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Preoccupied Attachment Style: The Causes, Traits, and Signs

by | Feb 2, 2021 | RELATIONSHIPS, TRAUMA

A woman with a preoccupied attachment style is brimming with jealousy.

It may come as no surprise that your childhood can have a direct effect on your adult life. The relationship you have with your parents often correlates with your friendships and romantic relationships.

One effect your parents may have had is on your attachment style. The way a parent interacts with an infant or young child will influence their future relationships.

Attachment theory has dictated four main attachment patterns. They are secure attachment style, fearful-avoidant attachment style, dismissive-avoidant attachment style, and anxious-preoccupied attachment style.

Knowing your style of attachment will help you form better adult relationships. Here are the causes, traits, and signs of an anxious-preoccupied attachment style.

What Causes an Anxious Attachment Style?

Though there are many studies, psychologists can’t say for sure what causes any attachment style. But most research has pointed to parenting styles playing a major role. Many people’s personalities take shape in early childhood.

This is true for attachment styles as well. The way a parent interacts with an infant or young child may contribute to the child’s future personality.

In the case of an anxious-preoccupied attachment style, researchers believe that inconsistent parenting may be a factor. Inconsistent parenting behaviors include being nurturing at times but emotionally unavailable at others.

This can mean not picking up the baby with an infant when it’s showing signs of distress. An infant may develop an ambivalent attachment with an unreliable primary caregiver.

It may also mean showing interest in a young child at one moment and insensitive or critical at another.

As the child develops, they become confused. They aren’t sure what behavior from their parent to expect. In turn, the child becomes insecure and develops an anxious attachment to the parent or caregiver.

What Are the Signs of Anxious-Preoccupied Attachment?

Children and adults can show signs of an anxious-preoccupied attachment style. Children often exhibit this towards their caregiving, becoming clingy or whiny. Adults, however, tend to exhibit the signs in a relationship or friendship.

Adults with an anxious-preoccupied attachment style may have difficulty trusting others. They may worry about being rejected, making trust a lot to ask.

Other signs may include abandonment issues, craving closeness and intimacy, and being dependent in relationships. Those with anxious-preoccupied attachments may need frequent reassurance from the people they care about.

These adults may also be sensitive to moods and actions. They may also be highly emotional, lack impulse control, be unpredictable, and moody.

Disorganized attachments may desire to be emotionally close but feel uncomfortable with said closeness.

Anxious-preoccupied attachments may also be comorbid with increased risk for anxiety disorders. Social phobia, generalized anxiety disorder, and panic attacks are among the most common comorbidities.

Anxious-Preoccupied Attachment Style in Relationships

If you have an anxious-preoccupied adult attachment style, relationships and dating may be difficult. You may have a hard time feeling secure in your relationships. This can include your family, friends, and intimate partners.

Anxious-preoccupied attachments may find relationships to be more stressful or emotional. On the extreme side, your relationships may be negative or unstable. This is due to feeling insecure and fearing abandonment.

Those with this attachment style may become possessive over their partner and have higher levels of jealousy. They may be overly dependant or clinging towards their partner.

This attachment style tends to act on their needs rather than communicating. Meaning a large show of emotion like a panic attack or acting out that requires soothing from their partner. This may start a vicious cycle with the partner ending up frustrated.

Because of insecurities within this attachment style, there are many triggers for negative emotions. Unresponsiveness is one of the most common. Not responding to text or calls can create increased levels of worry.

They may feel like something they’ve done has pushed their partner away. This leads to the second trigger: perceived threat or loss of the relationship. The fear of abandonment may cause internal catastrophizing of a small issue.

Finally, unpredictable behavior, physical or mental distance, and a more independent partner may all be triggers for anxious-preoccupied attachment styles. The need for constant validation and consistency in relationships make these changes difficult.

How to Help an Anxious Attached Partner

An anxious-preoccupied attachment is not the end of the world. Though relationships may be difficult, they are not impossible for people with these attachments. If your partner has an anxious-preoccupied attachment, there are ways you can help.

As a partner, the best action you can take is to make your anxious attached partner feel secure in your intimate relationship. They will probably need ongoing assurance about the way you feel about them.

You should be consistent in the attention you give them. Communicate times when you will be unavailable to avoid triggering feelings of abandonment.

It’s also essential to follow through on any commitments and promises. Breaking these can fuel their lack of trust.

One of the most helpful things you can do is encourage them to be self-aware without feeling like you’re calling them up. Help them to overcome their anxiety through self-reflection.

Tips for Anxious Attachment Adults

You may not be able to change your attachment style, but you can work to be more secure. One of the best ways to combat your anxious attachment is with communication.

Those with insecure attachment styles may find this particularly challenging. So working with a therapist or a relationship counselor through these mental health issues can help.

Knowing Your Attachment Style for a Better You

As an adult, you can’t go back and change the past of your childhood. But you can inform yourself on how your childhood experiences affect your adult life. One of the best ways is by knowing how you behave in interpersonal relationships.

Learning about your type of attachment can help you have a better understanding of yourself. You can’t control whether you have secure attachment or a preoccupied attachment style. But you can understand what it means for your relationships.

A healthy relationship starts with understanding yourself. Not sure which attachment style you have? Take this attachment style quiz to find out.

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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