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  • Allison "Alli" Garner, LMHC

Anxious Attachment Style: Identifying key elements

This week in our series of attachment styles, we will cover the anxious attachment. People with anxious attachment styles often struggle to feel secure in their relationship. The desire they have to feel close to their partner is often paired with feelings of low self esteem, avoiding abandonment, and distrust. Many people who are anxiously attached find themselves seeking more reassurance from their partners, overanalyzing their and their partner’s behavior, and withholding their feelings. 

As we discussed last week, attachment styles have their origins in childhood. Many clients with anxious attachment describe their parental care givers as inconsistent. Perhaps affection wasn’t freely given or there was a pattern of needing to meet unrealistic standards. Some clients describe the experience of their parents divorcing as the beginning of their anxious attachment. What’s important to note is just because these events are occurring, does NOT guarantee a person will be anxiously attached. Individual attachment styles are also influenced by our biological temperament.

When a person with anxious attachment is triggered in a relationship they may struggle to express their feelings for the fear it will cause conflict or end the relationship. For this reason, when conflict inevitably does occur, clients can display “protest behaviors.” Have you ever seen someone engage in the silent treatment when they get into an argument? This is an example of a protest behavior-which is meant to elicit additional attention and discharge frustration due to conflict. Other examples of protest behavior can be picking fights over “small” issues, which are then weaponized to address “bigger “issues in the relationship. The use of protest behaviors allow a person to discharge their feelings without utilizing their conflict resolution skills. 

While this behavior can feel frustrating, understanding your attachment style and being in a secure relationship can help to assist with feeling more safe to communicate your needs. Additionally, therapy can be a great tool for the anxiously attached individual to work on their ability to communicate clearly and effectively. Please reach out to schedule an appointment with Alli or one of our other skilled clinicians at 561-961-9077

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