One of the Best Ways to Know Your Attachment Style
With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, it’s an ideal time to explore the latest buzz in psychology and romantic relationships: attachment styles.
The concept of attachment styles is spreading like wildfire among many, including young singles. The hashtag #attachmentstyle currently has more than 250 million views of content on TikTok, and a simple search on Amazon for “attachment theory” or “attachment styles” brings up thousands of book titles!
The hope is that if you can understand your attachment style, you have the key to unlock a path to forming a loving, lasting, partnership.
Who doesn’t want that?
Let’s explore attachment theory.
Attachment Theory and Styles
Based on psychology’s widely accepted attachment theory, which was first introduced in the 1960s by researcher and psychoanalyst John Bowlby and later expanded by developmental psychologist Mary Ainsworth, attachment styles characterize the way adults tend to form bonds in intimate relationships based on patterns established in early childhood with their primary caregiver(s).
In Ainsworth’s research involving the bonding between infants/toddlers and their caregivers, she observed different types of attachment: secure, ambivalent, and avoidant. Later research added a third style: disorganized (fearful-avoidant). The latter three are all forms of insecure attachment.
Attachment Styles in Adults
In 1987, researchers hypothesized that infants/children with secure and insecure attachment patterns would grow into adults exhibiting the same attachment styles in adult love relationships and largely found this to be accurate in a landmark study. While other factors come into play, such as genetics, attachment theory holds that the primary bond formed in infancy makes a profound and lasting imprint on adult relationships.
If you struggle to form loving, stable, secure relationships as an adult (estimated to be about 40% of adults), it’s possible that you have an insecure attachment style. Insecure attachments can cause tremendous pain and heartache, and they’ve even been found to activate both stress and immune responses in the body.
But here’s the good news: Secure attachment can be learned.
Discovering Your Attachment Style
If you suspect you might have an insecure attachment style, identifying your type can be profoundly useful (and necessary) in forming healthy, stable, loving, and secure relationships.
Here’s a closer look at the three insecure attachment styles:
Anxious types crave closeness and emotional intimacy, yet they have a strong fear of abandonment. They’re other-focused, often seeking approval, assurance, support, and responsiveness from their partner. If they don’t get it, they become anxious and needy, and sometimes desperate for love.
They can suffer from low self-esteem and are overly sensitive to a partner’s actions and moods, taking things personally. They value their relationships highly but worry or feel that their partner isn’t equally invested.
Those with an avoidant attachment style tend to be lone wolves. Closeness and physical touch may make them uncomfortable and they try to avoid emotional connection with others. Emotional intimacy is associated with losing independence and being suffocated. They shut down and push it away.
They will accuse their partner of being too clingy. They refuse emotional help from others and don’t like relying on other people or other people relying on them. They value freedom more than partnership.
Sometimes called “disorganized attachment,” fearful types tend to show unstable behaviors and can give mixed messages in a relationship. They want intimacy and closeness but may have trouble trusting and depending on others.
Their relationships can be a source of both desire and fear. They avoid strong emotional connection out of fear of being hurt. Also, they may not regulate their emotions very well.
Note: It’s possible to exhibit different attachment styles in different relationships, so you may identify with more than one of these types.
What Does Secure Attachment Look Like?
Adults exhibiting a healthy, secure attachment style are self-confident, authentic, trusting, and hopeful. They can navigate conflict constructively, enjoy intimacy and affection, and seek out social support when needed.
They can openly share feelings with their partners and are consistent and reliable. They aren’t threatened by their partner’s independence. They can sustain long-term relationships, while preserving autonomy.
How to Establish Healthy Relationships
Many mental health experts believe that those with insecure attachment issues can learn how to securely bond with others, but it does require a concerted effort.
To start, you may want to make a relationship inventory. Take note of common themes in your previous relationships.
Next, find a qualified therapist who can help you accurately identify your own attachment patterns and address deep-seeded issues of low self-worth, fear of intimacy, distrust, and jealousy – which fuel the three insecure attachment styles. The relationship bond you form with your therapist will model a secure attachment that you can duplicate in other relationships.
With professional guidance, you can determine the new behaviors you need to practice to form a secure attachment with another person. For example, an anxious type may need to refrain from jumping into a relationship too quickly, instead trusting and taking time to keep the focus on themselves and their own well-being, and maintaining calm while they get to know a new person.
Safe and Secure
We all deserve to feel safe, secure, and loved in a relationship. This may be the time to transform your insecure attachment style into a secure one.
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