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13 Signs You Might Have an 'Anxious Attachment Style'

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The anxious attachment style (sometimes called the preoccupied attachment style) is one of the four attachment styles described by John Bowlby’s Attachment Theory. The other attachment styles are avoidant, fearful-avoidant, and secure.

Except for the secure attachment style, all of these other styles present unique challenges when it comes to interacting with other people, and all of these issues developed through the attachment you developed with your caregivers at a young age. 

(Not sure what your attachment style is? I highly recommend this quiz from The Attachment Project!)

13 Signs You Have an Anxious Attachment Style

The anxious attachment style is defined by a fear of not being loved enough. The problem is, the word “enough” can mean anything. No matter how much love a person with an anxious attachment style is shown, they will likely be afraid it’s not enough: AKA, they aren’t enough.

Sound familiar? See if these signs are familiar to you too.

1. You tend to feel more comfortable when you make others a priority in your life, rather than making yourself a priority. Rather than being selfless, this is actually because you don’t like to focus on yourself because you don’t really feel like you know who you are.

2. You’re a textbook people-pleaser. Conflict makes you feel a deep sense of dread and you will avoid it at all costs.

3. You tend to crave closeness more quickly than others, which means you often feel rejected when people don’t return your enthusiasm about the relationship at the same level and pace.

4. Speaking of rejection, this is your worst nightmare. Rejection makes you feel like you are actually dying, because your sense of self-worth is tied to what others think of you, so when you feel rejected, you feel like it’s a condemnation of your very soul.

5. To avoid rejection, you seek validation and approval from others. You might do this through being submissive and doing whatever others want, or you might be an overachiever, constantly trying to impress with your accomplishments.

6. Growing up, you knew you were taken care of and loved, but you also felt like your needs weren’t totally being met either.

7. You’re a chameleon. You can fit into any crowd and get along with almost anyone because you’re really good at picking up on what other people like and dislike and adjusting yourself to meet the other person’s preferences.

8. You overanalyze your partner’s actions, looking for signs of upcoming abandonment, and if you think the relationship is at risk, you try really hard to feel close to them, which might feel clingy or suffocating to the other person.

9. You have generally low self-esteem and self-worth, mostly because it’s tied up with what others think of you, which is always changing (and you can’t know for certain what others think, which causes you a lot of stress).

10. You honestly believe you are the least important person in your life, and you are desperate to matter to someone.

11. You can’t help but focus on the past, when your needs weren’t being met, or worry about the future, when your needs might continue to not be met, making it very hard for you to be in the present moment.

12. Part of you truly believes that if you just do or say the right thing, you can make yourself worthy of love, not realizing that you are worthy of love simply by nature of existing.

13. You are an amazing friend, but sometimes you find yourself wondering if you’re actually a terrible friend because deep down, part of you believes you’re only such a great friend because you’re scared the other person will leave you if you are less than amazing. Sometimes you get very scared that you’re manipulating everyone in your life into loving you. 

If you relate to several of these signs, you should check out my other articles on trauma. Even if you don’t think you have trauma in your past, this section of my blog, Healing Unscripted, can be really helpful for people with a fearful-avoidant attachment style. (Hint: if you’re like me, you may have trauma and just don’t realize it yet).

If you’re looking for other resources, here are a few books and online courses on trauma and attachment theory that I highly recommend:

  • “The Body Keeps the Score” by Dr. Bessel van der Kolk
  • The Attachment Project’s Introduction to Attachment and Self Development Course
  • “Raising Good Humans” by Hunter Clarke-Fields

A version of this article was previously published on the author’s blog, Healing Unscripted.

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

Originally published: February 15, 2021
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