Within a relationship, seeking connection and allowing ourselves to be vulnerable actually builds intimacy and helps us feel more secure with our partner when it is met with compassion and unconditional love. However, some need a higher level of connection with their partner to feel secure. Those with an “Anxious-Preoccupied” attachment style can sometimes be viewed as “needy” or “clingy”. Attachment is a term used to describe how we relate to others. Our style of attachment develops very early on in our childhood and tends to remain constant throughout our lives, although our styles can sometimes change in response to the attachment style our chosen partner may have. People with an anxious-preoccupied attachment style tend to be highly sensitive to subtle changes in behavior and patterns within a relationship. These individuals seek high levels of connection and feel rejected if those needs are not met. A lot of time is spent attending to the needs of the relationship, where validation from their partner can become their highest priority. If these needs are not met, anxiety rises and feelings of doubt regarding the longevity of the relationship begin to set in.
About Anxious-Preoccupied Attachment Style
The anxious-preoccupied attachment style, also known as the "anxious" or "preoccupied" attachment style, is one of the four main attachment styles identified in attachment theory, which was developed by psychologist John Bowlby and further researched by Mary Ainsworth. This attachment style primarily pertains to how individuals form and maintain close relationships, particularly in the context of romantic relationships, but it can also influence other interpersonal interactions.
People with an anxious-preoccupied attachment style tend to have a heightened need for emotional closeness, intimacy, and reassurance from their partners. They often experience feelings of insecurity and fear of abandonment. Here are some key characteristics of the anxious-preoccupied attachment style:
Seeking Constant Reassurance: Individuals with this attachment style frequently seek validation and reassurance from their partners. They may need frequent verbal affirmations of love and may worry when they don't receive enough attention or affection.
Fear of Abandonment: Anxious-preoccupied individuals are often preoccupied with the fear of being abandoned or rejected. They may interpret minor incidents or changes in their partner's behavior as signs of impending abandonment.
Jealousy and Possessiveness: They can be prone to jealousy and possessiveness, fearing that their partner will be attracted to or drawn away by someone else.
Intense Emotions: Anxious-preoccupied individuals may experience intense and rapidly changing emotions in their relationships. They can be sensitive to any perceived signs of rejection or neglect.
Dependency on Relationships: They often rely heavily on their relationships to fulfill emotional needs and may struggle to be content or secure when they are not in a relationship.
Difficulty with Boundaries: Anxious-preoccupied individuals may have difficulty setting and maintaining healthy emotional boundaries in their relationships, sometimes becoming overly enmeshed with their partners.
Low Self-Esteem: They may struggle with low self-esteem, believing they are not lovable or worthy of love without constant validation from their partners.
Tendency to Overanalyze: They often overanalyze and obsess over relationship dynamics and communication, which can contribute to stress and anxiety.
Desire for Close Contact: Anxious-preoccupied individuals may desire close physical and emotional contact with their partners, often seeking physical closeness or frequent contact even during minor separations.
Reactivity: They tend to react strongly to relationship conflicts or perceived threats to the relationship, sometimes escalating minor issues into more significant problems.
It's important to note that attachment styles are not set in stone and can evolve over time with self-awareness and personal growth. Additionally, they can be influenced by early experiences and later relationships. Understanding one's attachment style can be a valuable step in improving relationship dynamics, communication, and overall well-being. Therapy and self-reflection can also be helpful in addressing and modifying attachment patterns to create healthier and more secure relationships.
How Anxious-Preoccupied Attachment Style Can Contribute to Abandonment Issues:
The anxious-preoccupied attachment style often leads to abandonment issues due to its underlying fears, insecurities, and patterns of behavior. Here's how this attachment style can contribute to abandonment issues:
Heightened Fear of Abandonment: Anxious-preoccupied individuals have an intense fear of being abandoned or rejected by their romantic partners. This fear is deeply ingrained and can be triggered by even minor changes or perceived signs of emotional distance in the relationship.
Over-Reactivity to Relationship Changes: Individuals with this attachment style tend to react strongly to any shifts in the relationship, such as a partner needing space, spending time with friends, or expressing differing opinions. They interpret these changes as signs of abandonment, which can lead to anxiety, insecurity, and emotional distress.
Constant Need for Reassurance: Anxious-preoccupied individuals often seek continuous reassurance and validation from their partners to alleviate their fear of abandonment. They may need frequent expressions of love and commitment to feel secure in the relationship.
Jealousy and Possessiveness: To mitigate their abandonment fears, they may become jealous or possessive, believing that their partner's interactions with others may lead to abandonment. This behavior can put strain on the relationship and, ironically, push partners away.
Difficulty with Independence: Anxious-preoccupied individuals may struggle with maintaining their independence and personal boundaries within the relationship. They may prioritize their partner's needs and desires over their own to ensure their partner won't leave.
Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: The anxious-preoccupied attachment style can create a self-fulfilling prophecy. Their constant need for reassurance and attention can lead their partners to feel overwhelmed or smothered, which, in turn, can cause partners to distance themselves, fulfilling the anxious individual's fear of abandonment.
Insecurity and Low Self-Esteem: Abandonment issues are often rooted in insecurity and low self-esteem. Anxious-preoccupied individuals may feel that they are not worthy of love or that they are fundamentally unlovable without constant validation from their partners.
Overanalyzing and Misinterpretation: Anxious-preoccupied individuals tend to overanalyze their partners' words and actions. They may misinterpret neutral or well-intentioned behavior as signs of abandonment, creating unnecessary distress and conflict.
Reliance on the Relationship for Self-Worth: They often rely heavily on their relationships to validate their self-worth. This dependence on external validation can make the threat of abandonment particularly devastating, as it feels like a rejection of their core identity and self-esteem.
These patterns of behavior and thought within the anxious-preoccupied attachment style can create a cycle where their fear of abandonment leads to behaviors that inadvertently push their partners away, thus increasing the risk of abandonment. It's important for individuals with this attachment style to recognize these patterns, work on their self-esteem, develop healthier coping mechanisms, and seek therapy or support to address and manage their abandonment issues. With self-awareness and effort, it is possible to create more secure and fulfilling relationships.
Long-Term Consequences of Abandonment and Neglect
Abandonment and neglect, especially when experienced during childhood, can have profound and lasting long-term consequences on an individual's physical, emotional, and psychological well-being. These consequences can persist throughout a person's life and often require therapeutic intervention to address. Here are some of the long-term consequences of abandonment and neglect:
Attachment Issues: Abandonment and neglect can disrupt the formation of secure attachments in childhood. This can lead to difficulties in forming healthy relationships in adulthood, including trust issues and fear of intimacy.
Emotional and Psychological Impact: Individuals who have experienced abandonment and neglect may struggle with low self-esteem, self-worth, and a negative self-image. They might also experience a range of mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and complex trauma.
Emotional Regulation: Neglected individuals may have difficulty regulating their emotions, leading to mood swings, anger outbursts, or emotional numbness. They may struggle with managing stress and coping with challenging situations.
Trust and Relationship Difficulties: Trust can be a significant issue for those who have experienced abandonment and neglect. They may find it challenging to trust others, including friends, family, and romantic partners, which can hinder the formation of healthy relationships.
Self-Reliance: Neglected individuals may become overly self-reliant and struggle to ask for help when needed. They might believe that they can only depend on themselves, leading to isolation and an aversion to seeking support.
Coping Mechanisms: People who have experienced abandonment and neglect may develop maladaptive coping mechanisms, such as substance abuse, self-harm, or unhealthy eating habits, to deal with their emotional pain.
Academic and Occupational Challenges: Neglect can impact cognitive and academic development, leading to difficulties in school and, ultimately, in finding and maintaining employment.
Physical Health Issues: Long-term neglect can contribute to chronic health problems, as neglected children may not receive proper nutrition, medical care, or safety precautions.
Complex Trauma: In severe cases, abandonment and neglect can lead to complex trauma, a type of trauma that results from multiple and prolonged traumatic experiences. This can be particularly challenging to address in therapy.
Interpersonal Conflicts: Individuals with a history of abandonment and neglect may experience difficulties in interpersonal relationships. They may inadvertently push people away or act out as a way to test others' commitment.
Impaired Parenting Skills: Adults who experienced neglect as children may struggle with parenting their own children, perpetuating the cycle of neglect across generations.
Impact on Identity and Self-Concept: Abandonment and neglect can profoundly influence an individual's sense of self, often leading to feelings of emptiness, self-doubt, and a lack of direction in life.
It's essential to recognize that while these long-term consequences can be quite challenging, recovery and healing are possible. Therapy, support from a trusted network, and self-awareness can be crucial in addressing the impact of abandonment and neglect and working toward a healthier and more fulfilling life.
Need Help Developing A Plan For Self-Care
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About The Author:
Dr. Nikki LeToya White MSEd-TL, Ph.D. RHN is the founder, director, and full-time board-certified trauma-informed nutritionist, folk herbalist, and wellness consultant at Spiced Life Conversation Art Wellness Studio and Botanica. She created Spiced Life Conversation, LLC
Art Wellness Studio and Botanica provide the Metro Atlanta area with counseling and coaching services where clients are carefully matched with the right program for healing abandonment and childhood emotional neglect trauma that cause codependency, emotional eating, financial stress, and imposter syndrome as it relates to fear of success and being abandon. We help you begin your emotional healing journey with ease. Recently, we have expanded to include an online membership site so we now provide support to people living all over the world. All of our recovery coaches provide at least one evidence-based treatment to assist in your recovery. Dr. White is a big proponent of self-care and helping people live a fulfilling life! She has been in full remission with both codependency and emotional binge eating disorder since 2016. In living a life in recovery from sugar addiction. Loving her low-sugar balance lifestyle.
Dr. Nikki LeToya White