Insecure Attachment Style

Insecure Attachment Style: Types, Causes, and How to Fix it?

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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. 
  3. 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.

Example behaviors

In childhood

  • 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

In adulthood

  • 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.

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