3 Healthy Habits That Can Heal An Anxious Attachment Style

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The patterns of our relationships with our parents and caregivers from infancy through childhood have a significant impact on how we interact with others in relationships as adults.

Using the concept of attachment theory, we can identify our own attachment styles and develop healthier, sustainable adult relationships.

One big warning sign for potential unhealthy relationships is an anxious attachment style. 

The good news? You can fix an anxious attachment style and build healthy, secure relationships.

What are the signs of an anxious attachment style?

Attachment theory was developed by John Bowlby, a psychoanalyst and psychiatrist who studied the impact of parental and caregiver behavior on children. 

Through research, four different attachment styles were identified. They are: anxious, avoidant, disorganized, and secure.

RELATED: How The 4 Attachment Styles Affect Relationships + How To Know Which Is Yours

The anxious attachment style includes the following characteristics and signs:

  • Low self-worth and negative self-image
  • High focus on the partner and the relationship
  • Increased anxiety when alone or not in a relationship
  • Fear of abandonment
  • Fear of not being good enough for the partner
  • Clingy and needy behavior
  • Constantly seeking approval, reassurance, and support from the partner
  • Need for constant intimacy and closeness
  • Overly dependent on the partner
  • Loss of self-identity, autonomy, and independence

Behavior related to these characteristics creates a pattern in all adult relationships. While they're more pronounced in intimate partner relationships, they can also occur with friends or with work colleagues.

In addition, the anxious attachment style also creates a person who seems destined to choose the wrong partner.

These people often find themselves in relationships with people who display signs of avoidant attachment styles, who just want to be independent, distant, and emotionally and physically detached from their partner.

These toxic relationships are characterized by the anxious attachment style trying to hold desperately to the avoidant attachment style person. Neither is suited to one another.

RELATED: 5 Traits Of Sweet, Committed Men — That Seem Like Relationship Red Flags At First

Making a Change

While your attachment style is developed when you're a child, it's possible to make changes to move from the anxious attachment style to a secure attachment style.

The secure attachment style is characterized by:

  • High sense of self-esteem and self-worth
  • Ability to express emotions and set boundaries
  • Ease in developing both intimate relationships and friendships
  • Value emotional/physical intimacy with their partner but also comfortable with independence for themselves and their partner
  • Give and take in a relationship is normal
  • Tend to look for the good in people and have reasonable ease with trust
  • Believe in being honest, compassionate, and tolerant of others
  • Comfortable with sharing roles in a relationship and having some level of healthy dependence

Moving to healthier behaviors starts with recognizing the issue and working with a therapist or joining an inner circle (such as my tribe, Wake Up Recovery) with others going through the same transformation.

This process will include looking back and addressing thoughts and beliefs about yourself that may have been present since early childhood.

RELATED: The Devastating Way Your Childhood Bonds Can Make-Or-Break Your Adult Relationships

Here are 3 habits you can develop to move from an anxious attachment style to a more secure style.

1. Be comfortable with yourself.

Learning to be comfortable as a single person is important to break the relationship cycle that is only reinforcing negative thoughts and messages.

2. Develop healthy boundaries.

Being able to state your wants and needs, as well as your emotions and feelings, is important to see yourself as an autonomous person, not only as a part of a couple in a relationship.

3. Build your self-worth.

Developing an understanding of who you are as a person and the talents, gifts, and skills you bring to the world helps to create a more positive and accurate self-image and sense of worth.

This helps you become more assertive and confident in recognizing yourself as a unique, valuable, and important person on your own.

It's also critical to find the right partner.

Ideally, a person with an anxious attachment style benefits from being in a relationship with someone with a secure attachment style. Being open to feedback and learning to trust, provide space, and avoid the impulse to become clingy or demanding in the relationship is essential.

A couples therapist can help you improve communication, hone your ability to express emotional needs, develop a strategy for how to manage conflict in the relationship, and work with the two partners on ways to support each other.

People with anxious attachment styles should also learn to recognize the avoidant attachment style. This is the oil and water combination, resulting in toxic relationships where the anxious person chases and the avoidant person retreats in a constant cycle.

RELATED: How To Know If Your Attachment Style Is Compatible With Your Partner's

Sherry Gaba, LCSW, is a licensed psychotherapist and life coach who helps people cope with codependency, love addiction, toxic relationships, and mental health issues. She is also the author of Love Smacked: How to Stop the Cycle of Relationship Addiction and Codependency to find Everlasting Love.