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Dismissive Avoidant Attachment Style: A Definition

Dismissive avoidant attachment is an attachment style that usually presents as emotionally-distanced and highly self-reliant. Developed in early childhood, this dismissive avoidance can manifest in an inability to connect with people and form close relationships.

While our attachment style isn’t something that we can change (like the way we change our hair style), there are some techniques you can use to help build relationships and interact on a deeper level with the people you love.

What are Attachment Styles?

Everyone has an attachment style – a way of behaving within relationships that determines the way we interact with people. Our attachment styles are normally developed in childhood and can be largely dependent on the way we were parented. There are four types of attachment styles: secure attachment, anxious attachment, avoidant attachment, and disorganised attachment. Secure attachment is the healthiest style, usually resulting in confidence and contentment. However, people with different attachment styles, such as dismissive avoidant, can learn how to work with their attachment style in a positive way.

Defining Dismissive Avoidant Attachment

Dismissive avoidant attachment, sometimes also called avoidant attachment, is an attachment style that is characterised by emotional distance and disconnection. It can present as literally dismissive of attachment; unwilling to develop close and intimate connections with other people.

This attachment style is normally developed in early childhood. All children need to be offered comfort, security and attention by their parents or caregivers in order to develop healthy relationships later in life. If one or both parents or caregivers are emotionally unavailable, the child can develop dismissive avoidance attachment. These children will reject or minimise their own emotional responses and avoid contact with others. They learn early on that people are not to be relied upon, so they often won’t ask for help. These patterns continue into adulthood.

What Does Dismissive Avoidant Attachment Style Look Like?

People with a dismissive avoidant attachment style will often seem aloof, self-sufficient, and unwilling to engage in deep relationships. They can be aggressively independent and will prefer autonomy over closeness with others.

Dismissive avoidant people do not display emotion outwardly; this behaviour is learned in childhood, when emotional displays were met with apathy. They will not normally like showing affection, either verbally or physically, and may struggle to express themselves.

People with a dismissive avoidant attachment style will often come across as arrogant and self-assured, but this is usually a cover for their deep insecurities. They will appear narcissistic but overly critical of others, but this may be a method for driving people away.

If they are in a relationship, a person with dismissive avoidant attachment will be reluctant to let their partner get too close. This could present as deliberating aggravating their partner to start an argument or keep them at arm’s length. Normally romantic closeness will be viewed by a dismissive avoidant person as controlling and they will fight back against any perceived limits on their freedom.

When dismissive avoidant people become parents, they will often pass this attachment style on to their own children by being similarly emotionally unavailable and not receptive to their child’s needs.

Strategies for Dealing with Dismissive Avoidant Attachment

People with a dismissive avoidant attachment style struggle to see that there might be anything wrong with their view of the world or way of behaving towards others. Normally, they view their self-reliance and emotional stoicism as a strength.

This means that the first step to dealing with dismissive avoidant attachment is to recognise that this attachment style is not healthy. Accepting that being there for another person and allowing them to offer comfort and security to you is a positive thing is important to addressing the issue.

It can be very difficult to make these assessments of yourself, and people with a dismissive avoidant attachment style are unlikely to listen to the opinions of others around them, considering this a method of control or an unwarranted criticism. Seeking professional help from a psychologist is a good idea.

If you recognise that you have a dismissive avoidant attachment style, it is best to form relationships with people with a secure attachment style. This healthy form of attachment allows people to feel comfortable within relationships and will be the best sounding board for working through attachment issues.

What To Do if a Loved One Has Dismissive Avoidant Attachment

If you are involved with someone who has a dismissive avoidant attachment style, there are some strategies for making the relationship work. These can apply in romantic relationships, friendship, and families.

Firstly, it’s important to remember that attachment styles are deeply rooted in our psyches and cannot change overnight. Re-learning the lessons from childhood takes time and may require therapy. If you truly want to make the relationship work, you have to accept that it will be a slow process.

Because dismissive avoidant people are very sensitive to criticism and reluctant to engage on an emotional level, try discussing things on a facts-based level instead. For example, instead of talking about the way a person makes you feel (“You make me feel unwanted”), you can use examples of what they have done (“We’ve known each other for months and you won’t agree to meet my friends”).

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