What is your attachment style?
Updated: Jul 12, 2022
Have you ever been asked what your attachment style is? It wouldn’t be surprising, as attachment theory is having its moment in the sun these days, and for good reason. The theory, whose pioneers include researchers Mary Ainsworth and John Bowlby, posits that there are four main ways, or styles of how, we connect to our caregivers when we’re young. Whether your caregivers were able to show you the love and affection you needed can then inform whether you become secure, anxious, avoidant, or disorganized in your attachment style. We’ll go into each of these four styles below! More importantly, now the research is showing that our relationships with our early caregivers can inform how we attach to those we love as adults, whether that’s in friendship or romantic partnerships. Keep reading to learn about the four main attachment styles, and see which resonates with you!
Secure attachment is often the product of a cohesive relationship with a caregiver, and results in confidence and clarity in future relationships. If you are securely attached, the idea of being connected to others likely won’t spark great levels of anxiety or avoidance. You have probably had healthy, loving relationships throughout your life with relatively low levels of drama. Those that are securely attached easily maneuver between their independence and being interdependent with another.
Anxious attachment is characterized by a deep sense of separation anxiety or fear of abandonment. Those that are anxiously attached may struggle to be away from their partner(s), and relationships may contain high levels of anxiety and low levels of avoidance. If you find yourself anxiously attached, you may find it difficult to be single, to do activities without others, or fear that you’re unloved. Sometimes, anxiously attached folks find ease by asking for reassurance from their partner(s) and friends, as well as exploring their self-worth.
Avoidant attachment is thought to have some connection with distant, or emotionally inattentive, parenting. Someone with an avoidant attachment style may avoid intimacy and struggle to trust others in relationships. This attachment style can be characterized by high or low levels of anxiety, paired with high levels of avoidance. For some, avoidant attachment looks like strongly clinging to independence, keeping their thoughts to themselves even when in a partnership, or avoiding relationships all together. While avoiding the thing that brings them stress, living avoidantly attached can result in loneliness.
Disorganized attachment is thought to be a mix between anxious and avoidant attachment. Those that are disorganized in their attachment may flip-flop between wanting closeness, and fearing intimacy. Mary Ainsworth’s research thought disorganized attachment to be connected to early childhood trauma or inconsistent parenting behavior. If you have a disorganized attachment style, the idea of becoming close to someone may bring up a lot of inner turmoil for you, as you feel split about what that means for you.
If all of this seems a bit overwhelming, or possibly even discouraging, that is entirely understandable. So many, when learning about their attachment style(s), wish they could turn back the clock and learn to be securely attached years ago. However, the amazing thing about attachment is that it’s fluid (you can attach differently in different relationships!), and can be healed. By seeking out caring, mutual relationships, asking for help when needed, leaning into intimacy while exploring independence, and doing the work to heal attachment trauma, you can move towards feeling more secure everyday.
If you or someone you know is seeking to work on attachment in relationships, please reach out or explore our list of therapists HERE.
Clara Hayes is a Counseling Intern with Enhancing Intimacy, providing quality therapy while working toward's her Master's in Counseling from St. Edward's University. She seeks to help her clients access fulfilling and nurturing relationships through every stage of life. Clara is sex positive, body positive, LGBTQ affirming, and works with both monogamous and non-monogamous relationships. She believes that by grounding oneself in their own identity and needs, individuals can better express and access those needs in relationship with others.
Clara integrates mindfulness practices in session to help her clients access a sense of safety in their bodies and feel a greater sense of ease in everyday life. Clara is studying Emotionally Focused Therapy and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. She is supervised by Jill Baumgarner, LPC.
If you'd like to schedule an appointment with Clara, call us at 512-994-2588 or schedule online below.
Fishtein, J., Pietromonaco, P. R., & Barrett, L. F. (1999). The contribution of attachment style and relationship conflict to the complexity of relationship knowledge. Social Cognition, 17(2), 228-244. doi:http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.stedwards.edu/10.1521/soco.19220.127.116.11
Fraley, R. (2009). Self-report measures of adult attachment in clinical practice. In Attachment theory and research in clinical work with adults.
Jang, S. A., Smith, S. W., & Levine, T. R. (2002). To stay or to leave? the role of attachment styles in communication patterns and potential termination of romantic relationships following discovery of deception. Communication Monographs, 69(3), 236-252. doi:http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.stedwards.edu/10.1080/03637750216543
Meyer, B., & Pilkonis, P. A. (2001). Attachment style. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training, 38(4), 466-472. doi:http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.stedwards.edu/10.1037/0033-318.104.22.1686
Reynolds, S., Searight, H. R., & Ratwik, S. (2014). Adult attachment style and rumination in the context of intimate relationships. North American Journal of Psychology, 16(3), 495-506. Retrieved from https://ezproxy.stedwards.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.stedwards.edu/docview/1642634197?accountid=7075