Anxiety can originate in a number of different ways. It can be shorter term and situational, like the anxiety associated with pitching a new idea to your boss or having a hard conversation with a family member. It might be the result of genetic disposition or chemical imbalance, or it might be a more severe anxiety disorder that has developed under continuous, extreme stress. Some anxiety might even only manifest in very specific situations, like stage fright or social discomfort.
But did you know that anxiety can also exist in relationships, dating all the way back to the way your parents or caregivers interacted with you as a child?
What is Attachment Anxiety?
Anxious attachment, which results in attachment anxiety, is formed in children with an unstable or emotionally insensitive parent. One moment, the parent might be loving and nurturing, and the next, they’ve turned on a dime, neglecting the child their basic needs. This causes the child to never know what to expect and constantly yearn for attention.
Our attachment style carries well into adulthood, and in the case of anxious attachment, it manifests in a number of ways. People with attachment anxiety might have a hard time counting on others because of their parent’s former unpredictability, making them seek validation and lack trust in others. They might fear rejection or become easily jealous. They will likely experience a low sense of self, be overly dependent, and despite desperately wanting to experience connection and intimacy, they will get easily overwhelmed by it.
If you wonder if you or someone else in your life might experience this attachment style, think in a couple of real life situations:
- Do you get nervous when your partner doesn’t respond to texts or calls for a lengthy amount of time, and rather than entertaining the notion that perhaps they’re just busy, you immediately worry that you’ve done something to push them away?
- Does any semblance of conflict (even healthy, authentic conflict) cause you to feel threatened, like you might lose your partner in an instant?
- Do you catastrophize minimal disagreements or hiccups in your relationship, immediately resorting to the worst case scenario of abandonment?
- Does it worry you when your partner becomes more independent, perhaps making new friends or attending an event alone?
- Does your need for constant validation interject when your partner needs a little space in a relationship to just be themselves?
If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these scenarios, you are likely experiencing attachment anxiety, none of which is your fault.
This is an exhausting way to live within yourself and within relationships, and although attachment styles are deeply engrained, they are not entirely hardwired. With inner work, persistence, and often, the help of a mental health professional, this attachment anxiety can be remedied.
Healing an Attachment Wound
There are also a number of things that you can do yourself to work towards healing the attachment wound and working towards a secure attachment style, instead.
First and foremost, awareness is extremely powerful in any healing journey. Noticing instances where you struggle with connection and intimacy or where your attachment anxiety is taking hold is elemental to breaking these patterns. Any committed change begins with self-reflection and self-awareness.
Second, you can take care to make more informed decisions in your relationship. While this won’t just happen overnight, you can work towards pinpointing one specific behavior at a time that you habitually engage in within your relationship and focus on choosing differently when it shows up. For example, if you tend to worry when your partner doesn’t text back immediately, you can channel calm and reassurance through positive self-talk, like, “I am loved and valued. I have no reason to believe that I have done anything to push my partner away.”
Finally, seeking out therapy can help make this elemental change. Believe it or not, anxious attachment styles are extremely common, and therapists know how to work with these instinctual patterns. Please reach out to us at New Perspective Counseling if you’re ready to do the inner work and make the change; we would be honored to walk with you on your healing journey.