Anxious Preoccupied Attachment
Attachments form a significant part of life. From the attachments you develop as a child with your parents to the intimate relationships developed as adults, each carries immense importance in shaping your life. How you choose to form attachments reflects the way you have been treated by others all your life and decides how you value yourself and others.
Unfortunately, not everyone is lucky enough to develop fulfilling and secure attachments. For some, these attachments are associated with anxiety or other mental health problems. One such attachment style is anxious preoccupied or anxious, insecure attachment.
What is this attachment style, and how does it form? Are there any ways to fix anxious attachment style? Keep reading to find answers to these questions and many more.
Anxious preoccupied attachment is an adult attachment style that utilises a negative working mode of self and a positive working model for others. People with this attachment style crave intimacy but feel anxious about whether their romantic partners will meet their emotional needs. They are often hypervigilant to rejection, and any display of independence or relational autonomy can easily upset them.
An anxious preoccupied individual is likely to become distressed if they interpret value and recognition from others as being insincere. Their attachment style is vulnerable to hyperactivation under stress, leading to overamplification of emotions and overdependence on others. Preoccupied lovers base their romantic relationships on emotional highs and lows, obsession, extreme sexual attraction and jealousy, and a desire for reciprocation. They like to believe that it was easy for them to experience love yet claim that unfading love is hard to find.
Getting into a relationship with an anxious preoccupied adult can be highly stressful and intense for both partners. Interestingly, most people with a preoccupied attachment style form relationships with those having an avoidant attachment style. Because the latter struggle to commit, they feed into the anxieties of the former, complicating matters even more.
Mentioned below are some ways in which a person with anxious, insecure attachment affects a relationship:
A person with an anxious preoccupied attachment may face difficulties in feeling secure in their relationships. They may worry about their relationship being on the rocks and feel anxious about their partner leaving them. Such people often have an intense fear of rejection and abandonment and routinely catastrophise situations reinforcing these fears. For example, if a partner is not responding to their texts, they may feel insecure about abandonment.
Due to their deep insecurities, people with an anxious preoccupied attachment may behave in ways that appear controlling, clingy, jealous, or possessive. Acting in this way may put a strain on the relationship.
It is common for such people to become very preoccupied with their relationship and fall in love to the point where they develop an obsession with their partner. Their constant fear of drifting apart from their partner may become too overbearing. As a result, people with anxious preoccupied attachment do not usually do well in long-distance relationships.
Attuning to the partner’s needs
Someone with an anxious preoccupied attachment style usually holds their partner in high regard. They often become very attuned to their needs and may go out of their way to make sure that these needs are sufficiently met.
An emotional rollercoaster
Being in a relationship with an individual who practices an anxious preoccupied attachment is no less than an emotional rollercoaster. Their partner may not understand this unpredictability and do not know what to expect from one moment to another. Such relationships are usually volatile and include lots of stress, anxiety, and unhappiness for both partners.
Someone in a relationship with an anxious preoccupied partner may also have low relationship satisfaction as they do not get enough emotional stability. This is because an anxious preoccupied person always acts on their needs instead of communicating them, leading to a display of intense emotions. Sometimes, these emotions may involve shouting or crying that only stops when their partner soothes them. Soon, a vicious cycle begins where the partner becomes exhausted and frustrated due to repeatedly having to calm down the anxious preoccupied person.
Attachment styles have the power to affect how a person deals with conflict. Conflicts for an anxious preoccupied person may arise due to their deep feelings of insecurity, negative beliefs, and hypersensitivity to their partner’s actions or mood. During an active conflict, such people may continue arguing until they get the response they want from their partners and only calm down when their partner has met their need for reassurance.
Together with their tendency for high emotions, conflicts for a person with anxious preoccupied attachment can quickly become intense and generate a lot of worries.
Unfortunately, un-learning the attachment style you developed as a child is impossible. However, you can learn how to overcome or fix the anxious attachment style and its symptoms with the help of the following tips:
Educate yourself about your attachment style
It is worth spending time and money learning about different attachment styles and their common manifestations. Gaining an understanding of the issue you are facing can help you develop insights into how to overcome it.
Try to notice your automatic responses to a negative situation or circumstance every time. For example, if your partner tells you they wish to do something alone, do you automatically assume they are drifting away from you? Do you develop feelings of jealousy and possessiveness if they spend time with someone else?
Stop yourself whenever you are experiencing these automatic thoughts and try giving meaning to them. If you can successfully recognise the thoughts stemming from your preoccupied attachment style, it becomes easier to reconstruct them more positively. Moreover, you can also choose to respond to them healthily.
Invest in learning healthy communication skills
Learning to communicate in a way that clearly expresses your needs in a non-confrontational way is essential to healing anxious attachment. In this way, you can have fewer misunderstandings in your relationship and build stronger bonds with your partner.
Practice sharing your needs with loved ones healthy and always approach the conversation with kindness and honesty. This way, you can make requests without coming across as controlling or needy.
Externalise your feelings
Externalising your feelings means using your emotions and thoughts to create something healthy and meaningful. For example, whenever you feel overwhelmed, remove this mental burden by creating a beautiful piece of art or listening to music. You may also keep a journal and write it to work through your thoughts and let go of strong emotions.
Consider reparenting your inner child
Reparenting yourself means providing yourself with the love, kindness, and support you may have missed out on during childhood. This is particularly useful for those whose anxious preoccupied attachment stems from having a caregiver with inconsistent parenting.
Practice self-compassion, show yourself some kindness, and comfort yourself whenever you need it. Consider treating yourself the same way you would treat a child.
Go for therapy
If healing anxious attachment style requires extra support, consider exploring therapy. Therapy can be beneficial if you suffer from another diagnosable mental health issue alongside insecure attachment. Through therapy, you can examine your feelings about yourself, recognise your attachment patterns, and learn to approach relationships with others healthily.
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is particularly beneficial for helping individuals identify and challenge their unhelpful emotions and thoughts. It can work best for someone with insecure feelings and unhealthy behaviours stemming from their anxious attachment. Another therapy to consider in this context is interpersonal therapy which helps individuals learn to improve their relationship-building skills.
What are the different types of attachment styles?
So far, experts have recognised four primary attachment styles in adults. These include:
Secure attachment in which adults usually hold favourable views of self and others. They can trust their partners, are comfortable in their intimate relationships, and are not afraid of closeness.
Anxious preoccupied attachment in which adults have low self-esteem but with a more positive view of others. They constantly seek security and intimacy from their romantic partners and may become overly dependent on their relationships, leading to worry and panic about their partner’s behaviours.
Dismissive avoidant attachment in which adults have a positive self-view but a more negative view of others. They highly value their independence and may get nervous when someone tries to get close to them.
Fearful avoidant attachment is when adults desire intimate relationships but may struggle with closeness and cannot trust others. They constantly fear getting hurt and ultimately choose to avoid intimate relationships.
What are some conditions associated with anxious preoccupied attachment?
Even though anxious preoccupied attachment does not always occur with co-existing mental health disorders, certain association does exist between the two. This association is because anxious preoccupied attachment comes with many anxious feelings; hence, the afflicted one is at high risk of developing a generalised anxiety disorder. Sometimes, a panic attack may also occur due to the insecurity arising from this attachment.
Anxious preoccupied attachment can also make someone more vulnerable to social anxiety disorder. This disorder refers to a condition where intense anxiety and the fear of judgement from others may make life difficult for the afflicted one. Such people often struggle with emotional dysregulation due to their preoccupied attachment. Lastly, many people with this particular attachment style also fulfil the criteria for borderline personality disorder.
How is childhood experience related to the development of anxious preoccupied attachment?
Genetics seem to play a critical role in the development of an anxious preoccupied attachment style. However, other factors like childhood experiences and the parents’ behaviour can also contribute to its prevalence. Unpredictable and inconsistent parenting is another factor that paves the way for this attachment disorder to develop later in adulthood. For clarification, inconsistent parenting describes a parent who is attentive and nurturing towards their child at times but becomes antipathic and insensitive at other times. This inconsistency may make the child insecure, distressed, confused, and clingy. Such children also become habitual of exaggerating discomfort to receive the closeness and comfort they need. These features then transfer into adult relationships and friendships as the child grows up.
What are some of the most common anxious attachment style signs?
Some of the most common symptoms describing anxious preoccupied attachment style include:
Difficulty trusting your partner
A constant need for intimacy and closeness
A constant need to please people or gain their approval
Becoming overly dependent in your relationship
Stressing that your partner will leave you
The constant fear of abandonment and rejection
Hypersensitivity to your partner’s mood and actions
Requiring constant reassurance that you are cared for
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