There is a common thread linking a fear of abandonment and a struggle to ask for help, even though these two traits seem different. Many people who exhibit these behaviors share the same attachment style, called insecure attachment style, which is characterized by insecurity.
What is insecure attachment?
When you approach a relationship with insecurity or fear, you adopt an insecure attachment style. Among the different attachment styles, this attachment style can hinder people from making intimate, deep connections with their partners.
The psychology expert Nicole Lippman-Barile, Ph.D., says that those who are insecure about their attachments to others typically worry about whether the other person can meet their needs and desires. “They may fear abandonment or hurt in some way.”
An insecure attachment is an attachment style that is not secure and is classified as an umbrella term. Anxious attachment, avoidant attachment, and fearful-avoidant attachment are the three types of insecure attachment, which are also known as ambivalent, avoidant, and disorganized attachments in children.
Related: Secure Attachment Style
Types of insecure attachment
- Anxious attachment: It is sometimes referred to as an anxious-ambivalent attachment style because it is characterized by anxiety and insecurity. The people in this category are often clingy, in need of validation and reassurance, and can be preoccupied with worries.
- Avoidant attachment: It is characterized by dismissive behaviors and is known as anxious-avoidant attachment style. It is often hard for these people to ask for help and avoid emotional closeness.
- Fearful-avoidant attachment: Disorganized attachment styles can also be called volatile attachment styles because their behaviors are unpredictable and volatile. These people have trouble managing their relationships due to a lack of strong coping strategies.
What causes insecure attachment?
Relationships between caregivers and children define attachment styles in childhood. Essentially, it is how we were nurtured emotionally as children, or how we were not nurtured,” explains Lippman-Barile. Childhood was generally unpredictable, frustrating, and unsafe for kids with insecure attachment styles.
- Clingy to the caregiver
- Actively avoids the caregiver
- Frequently crying uncontrollably
- Suppressing feelings or hiding them
- Reacting with anxiety to the loss of a parent
- Pretending to be independent with a secret desire for attention
- Fear of exploring new situations
- Inability to regulate emotions
- Feelings of low self-worth and low self-esteem
- Difficulty asking for help
- Pushes other people away
- Feels abandoned
- Clings to a partner excessively
- Refusal to engage in intimacy with partner
- Demanding constant reassurance from lover
- Being jealous of their independence
Related: Disorganized Attachment Style
How insecure attachment affects adulthood
“Typically, these attachment styles (if unresolved) play out in adulthood,” Lippman-Barile says. “Being insecure as a child looks similar to being insecure as an adult in the sense that the anxiety and fear of being abandoned are still present.” For example, a child who is clingy toward their caregiver will generally be clingy toward a romantic partner later in life. Likewise, a child who learns they can’t rely on their caregiver may end up never willing to rely on a partner as an adult.
Regardless of the partner’s behavior, a person with insecure attachment may never feel secure in the relationship, she explains. Along with interfering with romantic relationships, insecure attachment can also lead to poor emotional regulation, depression, anxiety and low self-worth.
Related: Preoccupied Attachment Style
How to fix insecure attachment
Understanding your own attachment style is crucial to healing. An attachment style test can help determine whether you have a fearful-avoidant attachment style, an anxious attachment style, or the avoidant attachment style.
It’s helpful to know why, and how, these behaviors and feelings developed, so you can work on them in your relationship. It is important for people to unpack these underlying factors, develop new coping skills, and become more aware of their feelings, thoughts, and needs via therapy.
A supportive and healthy relationship is also important, whether it be with friends, family, a mentor, or a partner. It is helpful to talk about these patterns with your partner so that you both are aware of them and can plan together to change them. Both partners must be trusting of each other and be confident about their independence as individuals in order to develop a stable relationship.
Adults can develop healthy coping strategies even if their upbringing can’t be altered. First of all, becoming aware of an individual’s attachment styles is key to this process.
Overcoming an insecure attachment style
There is no need for anyone to be a victim of their past. It is impossible for anyone to remain the same or remain stagnant. It is possible to develop a secure style in adulthood through relationships and interactions if one does not naturally possess one. Friendships and psychotherapy can foster security, for instance.
A therapist assists people in identifying past traumas, recognising their behavior patterns, and moving forward with a more positive self- and world-view when they undergo intensive psychotherapy. The outcome will ultimately be a healthy, secure attachment for the individual.
Making sense of how the past impacts one’s present and future is key to developing an earned secure adult attachment style.
The first step toward earning security is to develop a coherent account of what happened to you as a child. Furthermore, you must examine how it has impacted your unconsciously made decisions about how to survive. The key is to take a critical look at your upbringing, and to work on breaking the patterns that contributed to your attachment style.
There are times when couples get stuck in repetitive patterns of interaction. It is important to recognize that a person’s childhood memories, experiences of insecurity, and feelings can influence their adult relationships, even if they are not aware of it.
There may be insecure attachment triggers underlying the couple’s fight, even though they are arguing about a “surface issue.” This may lead to a greater level of emotional arousal and reactivity than is warranted. Couples whose issues are severe may need the therapist’s support to facilitate a transition in the safe environment of the therapist’s office (especially if they are attachment-oriented).
It takes time to earn security. It is essential to get married and become a parent to shift one’s attachment style. You can feel secure in your marriage if you have a good relationship.