Your question: Why do I have anxious attachment?

My reply:

Hi, I hope this message finds you well. My name is Cesar Guedez, a psychologist trained in cognitive behavioral therapy. Through this blog I would like to explain to you some people feel anxious attachment, investigating the origin of this dysfunctional way of establishing relationships and proposing strategies to decrease the anxiety associated with relationships and increase self-esteem and security in attachments.

Attachment theory, developed by the psychoanalyst John Bowlby during the 1970s, is one of the most recognized theories in the scientific community to explain the way in which people establish attachments from infancy to adulthood. This theory explains that the attachment behaviors that are created in infancy between the child and his or her caregivers will influence how that child will establish patterns of relationships in the future as an adult(1).

This can make people feel a persistent worry or anxiety that leads them to doubt the veracity of their attachments, needing constant validation to reaffirm that they are loved by others. In general, anxious attachment is very burdensome for people, some may feel that it ruins their life as it causes constant and intense discomfort.

However, anxious attachment can be solved through various techniques and psychotherapy. Having anxious attachment does not make you a problematic or foolish person, even if your emotions generate a negative perception of your self-image. Anxious attachment is one of the most common, with approximately 20% of the population manifesting a level of anxious attachment(3).

What is the origin of your anxious attachment?

Anxious attachment has as its main characteristic an intense fear of abandonment and the need for validation of love and appreciation from other people. Bowlby proposed (4) that the origin of attachment types was inherently related to early childhood, through the relationship that the child had with his parents or caregivers.

Thus, he explained that the origin of anxious or insecure attachment was related to children who experienced high levels of anxiety and emotional distress when they were separated from their parents, for example at school or when they were left in the care of a babysitter. Additionally, these children demanded persistent attention from their parents, demanding absolute dedication and acting resentful if they felt neglected in any way.

However, childhood experiences are not the only cause for an adult to have a certain type of attachment. Self-esteem issues and previous traumatic experiences are also related to anxious attachment, as people seek constant validation from their partner and loved ones regarding their insecurities, or seek to feel cared for or protected after experiencing an abusive relationship of any kind.

How do you know if you have an anxious attachment?

Anxious attachment in adults is characterized by(5):

  • People with anxious attachment become very deeply involved in their relationships and yearn to become emotionally close to their partners in order to feel more secure.
  • People with anxious attachment harbor negative views of themselves, and exaggeratedly idealize their partners and loved ones.
  • They constantly question their value in the relationship, feeling that they have nothing to contribute.
  • They have a persistent and overwhelming fear that at any moment their partner will tire of them and leave them.
  • They enjoy “punishing” their partner if they do not receive the attention they demand, by applying the “law of ice” and repressing their feelings.
  • They tend to suffocate their partners by constantly monitoring and controlling everything they do.

How to deal with your anxious attachment?

While you may feel that anxious attachment hurts you and the people you love, you must also understand that it is not your fault that you feel this way. However, there are strategies you should apply if you want to improve your current situation. If the negative feelings associated with anxious attachment persist, you should seek professional attention for specific strategies for your particular case.

Strengthen your self-esteem

If you have anxious attachment it can be difficult to notice your positive qualities, so you feel that your partner and friends do not deserve you.However, you need to highlight and write down the positive things about your personality and start internalizing them as a fundamental part of your life. If you find it hard to identify them on your own, you can ask your loved ones what positive things they like about you.

Couple Communication

It is imperative that if you have a romantic partner that you are honest about your anxious attachment. By explaining that this is a real emotional problem that is difficult for you to control, but that you are working to reduce it, your partner will be able to understand some of your attitudes and support you in the process of coping with anxious attachment.

Make time for yourself

People with anxious attachment often find it difficult to make time for themselves because they feel that their relationships are all they have in life. Gradually, you can create individual spaces to reconnect with your thoughts, emotions and hobbies in isolation from other people. Whether it’s music, movies or art, creating one moment a day of solitude can be very helpful in learning that you can do enjoyable things without the need to be surrounded by other people.

In my experience…

Anxious attachment is an upsetting experience. It is important to find its source and then address it, but there is no point in dwelling on what you could have done differently in the past to avoid having anxious attachment in the present. The reality is that now you only have to work on the emotional discomfort that anxious attachment generates, accepting it as part of your life, as something that does not have to define you or your relationships, while you learn positive ways to manage it.

I believe you have the ability to improve and heal these feelings of discomfort you are experiencing now. The fact that you are seeking professional help through this message proves it to me, and I applaud you for making that decision and being on track to improve your mental health and overall, your physical health

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