Do You Have Attachment Issues? I know I do…

Do you also overthink and get anxious when your partner doesn’t text back fast enough? Oops… Did I call you out? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. It’s just part of your attachment style in relationships. Figuring out your relationship patterns can be a huge pain but there are ways to help ease such anxieties and impulses. Humans are biologically wired from birth to form attachments to other people. It’s a natural phenomenon that continues into adulthood. An attachment style is a way of relating to others learnt from our earliest childhood experiences. Interestingly enough, our relationship with our parents affects the way we form attachments in our adult relationships. So, understanding the types of attachment styles may help us understand our behavioural patterns, both healthy and unhealthy. Read on to find out!

Mother and smiling daughter placing foreheads against each other.
Our childhood attachment experiences play a role in shaping the way we form relationships with others as adults.
Photo by Anastasia Shuraeva from Pexel

Attachment Theory And ‘The Strange Situation’

The attachment theory was developed by British and American-Canadian psychologists, John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth in the 1960s. Both their works showcased that early childhood attachments played a critical role in their later development. Without a doubt, a child’s sense of security comes from a dependable and responsive caregiver. In the following years from 1969, Mary Ainsworth and her team ran experiments known as ‘The Strange Situation‘ that identified attachment styles in children. They wanted to observe how children responded first to their caregiver leaving and later to their caregiver returning to them. Hence, the birth of the four styles of attachments: anxious, avoidant, disorganised and secure.

The Four Types Of Attachment Styles

Are you someone with an anxious, avoidant, disorganised or a secure attachment? It’s normal to have a combination of attachment styles. One might seem more obvious than the other, so don’t panic. I personally fall under the anxious category. Once I understood what it meant to have such patterns, a lot of my responses to situations made sense. Most times, these patterns are carried forward subconsciously from our childhood experiences. We weren’t loved enough as children (I’m kidding, it’s a running joke). Anyway, the four main styles of attachments are :-

1. Anxious

Time to call myself and the rest of you out. Are you anxious when you don’t get a text back fast enough? Or do you constantly feel like your partner doesn’t care enough about you? Chances are, you have an anxious attachment style. This attachment style has deep fears of abandonment and tends to be very insecure about their relationships, often worrying that their partner will leave them. Some common behaviours include clinginess or neediness, and are always hungry for validation.

Anxious Attachment - Girl that's sad looking at phone with mascara-smudged eyes.
I was someone who was extremely anxious and constantly needed attention from my partner. The anxious attachment style has deep fears of abandonment and tends to be very insecure about their relationships, often worrying that their partner will leave them.
Photo by MART PRODUCTION from Pexels

The link to childhood: having an unpredictable or emotionally insensitive parent. In one moment the parent will be loving and available but in the next, they’re not meeting basic needs for love, security, or attention. This hot-cold behaviour creates an inconsistent pattern of love and attention.

2. Avoidant

Opposite of the anxious attachment style, we have the avoidant attachment style. The second most common out of four attachment styles, it’s often in a form of having a fear of intimacy. Most times this behaviour shows up as being independent or emotionally unavailable. People with avoidant attachment style tend to have trouble getting close to others or trusting others in relationships, and relationships can suffocate them.

Avoidant Attachment - Jealous girlfriend looking at boyfriend who's on his phone.
Partners with an avoidant attachment style may come off as emotionally unavailable or overly independent. They usually find it harder to commit to serious relationships.
Photo by Budgeron Bach from Pexels

The link to childhood: lack of responsive care from a parent. As a result, this group of people would grow into adults that are uncomfortable with intimacy. Since they aren’t as deeply invested in relationships, they’re able to recover quicker from the end of a relationship.

3. Disorganised

Disorganised attachment style is a combination of both the anxious and avoidant attachment styles. Also known as fearful-avoidant, it hasn’t been well researched on. Despite that, it’s often associated with increased risk for violence in their relationships and difficulty regulating emotions in general. People with such an attachment are reluctant to develop close romantic relationships, yet at the same time, they long to feel loved by others. 

Disorganised Attachment - Guy sitting on the floor looking down in frustration pressing his palm to his forehead while his partner places her palms on his shoulder.
It may be difficult to work through relationship issues when someone isn’t self-aware of the way they form relationships. Disorganised attachment style is a combination of both the anxious and avoidant attachment styles.
Photo by Alex Green from Pexels

The link to childhood: a child who is afraid of their caregiver. This trauma creates a cycle of desperately needing comfort but learnt that they cannot trust the person providing it. As a result, this manifests as both wanting intimacy in adult relationships but instinctively fearing it and trying to escape from it.

4. Secure

Last of the four, the secure attachment style. Comparing to the rest, this attachment style is the complete opposite – the ability to form secure, loving relationships with others. A securely attached person can trust, love and is comfortable with intimacy in a relationship. Generally, they’re able to depend healthily on others without becoming totally dependent.

Secure Attachment - Couple sitting on roof while smiling at with foreheads against one another.
Whichever attachment style you are, it’s still important to be aware of how you react to situations. Being self-aware helps ease communication and understanding in your relationships.
Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

Changing Your Attachment Style

Is there a way to change your attachment style? There is, but it does take a lot of work and patience when shifting from an insecure attachment to a secure one. Here are some ways you can start: identify your relationship patterns, build up your self-esteem, being more aware of your needs in a relationship and lastly, don’t be afraid to seek help from a professional. Going for counselling could be a great way to realise you have all these thoughts and to help you work through them. There’s no shame in needing professional advice.

An old, happy couple holding hands sitting next to each other having a cup of coffee.
Identifying your trauma responses and behavioural patterns might help improve the overall relationship. Shifting from an insecure attachment to a secure one invovles unlearning behaviours and breaking the trauma response cycle.
Photo by Marcus Aurelius from Pexel

It’s also very important to set boundaries, honour your feelings and express your needs without manipulation. Let’s take for example someone who has an anxious attachment style. Your partner goes out with his/her friends and you have these intrusive thoughts that could trigger the insecurity that you aren’t as fun as his/her friends. First, be aware of what you’re feeling and realise the trigger. Then affirm to yourself that having space is healthy and it doesn’t mean your partner thinks you’re less fun. Another important factor is to communicate how you feel with your partner. This can act as a pre-emptive measure for your partner to understand your attachment style. Being aware of the way you attach yourself in relationships serves as a reflection to break the cycle of insecurity and help you build healthier relationships.

Curious To Find Out Your Attachment Style?

After learning about the four main types of attachment styles, feel free to take this quiz to find out what your attachment style is. Remember that your partner is not responsible for how you react to certain situations. Realising these relationship patterns will help improve aspects of relationships in the long run once you fully understand yourself. Patience, empathy and forgiveness contribute to easing this process. Take all the time you need and don’t pressure yourself too much. Unlearning behaviours and trauma responses we’ve brought forward from our childhood takes a lot of work.

Love languages also largely affect the dynamics of a relationship. Care to know what that is? Check out the article here!

What's your attachment style?
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About Kimberly WONG

Communications major, with a passion for reading, Kimberly (Kim for short) has a knack for learning new languages. Having worked in various industries helped her to further polish her linguistics skills too. Loves a healthy discussion about anything under the sun.

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