The Anxious Attachment Style: Seeking Security and Connection

The Anxious Attachment style is characterized by a deep desire for closeness and a fear of abandonment. Individuals with an Anxious attachment often seek reassurance and validation from their partners to feel secure. However, during moments of conflict or perceived distance, they may become overly concerned and clingy, which can create tension in the relationship.

For those with an Anxious attachment (AA), emotional turmoil is not uncommon. They are highly sensitive to their partner's moods and behaviors, interpreting even minor changes as potential threats to the relationship. This hyper-vigilance stems from past experiences where significant emotional needs were not met consistently. Thus, the AA partner will have their limbic system tell them something negative about their partners desire for them. Partners of individuals with an Anxious attachment may feel overwhelmed by the intensity and frequency of their need for reassurance. They might perceive their Anxious partner's behavior as smothering or interpret their persistent need for closeness as a lack of trust.

Example of  Conversation with Anxious Behavior and a Partner Response:

Anxious Partner: "You've been so distant lately. Are we okay? Do you still love me?"

Partner: "Of course, I do. Why do you keep asking that?"

Anxious Partner: "I just need to hear it. I can't shake the feeling that you're going to leave me."

In this example, the Anxious partner's need for reassurance is met with confusion from their partner, who may not understand the depth of their fear. The Anxious partner's actions are driven by a desire to maintain connection and avoid abandonment.

The Antidote to Help Your Anxious Partner Regulate

To help an Anxious partner regulate their emotions, it's essential to provide consistent and clear communication. Reassurance should be given with patience and empathy, acknowledging their feelings without enabling dependency. And there is the Balance, to acknowledge the AA feelings without enabling dependency that only serves to reinforce the anxious behavior. 

Partner: "I understand you're feeling anxious about our relationship. I'm committed to us and to working through these feelings together. Let's talk about what's on your mind."

This response validates the Anxious partner's concerns and offers support without dismissing their feelings. It's a balancing act of providing reassurance while encouraging a healthier, more secure attachment dynamic.

Healing the Anxious Attachment

Healing for those with an Anxious attachment involves building self-esteem and learning to self-soothe. For many, this work can be done well with EMDR and Cognitive interventions. It requires recognizing that their worth is not solely dependent on their partner's attention and affection. For Anxious individuals, it's also about learning to trust in the stability of the relationship and to communicate their needs in a way that fosters mutual understanding and respect.

The journey towards a more secure attachment for someone with an Anxious attachment style is one of self-discovery, trust-building, and open communication. By addressing core fears and learning to manage ones emotional responses, individuals with an Anxious attachment can cultivate more balanced and fulfilling relationships.

How Core Anxious Attachment Wounds Develop in Childhood

Anxious attachment wounds often originate from inconsistent caregiving during childhood. A caregiver might have been emotionally available at times but then distant or preoccupied at others. This unpredictability leaves the child unsure of when they will receive attention and affection, leading to anxiety and hyper-vigilance around attachment figures.


A parent who fluctuates between being warm and affectionate to being absorbed in their own issues, causing the child to become anxious about when the next 'dose' of love will come. Alternatively, a caregiver who responds enthusiastically to a child's needs one day but is neglectful or dismissive the next, reinforcing the child's belief that they must constantly seek attention to ensure it's given.

How Core Wounds Can Develop with a Significant Partner Relationship

In adult relationships, someone may experience an abandonment. Alternatively, one with AA may find familiarity with certain individuals and end up choosing partners who are emotionally unavailable or inconsistent with their affection. This can trigger the Anxious individual's fear of abandonment and need for reassurance.

Clinginess and Potential Negative Impact on Relationship Dynamics

These core wounds can manifest in behaviors such as clinginess, where the Anxious individual might excessively seek contact, affirmation, or reassurance from their partner. They may also interpret a partner's need for space as rejection, leading to a cycle of anxiety and pursuit that can push the partner away.


An Anxious partner sending multiple texts or calls when their partner is unresponsive, fearing the worst-case scenario.

Overanalyzing a partner's words and actions for signs of waning interest or affection, often leading to misunderstandings and conflicts.

The Need for Therapeutic Interventions

The dynamic created by clinginess and the need for reassurance can strain the relationship and may require interventions from a therapist. Therapy can help the Anxious individual understand their attachment style, develop healthier communication patterns, and learn to self-soothe.

Therapeutic Strategies:

There are many therapeutic strategies but I find a couple approaches to be particularly beneficial. 

EMDR to process past times of abandonment and desensitize the fear of abandoment and to install adaptive cognitions that then lead to a more secure self and thus adaptive behavior in the present.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) to challenge and reframe the negative thought patterns that fuel anxiety and dependency.

Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) to build a more secure attachment within the relationship by fostering emotional responsiveness and deeper connection.

Mindfulness practices to help the Anxious individual stay grounded in the present moment and reduce the tendency to spiral into worry about the relationship.