Healthy vs Unhealthy Attachment Styles

Nearly everyone feels an attachment to someone or has at one point in time. You probably have an attachment to a parental figure, or your children, or your romantic partner, or even a close friend. Understanding the many types of attachment – both healthy and unhealthy – can help you make better relationship choices and improve your life in other ways, too.

Researchers have identified attachment types in adults and given them the following names:

  • Secure
  • Anxious-preoccupied
  • Dismissive-avoidant
  • Fearful-avoidant
  • Disorganized

As you can guess, the secure attachment style is the only truly healthy style there is. A secure attachment is a positive attachment a child feels for their parent or one romantic partner feels for another. In a secure attachment, the person feels confident when their caregiver or romantic partner is near. They feel slightly distressed when they’re away but are happy to regain contact again when they return. Understanding how your attachment style shapes and influences your intimate relationships can help you make sense of your own behavior, how you perceive your partner, and how you respond to intimacy. Identifying these patterns can then help you clarify what you need in a relationship and the best way to overcome problems.

As an adult with a secure attachment style you feel worthy of love, have a positive view of others, and see people as generally accepting. Some other benefits include:

  • Greater ability to form a social network
  • Better at choosing romantic partners
  • Greater ability to form healthy attachments with romantic partners and others
  • Better work and social relationships

On the other hand, if you have any of the other attachment styles, it is a rather unhealthy for you. Here are the different unhealthy attachment styles and what someone who has that attachment style may feel:

  • Anxious-preoccupied:

People with an anxious-preoccupied ambivalent attachment style tend to be overly needy. As the labels suggest, people with this attachment style are often anxious and uncertain, lacking self-esteem. They crave emotional intimacy but worry that others don’t want to be with them.

  • Anxious-preoccupied:

If you have an ambivalent or anxious-preoccupied attachment style, you may be embarrassed about being too clingy or your constant need for love and attention. Or you may feel worn down by fear and anxiety about whether your partner really loves you.

  • Dismissive-avoident:

As someone with an avoidant-dismissive attachment style, you tend to find it difficult to tolerate emotional intimacy. You value your independence and freedom to the point where you can feel uncomfortable with, even stifled by, intimacy and closeness in a romantic relationship.

  • Disorganize

Disorganized/disoriented attachment, also referred to as fearful-avoidant attachment, stems from intense fear, often as a result of childhood trauma, neglect, or abuse. Adults with this style of insecure attachment tend to feel they don’t deserve love or closeness in a relationship.

If you recognize an insecure attachment style in either yourself or your romantic partner, it’s important to know that you don’t have to resign yourselves to enduring the same attitudes, expectations, or patterns of behavior throughout life. It is possible to change and you can develop a more secure attachment style as an adult.

The following tips can also help you transition to a more secure attachment style:

  1. Improve your nonverbal communication skills: You can learn to improve these skills by being present in the moment, learning to manage stress, and developing your emotional awareness.
  1. Boost your emotional intelligence: By understanding your emotions and how to control them, you’ll be better able to express your needs and feelings to your partner, as well as understand how your partner is really feeling, too.
  1. Develop relationships with people who are securely attached: A strong, supportive relationship with someone who makes you feel loved can play an important part in building your sense of security.
  1. Resolve any childhood trauma: Even if your trauma happened many years ago, there are steps you can take to overcome the pain, regain your emotional balance, and learn to trust and connect in relationships again.

You can work on these tips on your own or get a therapist to help. Therapy can be invaluable, whether it’s working one-on-one with a therapist or with your current partner in couples counseling. A therapist experienced in attachment theory can help you make sense of your past emotional experience and become more secure, either on your own or as a couple.

Source: “How Attachment Styles Affect Adult Relationships” by Help Guide and “What Types Of Attachment Are Healthy and Unhealthy?” by ReGain

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