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Exploring Anxious-Preoccupied Attachment Style: From Childhood to Adult Connections

Welcome to our blog series on attachment styles! Over the next few weeks, we’ll explore how these patterns shape our connections with friends, partners, and even ourselves. Understanding your attachment style can illuminate why you interact with others the way you do and provide pathways to fostering more fulfilling relationships. This week, we're doing a deep dive about anxious-preoccupied attachment style, its origins in childhood and how it might continue to impact relationships in adulthood.



A photo containing multiple images depicting anxious-preoccupied attachment style.
Anxious-Preoccupied Attachment Style


What is Anxious-Preoccupied Attachment Style?


Anxious-preoccupied attachment style is characterized by a deep desire for closeness, coupled with a persistent fear of rejection and abandonment. Individuals with this attachment style often seek constant reassurance and may feel uneasy when they perceive any distance or lack of attention in their relationships.


Childhood Origins


Anxious-preoccupied attachment often develops from inconsistent caregiving during early childhood. Inconsistent caregiving can look like intermittent availability, over protectiveness, and/or inconsistent responsiveness. For example, when caregivers are unpredictable—sometimes nurturing and responsive, other times distant or neglectful, or —the child learns to be hypervigilant and anxious about their needs being met. These mixed signals can then develop into internalized beliefs about their worthiness of love and support, leading to uncertainty, insecurity, and anxiety in their relationships.

Impact on Self-Relationship


Anxious attachment also affects our relationship with ourselves. Individuals may struggle with self-worth and constantly seek external validation to feel good about themselves. This can lead to anxiety, low self-esteem, and a persistent fear of not being good enough. They might have difficulty trusting their own judgment and often rely on others for reassurance, which can hinder personal growth and self-confidence.


Manifestations in Relationships


In Friendships:

- Common Triggers: Delayed responses or changes in friends' behavior.

- Thought Patterns: Worry about being liked and included.

- Behaviors: Frequent communication and seeking validation.

- What this can look like: Anxiety, overreaction, and clinginess.


In Relationships:

- Common Triggers: Perceived distance or lack of communication from a partner.

- Thought Patterns: Fear of abandonment and need for constant validation.

- Behaviors: Over-analysis and dependency on the partner.

- What this can look like: Emotional outbursts, clinginess, and self-sabotaging behaviors.


🛠️ Coping Strategies for Anxious-Preoccupied Attachment:


  1. Develop Self-Soothing Techniques: Practice mindfulness, deep breathing, or journaling to manage anxiety.

  2. Communicate Clearly: Express your needs and concerns openly but calmly with friends and partners.

  3. Set Realistic Expectations: Recognize that not every change in behavior indicates a problem.

  4. Build Independence: Engage in hobbies and activities that boost your self-esteem and reduce dependency on others for validation.

  5. Seek Support: Therapy or counseling can provide tools to address attachment-related anxieties and improve relational patterns. Professional guidance can help you develop healthier coping mechanisms and foster more secure attachments. CBT, DBT, Attachment-Based Therapy (ie., IFS, EFT, and Psychodynamic) are therapeutic modalities that can be very helpful in targeting changes for anxious attachment style.


We hope this has been helpful in providing additional insight into understanding anxious-preoccupied attachment and how it can look like in relationships. Hopefully, this increased understanding can help with navigating your relationships more effectively and cultivate healthier connections.


In the next week, we’ll dive deeper our third attachment style, dismissive-avoidant. We hope you'll stay tuned to learn more!




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