from the people around them. It is an emotionally volatile style of attachment that can make it difficult to form close relationships. However, there are strategies for dealing with anxious attachment.
What are Attachment Styles?
Psychologists have been using the theory of attachment to broadly group people for decades. Attachment styles are the ways that we interact with others within different types of relationships: romantic, familial, friendships and more. Your attachment style is typically developed in early childhood. Secure attachment is considered the ‘normative’ style and results from a healthy relationship with your parents or caregivers. Other attachment styles can result in relationship and communication difficulties.
Defining Anxious Preoccupied Attachment
When someone has an anxious attachment style, it is usually the result of not receiving enough attention and care as a child. All children need to feel that their parent or caregiver is available to them, physically and emotionally, to offer comfort, protection and security. When this doesn’t happen, it can result in different attachment styles. Anxious attachment most commonly occurs if caregivers respond to a child’s needs only occasionally or sporadically. This makes the child uncertain about their connection with their caregiver, and insecure in their belief that a comforting presence is close at hand.
As the name suggests, people with anxious preoccupied attachment will often feel anxious within a relationship. They will be preoccupied with the other person’s needs and wants, rather than their own. Anxious attachment is often considered to be the opposite of dismissive avoidant attachment.
What Does Anxious Preoccupied Attachment Style Look Like?
When a person has an anxious preoccupied attachment style, they will often present as having low confidence and self-esteem and will be very eager to please. They will strongly fear abandonment and rejection, and this often leads them to puts the needs of others before themselves. As children, people with anxious attachment can be described as needy. As adults, they can require a lot of reassurance.
Anxious preoccupied attachment can result in codependency, when a person feels dependent on their partner or friend for their sense of self-worth. Without another person’s approval and praise, they cannot consider themselves to be ‘enough’. They are constantly concerned that the people around them, particularly romantic partners, are going to criticise them or leave.
People with an anxious attachment style struggle to communicate effectively and can be highly emotional. They will often be overly sensitive to the behaviour of other people, especially their partners.
Strategies for Dealing with Anxious Preoccupied Attachment
Although anxious preoccupied attachment can negatively affect your relationships and your daily life, it is possible to overcome these challenges. The first step is to recognise that you have this style of attachment and acknowledge the ways that it shapes your interactions with others.
It can be very difficult to see our own attachment styles. Because they develop in early childhood, you likely don’t know any different way of seeing the world. Working with an experienced psychotherapist is a good way to resolve some of these early childhood experiences and discover why you feel the way you do.
People with anxious preoccupied attachment are often emotional and very sensitive. If you are feeling anxious, stressed or upset, try to take a moment to stop and consider what is happening. Is your partner really rejecting or criticising you in this moment? Or have they just voiced a valid opinion or concern?
Effective communication is the key to healthy relationships. Work on expressing your emotions as clearly as you can so that other people understand where you are coming from. Surround yourself with people who can offer you a stable and secure relationship so that you learn what a healthy connection feels like.
What To Do if a Loved One Has Anxious Preoccupied Attachment
Being with someone who has an anxious preoccupied attachment style can be challenging. Because these people can feel insecure and constantly seeking approval, you might have the sense that you can never offer enough reassurance and affection to meet their needs.
However, it is possible to have a good relationship with an anxiously attached person and help them to overcome their early experiences. Although attachment styles are developed in childhood, they can change with time and therapy. Being supportive and encouraging is important.
Anxious attachment stems from a lack of consistency from early caregivers, so remember to always show up for your loved one. Follow through on promises and commitments and give them ongoing assurance that you care about them. Practice clear communication and don’t let them steer disagreements into highly emotive territory.
It’s important to remember that change takes time. Encourage them to seek therapy, and don’t be discouraged by slow progress. Remind them to reflect and to be aware of their anxious attachment so that you can work on it together.