Attachment theory may have originated in 1958 by British psychiatrist John Bowlbybut it has become a popular topic of conversation online (with more than 348.3 million TikTok views on the subject). If you’re unfamiliar, Bowlby found that the experiences people had with their caretakers in infancy and childhood later informed their behavior in relationships in adulthood, especially romantic relationships. Think of your attachment style as a kind of interpersonal relationship personality type.
There are four different attachment styles: secure, anxious, avoidant, and fearful-avoidant. Each stems from the presence, or lack thereof, of parenting behaviors like nurturing and caring for their children, and each can present their own unique challenges in relationships. For the fearful-avoidant attachment style in particular, it can involve, well, exactly what it sounds like – a fear and avoidance of intimacy.
It can be helpful to know if this is your attachment style. This is particularly the case when it comes to dating and relationshipsbecause it can inform how you feel about the basis of connecting with your partner, according to a licensed clinical social worker Brianna Driver. “Our attachment style largely dictates how we gain a sense of security from potential partners and intimate relationships,” Driver said. previously said Bustle. “It provides a framework – think love languages but much deeper – to what we need a partner to feel seen, heard and emotionally safe, quite similar to the needs we might have had as a child from our caregivers. A fearful-avoidant attachment style therefore refers to certain deficits in what you may have received from your guardians in childhood. Read on to get an overview of this attachment style and what you can do to improve your relationships.
What is a fearful avoidant attachment style?
When a fearful and avoidant person enters a relationship, they may experience traits of both. anxiety and avoidance tendencies. “People with a fearful and avoidant work pattern crave closeness and relationships, but are afraid to get close, fear of getting hurt,” says Dr. Amir Levinepsychiatrist, neuroscientist at Columbia University and co-author of Attaché: The new science of adult attachment and how it can help you find — and keep — love, says Bustle. “They want to be a couple, but they’re also very sensitive to potential hurts and disappointments and worry a lot about it.”
What causes a fearful avoidant attachment style?
As Bowlby’s research revealed, attachment styles form based on the nature of the relationship between children and their caregivers. A person with a fearful-avoidant attachment style may have experienced both instability and a lack of care and attention from parents or caregivers, creating a complicated mix of issues that can impact on their adult relationships. Their parents may have been emotionally distant or unavailable (a trait of someone with a avoidant attachment style), and did not show the love or nurturing the child needed to develop a secure attachment.
Dr. Levine also says that it is possible that some people’s attachment to fear and avoidance was influenced by experiences with other people at other stages of life. “Often in the research literature there is a link to potential trauma by someone you were close to – causing people to fear closeness – having experienced it as something hurtful or dangerous,” he said. Despite this, however, he also points out that research on adult attachment is much more established in its relationship to childhood experience.
How to Tell if You Have an Avoidant and Fearful Attachment Style
If you have a fearful-avoidant attachment style, certain situations may ring true. “A genuine desire for closeness, but a real fear and avoidance of closeness at the same time, is a hallmark of the fearful-avoidant attachment style,” says Dr. Levine. You can also be very sensitive to potential rejection. And that’s why fearful avoidants tend to date people who are less attractive to them — it feels “less threatening to them,” says Dr. Levine, and they don’t understand why they can’t make the relationship work.
This attachment style can often enter into the same troublesome patterns on dating apps. “You swipe left on people who attract you on apps simply because subconsciously — and sometimes quite consciously — it feels threatening to you,” says Dr. Levine. You might convince yourself that something is wrong – you decide that they seem arrogant, or that they are too young or too old. In other words, you’ll find reasons to reject the people you’re most attracted to, he explains. Therefore, people in this situation might end up wondering why they can’t find the right partner for them.
How a Fearful Avoidant Attachment Style Can Affect Your Relationships
As Dr. Levine says, fearful and avoidant people crave love and intimacy, but they also tend to erect metaphorical walls and push away loved ones to protect themselves and their feelings. This can affect their ability to truly connect with others, who may feel like the fearful and avoidant partner is keeping them at a distance.
Like any psychological trait, however, attachment styles affect everyone differently. One person may feel the symptoms of an anxious attachment style much more intensely than another person, or they may see an entirely different impact on their own relationship. That said, people with an attachment of fear and avoidance typically struggle with both security and openness in their relationships, Dr. Levine says. “Studies show that people [a] the fearful-avoidant attachment style struggles to maintain stability in a relationship and struggles to create one,” he told Bustle.
How to Cope with a Fearful Avoidant Attachment Style
Having a fearful-avoidant attachment style can sometimes get in the way of your efforts to maintain healthy and secure relationships – but it’s not impossible to counteract some of these negative effects and make progress in overcoming your tendencies to avoid fear. Dr. Levine’s number one tip? Don’t be afraid to venture into the unknown. “In any relationship, when you start dating someone, you’re basically taking a leap of faith,” he explains, noting that fearful avoidants experience more anxiety when they do.
While someone with a secure attachment style can navigate the dating world much more easily, Dr. Levine says fearful avoidants need lots of reassurance and real tools to convince them they’re on the safe side. right way. This helps them feel more confident as they go forward. To do this, you can try communicate your emotional needs with your partner and give them ideas on how they can assert yourself or make you feel safer.
The success of any partnership relies on communication and trust. Although a fearful-avoidant attachment can make these more difficult to engage with, Dr. Levine believes that with self-awareness and effort, healthy and fulfilling connections can be made. “With help and guidance, those who avoid fear can make great strides in breaking this cycle and other ineffective cycles.” The first step? Take that leap.
Kidd, T. (2011). Examining the association between adult attachment style and cortisol responses to acute stress. Psychoneuroendocrinology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3114075/
Brianna Driverlicensed clinical social worker
Dr. Amir Levinepsychiatrist, neuroscientist at Columbia University and co-author of Attaché: The new science of adult attachment and how it can help you find — and keep — love