So, you took a quiz and found out that your attachment style qualifies for the fearful avoidant category. Or you reflected on past relationships and realized that one of the reasons they didn’t work out was because you concurrently placed all of your value into your relationship while being terrified that it would make you a worse person. What do you do?
It’s completely possible to revise your attachment style, though it takes constant practice to learn a new way of connecting with others. The first step, however, is to learn about fearful avoidant attachment style — which is why we’ve answered your questions.
What is a fearful-avoidant attachment style?
Fearful-avoidant attachment style is an insecure attachment style where a person feels both drawn to building close relationships with others while overly concerned that any relationship they have will end in pain. People with fearful-avoidant attachment styles want other people to love them. They enjoy having the attention of their friends, partners, or even strangers. Yet, when given the opportunity, they’ll avoid developing a close, intimate bond with others.
People with fearful-avoidant attachment styles may show up to a party because they want to meet new friends. At the party, they seek out closeness with other people, perhaps engaging in deep conversations with their friends. However, at the end of the evening, they don’t feel particularly close with any of those friends and won’t reach out to see them again. This is because they have a difficult time feeling intimate with others, platonically and romantically.
What causes fearful-avoidant attachment?
There are many factors that contribute to a fearful-avoidant attachment style. According to attachment theory, attachment style develops when we’re babies and young children. At that age, we rely on adults to take care of us. We’re just learning how the world works, including how people interact, connect, and bond with others. The way that our caregivers raise us may lead to a fearful-avoidant attachment style.
Sometimes, parents of people with fearful-avoidant attachment styles aren’t confident in their parenting skills. They love their children deeply but demonstrate an insecurity about their ability to raise them — even if they don’t have evidence to suggest that they’re doing a bad job. Young children see this anxiety and may internalize it. That’s not to say that their caregivers are solely responsible for a fearful-avoidant attachment style, however it is one piece of the puzzle.
What are the signs of fearful-avoidant attachment?
There are many signs of a fearful-avoidant attachment style. This attachment style is sometimes called the disorganized attachment style — and that might be the key to recognizing it.
Here are some signs of a fearful-avoidant attachment style:
- When in conflict, they flee or shut down. People with fearful-avoidant attachment styles often panic when put in relationship conflict. Conflicts in any relationship are normal and can generally be worked out with healthy communication, honestly, and vulnerability. These are not strengths of people with fearful-avoidant attachment styles, so instead of participating productively in the conflict, they’ll shut down emotionally or leave the room altogether.
- They have strings of highly emotional relationships. When people with fearful-avoidant attachment styles look back at their relationship history, they’ll see patterns of intensely high and low emotions. They may fall in love quickly with their partners but then fight tooth-and-nail right afterwards. Their emotions may be so expansive that they aren’t able to calm themselves down. They might not even know why they’re upset, which can be very confusing for them!
- They like to have casual sex with one or more partners. Because people with fearful-avoidant attachment styles generally avoid becoming intimate or vulnerable with others, they prefer to have casual sex — no strings attached.
- They break off relationships without apparent reason. People with fearful-avoidant attachment styles may be unconsciously looking for reasons to end their relationships, which is another way that they’re avoiding feeling a deep connection with others. While they might not realize that they’re doing it, sometimes they’ll feel so insecure in relationships that they’ll try to sabotage it as a way of maintaining control.
- When it’s time to talk about love or commitment, they aren’t there. When romantically involved with others, people with fearful-avoidant attachment styles may find it extremely uncomfortable to say “I love you” or to commit to a serious relationship. It’s not because they don’t love their partner or partners, or because they don’t want to be committed. They just feel scared of what becoming close to someone else will feel like!
There are many other signs of a fearful-avoidant attachment style; however, it’s important to note that none of these signs are the fault of the individual. Many of the ways that a fearful-avoidant attachment style shows up in relationships are not because they’re bad people or because they want to be difficult — attachment styles are learned behaviors built up over entire lives. These thought patterns or emotional reactions have a lot of reinforcement behind them, which means that they aren’t easily abandoned.
How do you fix fearful-avoidant attachment?
Even though the signs of a fearful-avoidant attachment style are automatic, there are ways to mitigate the impact of this attachment style. It takes an elevated amount of awareness, introspection, and willingness to get out of your comfort zone to fix a fearful-avoidant attachment style.
Some ways to change the fearful-avoidant behaviors associated with this attachment style include:
- Learn more about yourself and how you relate to others. By taking a long look at past relationships (romantic and platonic!), you might notice patterns emerge. This awareness will help you identify instances of fear or avoidance in future relationships. You might also learn something by reflecting on your upbringing and your relationship with those who raised you — and how this influences your relationships in adulthood.
- Slow it down. When you find yourself upset because of a relationship (or upsetting someone that you’re in a relationship with), take a time out. Sometimes, our emotions become so overwhelming. If you’re frustrated or confused, taking some deep breaths, going for a walk, or drinking a glass of water gives us the time we need to clarify our thoughts and make better sense of them. Doing this before you react means that your reaction will be more representative of what you actually believe.
- Talk with a therapist. The best way to explore your attachment style is to work with a professional. Many therapists draw from attachment theory in their practice and will help you understand how you relate to others, including your reactions, assumptions, and behaviors. Working with a therapist gives you the chance to really examine your ways of connecting with others and start to change some of those habits.
Remember, the most important factor in your therapy success is to find a therapist with whom you connect — this is especially essential when you want to work on how you connect with others! By reading each therapist’s professional statement and watching their introductory video, you’ll find an amazing therapist that is just right for you.