Having an insecure attachment as an adult can cause serious problems in your closest relationships. You may find yourself worrying excessively, trying to control the other person, or driving them away while you try to hold onto them. Yet, you can overcome an insecure attachment if you're dedicated to making positive changes and willing to get the right help.
What Is Attachment In Psychology?
Attachment is a word that psychologists use to describe a deep emotional bond formed from one person to another. An attachment carries across time and space so that no matter where you are, and despite the passage of time, you feel a connection to that person.
If you have an attachment for someone else, they might or might not feel a connection with you. Even if the attachment is reciprocal, it probably will be different in quality and intensity for each of you. When psychologists talk about attachment, they're talking about the one-way bond from one person to another.
What Is An Insecure Attachment?
So, what is an insecure attachment, and why does it matter? If you have an insecure attachment, it can have a profound effect, not only on your relationship but many other aspects of your life.
Definition Of Secure Attachment
To understand insecure attachment, it helps to begin with a definition of secure attachment. A secure attachment is a positive bond that an infant feels toward their caregiver. An infant with a secure attachment to their caregiver displays confidence that their needs will be met consistently. They show minor discomfort when their caregiver leaves, but they reconnect easily when their caregiver returns.
Secure attachments are created from three main aspects of the caregiver-infant relationship: how sensitive the caregiver is to the infant's needs, how quickly and reliably the caregiver responds to the infant's needs, and the caregiver's acceptance of them as they are.
Insecure Attachment Definition
An insecure attachment psychology definition is the opposite of a secure attachment definition. Rather than displaying confidence in their caregiver's response, the infant tends to be anxious or defiant. They show extreme distress when their caregiver leaves and have trouble reconnecting with them when they return.
A secure attachment in infancy brings peace and independence. An insecure infant attachment, on the other hand, may show up as clinginess, defiance, confusion, or disconnection from the caregiver.
Does Your Attachment Style Ever Change?
Psychologists who have studied attachment have mostly chosen infants as their subjects. Your attachment style as an infant typically has some bearing on your adult attachment style, but your style may change as you get older.
Depending on what situations you face in life and your personal growth as you mature, you may become more insecure in your attachments or, you may learn to develop more secure attachments as time goes by.
Insecure Attachment In Adults
An insecure attachment in adults looks slightly different from an insecure infant attachment, but the basic emotions that accompany it are very similar. When you have a secure attachment style, you feel secure, safe, and protected in relationships. You feel that others are most sensitive and accept you well.
However, if you have an insecure attachment, you may not believe you deserve to be loved. Others seem mostly insensitive, uncaring, or even frightening to you. So, how can you recognize if you have an insecure attachment? You might notice the following:
Recognizing Your Own Insecure Attachment Style
Some psychologists refer to three types of insecure attachments in adults. These are dismissive attachment, fearful attachment, and preoccupied attachment. These concepts relate to the internal feelings you have towards yourself and others.
Regarding behavior, most psychologists use different words to categorize types of insecure attachment: insecure-avoidant attachment, insecure disorganized attachment, and insecure ambivalent/resistant attachment. Each type of insecure adult attachment is displayed in different ways. How you feel about the other person also varies with your attachment style.
Insecure Resistant Attachment
When Mary Ainsworth, the psychologist remembered for her development of attachment theory, studied infant attachment, she discovered that some of those infants were anxious when their mother was with them, distressed when their mother was away briefly, and angry when their mother returned. This behavior signaled that the infant had an insecure resistant attachment.
An adult with an insecure resistant attachment shows a similar array of emotions with anxiety, distress, and anger. This attachment style is also called an insecure ambivalent attachment or an ambivalent anxious attachment.
When you have an insecure resistant attachment as an adult, you tend to be clingy and push too hard for togetherness. You may miss your partner terribly while they're gone. You want your partner's love and attention, and you become distressed when it's withdrawn. When they return, what you feel is mostly anger.
The anger can be intense and may show up as physical or emotional cruelty towards your partner. Or, you may feel anxious that they'll leave you and beg for their attention and support.
If you have an insecure avoidant attachment as an adult, you don't want others to depend on you, and you don't depend on anyone else. The connection you feel with the other person is very tentative and fragile. You don't want to rely on them, so you might hide your true feelings or even behaviors that they may find out about.
With an insecure avoidant attachment, you avoid intimacy with your partner. You want to be independent, but you don't give yourself a safe base to work from as you explore your world. You feel fearful that your partner will leave you, and your anxiety may prompt you to manipulate or control your partner in an attempt to secure their love and loyalty.
Insecure Disorganized Attachment
When you have an insecure disorganized attachment, your style is less easily-defined than other attachment styles. It's a combination of a style that is so difficult to pin down that you have trouble predicting how you will react because your reactions are typically contradictory.
With a disorganized style, you may experience a disconnect from your relationship partner. You may not be aware that you have any feelings for them at all. You may feel emotionless, alone, hopeless, or despairing. You may avoid developing any relationships because you don't want to be rejected. In fact, you fear all attachments. You want the security of a relationship, but you don't want to be vulnerable to a partner.
How To Overcome Insecure Attachment
You can overcome an unhealthy attachment style, but it might not be easy. You'll need to get help. You'll also need to learn about your insecure attachment. To develop healthy attachments, you'll probably need to improve your self-concept and change the way you think about others. Here are some steps to make that happen.
Make Sense Of Your Story
Throughout the process of overcoming an insecure attachment, you can benefit from making sense of past and current attachments. What have they meant to you, and what did you learn from them? As you experience personal growth, your story may change. That's great! It means you're learning a new way of seeing the past.
Accept Your Part In The Attachment Style
As an adult, the time for blaming others is over. Others may impact what attachment style you develop, but your emotions and behaviors are the part of the attachment equation that you can control. If you want a healthier attachment style, you need to be willing to make the changes necessary for that to happen.
Pay Attention To Your Own Attachment Behaviors
You'll need to be a keen observer of your own behavior. Once you learn what attachment behaviors to expect, you can watch for those behaviors. This information will be invaluable when you talk to a counselor.
Talk To A Counselor
Talking to a counselor allows you to learn more about attachment styles in general, and more specifically, your attachments to the people in your life. You can learn techniques for identifying insecure attachment behaviors. You can work on your self-concept so that you can feel more positively about yourself. While licensed counselling is clinically proven to help people overcome insecure attachment, counselling will also help you to develop secure positive patterns in the place of past negative behavior. However, not everyone has the time to sit in traffic and drive to an appointment, and not everyone feels comfortable in a waiting room with other people. This is where online counseling services like ReGain offer solutions. You may access our platform from the comfort and privacy of your own home (or wherever you have an internet connection). Below are some reviews of ReGain counselors, from people experiencing similar issues.
"It was a pleasure working with Bradley. He is positive and encouraging. He helped us to realize key differences between me and my partner to under each other's behavior and attachment styles. Also my confusion has been mostly cleared by his insights. I would recommend him to others. It takes time to fully resolve your issues be patient."
"Denae has a strong background in child psychology. We came to her because we're figuring out how to navigate our first year with a newborn together. She understands couples dynamics, personality styles and is very knowledgeable on secure attachment and how to raise a child to feel seen, understood, safe and heard. I Highly recommend this counselor."
A licensed counselor can help you overcome insecure attachments. In the place of insecure attachment, you can create healthy, positive, and secure attachments. Whether you're having attachment problems or other mental health issues, you can learn to deal with them successfully for a more satisfying and happier life. Take the first step.
How do you treat insecure attachment?
According to researchers, securely attached people have more stability in their adult lives than their insecurely attached counterparts. People who have anxious attachment patterns, preoccupied attachment, and avoidant attachment style types tend to feel insecure in intimate relationships. Talk to a therapist to learn how to treat insecure patterns of attachment.
According to the primary model of attachment, insecure patterns of attachments and attachment behaviors in adulthood are often the result of insecure childhood attachments. A licensed therapy expert can help you identify your style of attachment and teach people with an insecure attachment style how to become securely attached adults.
Attachment styles impact your quality of life
Many people have a fear of attachment. There is an extensive amount of research surrounding these concerns. Your attachment style can impact how you relate to others. People with the avoidant attachment style may not seek out relationships. It could be that they’re scared of new experiences, and they have A mental illness that a person would understand. For example, those with bipolar disorder may be afraid to attach to others because they’re fearful that their friend or loved one will not understand their condition. There are highs and lows with this condition. Bipolar disorder depression can be debilitating, and people may be afraid to connect with others. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t, and it’s good to do so to understand how relationships can help during times of distress. It’s important to note that a secure adult who has a healthy attachment style Attachment styles play an important role in our connections to others. A person with a secure type will feel more comfortable than someone with an avoidant attachment style. In times of distress, they will reach out to someone for help. But someone with an avoidant attachment may not have the ability to seek support. It’s normal to isolate if you are afraid to get help. Avoidant people are guilty of doing this. But, once you take a leap and ask for help, your life will probably improve, and you can form meaningful bonds with other human beings.
Relationships and bonds
Depression and anxiety can impact an individual and make them fearful to get attached. Mental health conditions can affect your bond to people. It’s possible they also have an anxiety disorder that’s impacting their attachment to others. Disorganized attachment can also provide its challenges because the individual may not realize what their attachment style is, I feel like some days they can attach and other times it’s difficult. That could be a painful feeling. Disorganized attachment can make an individual feel confused. They don’t know how to relate to others. Disorganized attachment can prevent people from getting a support system even though they desperately need it. It can be a confusing dynamic for the person who struggles with this style as well as the individuals who are dealing with this individual. The person with disorganized attachment is trying to form a relationship or bond, but they feel conflicted about it. The two people in this dynamic are doing an attachment dance that goes back-and-forth, which can be exhausting. Remember, it’s not your fault if you have this type of attachment style you are struggling with getting attached. And the best thing you can do is look within yourself and examine why that is, and therapy can help you. It’s possible to create a close intimate bond despite having an insecure attachment style. Childhood experiences can profoundly impact the ability to attach to other people. For example, if you are a survivor of child abuse and precisely neglect that can affect you. It can be challenging to get over these experiences, and you might struggle with stress management about attachment.
Your behavior impacts others
These particular factors play a role in developing a secure attachment with others. The best ways to work on attachment issues are to be mindful of your behavior and how it impacts others. You can work on these concerns in Therapy. Counseling, whether it’s online or in your local area, it’s a wonderful place to discuss childhood experiences related to attachment. You can work on dealing with issues surrounding relationships. For example, couples therapy is an excellent place to discuss attachment issues with your partner. Engaging in this sort of treatment is one of the best ways to confront attachment issues. You can also explore how to develop earned secure attachment. It could be that you struggle with trust issues, and it’s impacting your relationship. That could mean that you focus on earned secure attachment in therapy. You might want to focus on your partner and your relationship and form a secure attachment together.
Confronting your attachment issues
A therapist will help you develop a coherent narrative to understand better why you’re having these issues. You may have some emotional insight into why you’re having attachment problems but not know how to solve them. That’s okay too, and a therapist is a person who will have insight into these concerns. One reason you might seek out help is that it impacts your ability to connect with others. But ultimately, it’s about you and how your quality of life is at the moment. You want to live a life where you feel content, and nobody wants to be unhappy. They think that there might not be a choice in the matter. One of the reasons people struggle with depression and anxiety is that they feel stuck in that cycle. But a therapist can help you understand why you’re struggling with attachment and other mental health issues. These things are interconnected, whether you realize it or not. And to live a life where you feel content, you need to understand your attachment style and how you relate to others. Some people enjoy being alone and that’s OK. But that doesn’t mean you have to be by yourself all the time and become a hermit. That could be a sign of avoidant attachment. Whether you see a therapist in private practice, a clinic, or an online counselor with telehealth, you can get the help that you need.
Working on attachment issues and Therapy
People experience many issues when it comes to attachment. Your concerns may be different from somebody else’s, but that doesn’t mean they’re not valid. You may be developing a secure attachment, and somebody else may be dealing with avoidant issues. Therapy can be a great place to discuss attachment styles. Ambivalent attachments can be difficult because you want to attach in a certain way, preferably secure. What prevents you, which is common in many different attachment styles, is fear. Ambivalent attachments are often due to past trauma. A person on the fence about getting attached probably had bad experiences with being vulnerable and rejection from others. It could be the deep fear of abandonment, being understood, or being scared of conflict. Just because you have an ambivalent attachment doesn’t mean you don’t want to connect with others. You crave human connection on some level, whether it’s subconscious or on the surface, but you’re conflicted about it. You may be scared that you can’t get that level of connection in the way that you want or need. People who are dealing with attachment issues can explore these problems in Therapy. Counseling is a wonderful place. You can explore secure attachment avoidant or ambivalent. There are so many different styles to talk about, and you may not know which is yours, so therapists can help. Challenge yourself to reach out for help if it’s your local therapist or somebody online; they can both help you figure out how to form secure bonds. You don’t have to struggle with these concerns alone, and it’s important to reach out to somebody who is an expert in attachment styles. It’s OK to be afraid, but don’t let that fear paralyze you to the point where you don’t have a support system. You deserve to be happy in life, and that may take time. But Therapy is a great place to work on these concerns with a non-judgemental person who supports you.
What are the three types of insecure attachment?
Adult attachment styles are either secure or insecure according to attachment research. Children who develop a secure attachment style in early childhood carry their securely attached behavior patterns into adulthood. The same is true for adults who developed insecure attachment patterns in early childhood. Insecure patterns of attachment include people with anxious attachment. avoidant attachment, and a preoccupied attachment style.
People with anxious attachment tend to be nervous or fearful about their intimate relationships. Adults with an avoidant attachment pattern and anxious attachment styles are often insecurely attached people that have trouble maintaining intimate relationships due to ongoing issues with attachment anxiety. The preoccupied style of insecure attachment affects people by causing them to become caught up in the details of a relationship or other aspects of their lives. People with preoccupied attachment tend to be too busy worrying about the details to be present in their relationships.
How does insecure attachment develop?
Insecure attachment styles like an avoidant attachment pattern often develop as a result of childhood abuse, trauma, or neglect. In contrast, securely attached adults received the necessary amount of emotional support and physical attention. Attentive parental behaviors earned secure attachment patterns for securely attached children who grow to be securely attached adults. Opposite attachment patterns like avoidant attachment are the result of an inability to develop a secure attachment in early childhood.
What does insecure attachment look like in adults?
A dominantly attachment pattern for adults who were unable to develop a secure attachment status is avoidant attachment. People with an avoidant attachment pattern will shy away from or “avoid” intimate relationships. Adults with avoidant attachment tend to jump from relationship-to-relationship or have no intimate relationships at all due to their inability to trust their partners and spouses. Having an avoidant attachment style impacts adults until they are able to recognize the effect of their attachment style and work with a licensed therapist to heal unresolved childhood trauma, abuse, or neglect.
What causes insecure attachment?
Insecurely attached people were often abused or neglected in early childhood by their primary caregiver. Research has shown that having an insecure attachment style impacts children into adulthood. The negative effects for insecurely attached individuals can go on for a lifetime if unresolved issues continue to go unaddressed.
An insecurely attached person will often have trouble developing, maintaining, and keeping intimate relationships due to their insecure attachment status. If you or someone you love has a negative attachment pattern like avoidant attachment, a licensed therapist can help. Talking to a licensed mental health professional can provide you with the tools to overcome your past and become a securely attached adult.
What does insecure attachment look like?
Insecure attachment and avoidant attachment can look like dismissive behavior, disinterest in maintaining close relationships, and chronic mental health disorders. An insecurely attached person may find themselves suffering from chronic mental health issues like anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder.
A mental health professional can help you learn to understand how you developed an insecure attachment pattern and provide you with behavior tools and strategies for becoming more securely attached. Contrary to popular belief, with proper therapy and suppot people with an insecure attachment pattern like avoidant attachment can learn how to become securely attached as adults.
What are the signs of attachment disorder in adults?
Adults who have trouble maintaining stable relationships with friends, family members, employers, and intimate relationships may be suffering from the effects of an insecure attachment pattern. Avoidant attachment behavior will cause people who aren’t securely attached to avoid intimate relationships due to the fear of their needs not being continually met.
How do you break an attachment?
If you suspect that you or a loved one are suffering from avoidant attachment or another insecure attachment pattern, there is help. Talking to a therapy expert like those available on the ReGain online therapy platform is as easy as logging in to your computer, tablet, or mobile phone and setting up a free therapy account.
A licensed mental health professional can help you learn to overcome an insecure attachment pattern and teach you strategies on how to reverse the effects of avoidant attachment. The ReGain online therapy platform provides clients with 24-hour access to certified therapy professionals.
How does insecure attachment affect adulthood?
People who grow up with an insecure attachment style often have trouble later in life. Insecure attachment patterns often prevent people from properly expressing their emotions or feelings in close relationships. This inability to display a healthy amount of emotion, affection, and restraint can cause issues in relationships, employment, friendships, and other important areas of life.
An insecure attachment pattern can be reversed through regular sessions with a board-certified therapist like a licensed marriage and family therapist, clinical social worker, or licensed mental health counselor. ReGain provides always-on access to board-certified therapy providers in your state who are ready and available to help you resolve unhealed childhood issues like trauma, abuse, and neglect that can lead to the development of insecure attachment patterns in children and adults.
How do you know what your attachment style is?
Ask yourself a question: what part of you comes out in romantic relationships? How does the answer to that question make you feel? Are there common themes? Do you find that, while you are typically a secure and confident person, relationships tend to make you feel insecure? Alternatively, do you feel trusting and secure in intimate relationships? Asking yourself these questions and being honest about the answers can help you understand what your attachment style is.
Our attachment styles are influenced by early childhood. It can be affected by if our parents were emotionally available or not if we experienced child abuse, and so on. What we experience during childhood years transfers to our adult relationships. It can impact our mental or emotional health in a surprising number of ways, so even if it feels silly or irrelevant to think of your childhood years, it can be helpful.
What is an insecure attachment?
Insecure attachment is fear-based. You worry that your partner will leave you secretly and don't love you, and you feel many mixed emotions about the partnership. Often, people with insecure attachment styles are codependent. That some people have traits of multiple attachment styles, you might have a secure attachment style, and anxious-avoidant attachment style, a fearful-avoidant attachment style, or a dismissive-avoidant attachment style. Insecure attachment can do a number on your mental health because it comes with a rattling amount of worry, but it is possible to change the way that you experience attachment.
If you're a person with insecure attachment - how do you get over it?
How can you love someone who has an attachment disorder?
For people with attachment disorders, it's typically beneficial for them to be in relationships with those who have a secure attachment style. Being with someone secure themselves can help you develop a sense of security. In contrast, if two people have an attachment disorder or an attachment style that could be described as insecure, things can turn sour. We all crave love and affection, and more importantly, we all deserve it. Working through your attachment issues in therapy will help both you and your current or future partner have a healthy relationship. As with anything in relationships, it takes two. If you love someone with an attachment disorder, you have to work together to make the relationship work, just as you would with any other partnership.