Attachment Anxiety: Signs, Symptoms, and What to Do in Relationships

We detail the key attachment anxiety signs to look out for, and the best tips for maintaining healthy relationships with attachment anxiety

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Attachment styles may form in childhood, but they have serious impacts on how we connect with others all the way into adulthood.

Attachment anxiety is a form of insecure attachment that causes worries and uncertainty around relationships.

Though you can't change your attachment style, having a better understanding of it can help you pursue healthier relationships going forward.

Not sure if you have attachment anxiety? We'll explain where attachment anxiety comes from, how it manifests in adult relationships, and how to best cope with it.

What is Attachment Anxiety?

Let's start with the basics - what is an attachment style, and what makes one have "attachment anxiety"?

Some psychologists, like John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth, have theorized that our initial relationships with our primary caregivers as babies set the blueprint for our future relationships.

Different kinds of relationships or "attachments" with primary caregivers correspond to different "attachment styles" that persist into adulthood.

These attachment styles have been classified into 4 main categories: secure attachment, anxious attachment, avoidant attachment, and fearful-avoidant attachment.

Attachment anxiety - sometimes referred to as "preoccupied attachment" - occurs when caregivers offer inconsistent affection to the child.

At times, they may have been extremely attentive and loving, and at other times, ignorant to the child's needs.

This "hot and cold" pattern leaves the child uncertain and worried about where they stand with the caregiver.

Signs of Attachment Anxiety in Adults

So, how do you know if you have attachment anxiety?

Attachment anxiety manifests in adult relationships in a few key ways. Here are some common signs you may have attachment anxiety:

1. Low Self Esteem

Inconsistent affection from caregivers can cause people with anxious attachment to feel generally unworthy as adults.

You may expect people to treat you poorly or worry that you aren't "good enough" for a healthy relationship.

2. "Clinginess"

Because their caregivers were so "hot and cold" with them as children, people with attachment anxiety may expect adult relationship partners to similarly pull away. As a result, they feel the need to cling on tightly to keep someone around.

You may need a lot of reassurance, attention, and constant contact from your partners to feel good about the relationship.

3. Intense Desire for Close Relationships

People with attachment anxiety often strongly crave intense, close relationship bonds because their caregivers didn't give them the full affection and support they needed as children.

You may feel like you can't get close enough to your relationship partners or that no one seems to match your craving for intense intimacy and closeness. You may also be commonly drawn to those with avoidant attachment.

4. Fears of Abandonment

Those with anxious attachment often experience constant fears of abandonment. Because their caregivers switched on them without warning, they may expect adult relationships to end similarly.

You may constantly suspect your partners are going to leave you - even during good times of the relationship.

5. Difficulty Trusting Others

Because people with anxious attachment couldn't always guarantee that their caregivers would show up for them in childhood, it can be hard for people with attachment anxiety to feel comfortable depending on others in adulthood.

You may feel suspicious of people you are close to, or find it difficult to stop looking for something wrong.

Dealing with Attachment Anxiety in Relationships

The symptoms of attachment anxiety can make adult relationships particularly difficult and turbulent.

However, this doesn't mean healthy relationships are impossible for those with attachment anxiety. Here's how to get there:

Communicate With Your Partner

Understanding your attachment anxiety and reflecting on how it manifests in your personal relationships is a great first step. It's also important to communicate openly with your partner - and ask that they do the same.

A study from Germany suggests that open communication and gratitude from relationship partners can lessen attachment anxiety. Make sure your partner understands your love language so that they communicate their gratitude and affection just the way you need to receive it!

Engage in Self-Love

One of the primary symptoms of attachment anxiety is low self-esteem. Taking time to nourish your relationship with yourself and feeling confident standing on your own can help calm worries about relationships with others.

Writing in a daily journal can boost your mood, increase your confidence, and help you get to know yourself better.

For the best results, check out a journaling app like Jour - our personalized journal prompts can help you dig deeper into struggles with relationships, anxiety, and more. And the best part? You can journal anytime, anywhere right from your phone!

Learn more about the health benefits of journaling ->

The Love You Deserve

Attachment styles describe the way our relationships with our primary caregivers impact the way we form relationships with others as adults.

Attachment anxiety occurs when children get inconsistent patterns of affection from their caregivers. As an adult, you may be have low self-esteem, crave close relationships, fear abandonment, and have difficulty trusting others.

If you experience attachment anxiety, be sure to communicate openly with your partner and nourish your relationship with yourself to maintain healthy relationships.

And if you ever need some extra support or self-care? Jour is always here to lend a lend a listening ear!