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Fearful-Avoidant Attachment Style: What is It and What Does It Look Like in a Relationship?


fearful avoidant attachment style

Humans have developed into very complex creatures. One of those complexities has to do with try to form close relationships. Attachment theory states that the way humans connect with other people can be connected to early experiences with caregivers. Having a Fearful Avoidant Attachment Style can be confusing for the person who has developed the style, and their partner.

This means that the way you form everything from close friendships to intimate relationships with romantic partners can be attributed to early experiences.

Most adults have a secure, anxious-preoccupied, dismissive-avoidant, or fearful-avoidant attachment style. Knowing your attachment style can help you better understand your relationships. Both platonic and romantic relationships can benefit.

Here are some signs to may indicate a fearful-avoidant attachment style.

What is a Fearful-Avoidant Attachment Style?

Fearful-avoidant attachments have both an avoidant attachment style and an anxious attachment style.

Those with fearful-avoidant attachments want love from others. They may even crave that affection. But, at the same time, they are reluctant to have close or intimate relationships.

This is a unique combination of anxiously craving affection and avoiding it at any cost. It’s is much rarer than any of the other three attachment styles. But there are tale-tell signs and behaviors of this attachment style.

10 Behaviors That Point to a Fearful-Avoidant Attachment Style

Though rare, a fearful-avoidant attachment style has unique behaviors that set this style of attachment apart. Here are ten behaviors that clinically mark a fearful-avoidant attachment.

1. Difficulty Regulating Emotions

Common of disorganized attachment styles, those with fearful-avoidant attachments have a hard time regulating their emotions. This means you may have a hard time calming down from anger or may feel intense feelings of rejection.

This can cause some interpersonal disruptive behaviors. You can also be at risk for borderline personality disorder and eating disorders.

2. Negative Views

Negative views of themselves are common for those with fearful-avoidant attachment. These negative views cause people to believe that they are unworthy or undeserving of love and affection. This is often caused by a fear of rejection or being hurt by others.

3. Perceived Negativity

Those with fearful-avoidant attachments may also perceive the actions of their partners negatively.

They may see the support from their partners in a negative light. This a signature of an insecure attachment style.

4. Poor Response to Negative Emotions

Seeing yourself and your partner in a negative light is enough not to have secure attachments. Combined with difficulty regulating emotions, poor responses to these negative emotions are common.

In relationships, they may translate into explosive fights or feelings of withdrawal.

5. Less Commitment and Satisfaction

Many with this attachment have a fear of abandonment. This leads to less commitment and less satisfaction than in secure relationships. A fearful-avoidant attachment may be in and out of relationships. They may also continuously seek sexual satisfaction.

6. Higher Likelihood of Violence

The inability to regulate emotions and intense feelings of negativity may also lead to violence in a relationship. Violence is also a way to keep relationships from getting too close or intimate.

7. Higher Number of Sexual Partners

Because many people do not feel satisfied or committed to their relationships, they may seek intimacy elsewhere. A fear of commitment but a desire for affection may also lead people to seek intimate partners with no commitment.

8. Elevated Anxiety

Higher levels of anxiety are common in those with fearful-avoidant attachment. They fear getting hurt or abandoned by sexual partners because of childhood trauma. Elevated anxiety may be one of the negative emotions that are not regulated.

9. More Sexual Compliance

Because they desire affection, those with a fearful-avoidant attachment may also be more willing to say yes in sexual situations. This may mean certain sexual acts or saying yes to sex when they don’t desire it.

10. Fearful of Intimacy

Fearful-avoidant attachment styles may also be fearful of intimacy or intimate relationships. They may fear getting hurt, rejected, or abandoned by other people. This causes them to avoid getting too close to a partner emotionally.

How Does a Fearful-Avoidant Attachment Develop?

Many studies on fearful-avoidant attachment styles suggest that trauma is a key contributor. Traumatic experiences with a caregiver in childhood may lead to deactivation and hyperactivation.

In other words, the child cannot see an attachment figure or caregiver as a source of reassurance. But the attachment figure also triggers the needs for affection in the child.

This child desperately needs comfort but can’t trust the person who is supposed to give it to them. Later in life, this can create someone who wants intimacy but, at the same time, someone who fears it.

Working models show that fearful-avoidant attachments have a link to borderline personality disorders. There may be dissociative symptoms as well.

Fearful-Avoidant Attachment Styles in Relationships

People with fearful-avoidant attachments often don’t feel comfortable in relationships. They may seek casual sexual experiences to fulfill the need for affection or keep away thoughts that may induce depression.

Casual relationships allow them to keep partners at a distance because they may not be able to get the reassurance they need.

A fearful-avoidant style may make someone seek sexual activities to increase closeness. But the anxious tendencies may also cause the person to break up with the partner then search for a new one.

This behavior may look like someone is sexually out-of-control. But it’s important not to confuse this with someone simply having a lot of sex.

Having sex because you’re craving affection, fear connection, but all the while not having a desire for sex that creates a problem. Fearful-avoidant behaviors may also become an issue if you’re breaking connections when there’s a desire to get closer.

Know Your Attachment Style For More Secure Relationships

Knowing your early attachment style can help you understand how you form adult relationships. This knowledge can help make both your platonic friendships and romantic relationships stronger.

One attachment style isn’t better than the others. You can have a secure attachment style, anxious-preoccupied attachment style, dismissive-avoidant attachment style, or fearful-avoidant attachment style. Knowing about adult attachment styles can help you build stronger friendships and relationships.

Curious what your attachment style is? Take this attachment style quiz to learn how you bond with others in your relationships.

Modern Intimacy is a group therapy practice, founded by renowned Psychologist and Sex Therapist, Dr. Kate Balestrieri. This inclusive blog is designed to provide a wealth of information and resources for mental health, relationships, and sexuality. Subscribe today to get the latest information from our expert contributors from all around the world.


Author Bio

Dr. Kate Balestrieri is a Licensed Psychologist (CA, FL, IL + NY), Certified Sex Therapist, Certified Sex Addiction Therapist, and PACT III trained Couples Therapist. She is the Founder of Modern Intimacy. Follow her on TikTok and IG @drkatebalestrieri and the Modern Intimacy team on IG @themodernintimacy.



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