What is fearful-avoidant attachment.

Fearful-avoidant attachment is a pattern of behavior in relationships that is marked by both high anxiety and high avoidance, wherein a person both craves connection but also fears getting too close to anyone. Also known as disorganized attachment, it’s the rarest of the four attachment styles.

The fearful-avoidant attachment style is considered to be a combination of the anxious attachment style and the avoidant attachment style. People with an anxious attachment style are constantly seeking more intimacy and reassurances in their relationships, often coming off as “needy” partners, whereas people with an avoidant attachment style tend to do the opposite and push others away out of a fear of intimacy

Fearful avoidant attachment

4 Types of attachment styles in relationship

1* Fearful avoidant.

Individuals with fearful avoidant attachment are a combination of the preoccupied and dismissive-avoidant styles of insecure attachment. They believe they are unlovable and also don’t trust other people to support and accept them. Because they think others will eventually reject them, they withdraw from relationships.

2* Secure attachment

People who have a secure attachment style believe they are worthy of love and that other people are trustworthy and responsive. As a result, they are comfortable with intimacy but are also secure enough to be on their own.

3* Dismissive-Avoidant

People with dismissive-avoidant attachment have a sense of their own self-worth but don’t trust other people. This makes them dismissive of the value of intimacy, leading them to avoid close relationships.

4* Preoccupied attachment

Those with preoccupied attachment believe they aren’t worthy of love but generally feel others are supportive and accepting. Consequently, these individuals seek validation and self-acceptance through their relationships with others.

READ ALSO: ANXIOUS PREOCCUPIED ATTACHMENT HEALING:(HOW TO BREAK THE CYCLE OF ANXIOUS ATTACHMENT

What are the signs of fearful avoidant attachment in adults?

Fearful avoidant attachment can continue into adulthood if not addressed. A lot of the same traits from childhood can carry over into adulthood such as having high anxiety and difficulty trusting others.

1* Unhelpful social behaviours

Someone with this attachment style may be passive or cold during interactions as a way to shield themselves from hurt and rejection.

Otherwise, it is common for people with this attachment style to hold grudges as they do not like to deal with confrontations or difficult conversations.

They can also be people pleasers, meaning that they go along with whatever other people want, or agreeing to things they may not agree with, to make life easier.

2* Emotional dysregulation

People with fearful avoidant attachment may have a lot of difficulty regulating their emotions in their adult relationships.

They may find they have more highly emotional relationships and respond poorly or inappropriately to negative emotions.

3* Avoid getting close to others

People with fearful avoidant attachment want to minimise the eventual disappointment that comes from having relationships with others.

By avoiding close involvement with others
this attachment style enables the person to protect themselves against anticipated rejection.

Someone with this attachment style may prioritize other things such as their career, rather than focusing on people, who they believe will disappoint them eventually.

4* Conflicting feelings about relationships

A fearful avoidant person may not be sure how to feel about their relationships with friends and romantic partners.

They often crave a relationship but are fearful of getting hurt. Once it becomes too intimate or emotional, they are likely to withdraw or end the relationship. In general, they tend to have feelings of general dissatisfaction in their relationships.

Signs of fearful avoidant attachment

Common behaviors of fearful-avoidant attachment.

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

1* 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.

2* Negative view of themselves

feeling undeserving of healthy relationships
Severe difficulty regulating emotions in relationships
Responding poorly or inappropriately to negative emotions

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.

3* 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

4* 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

What Causes Fearful Avoidant Attachment Style?

Fearful attachment is a subcategory of insecure attachment (along with anxious and avoidant). Most insecure attachment types develop during childhood, although it’s possible that your experiences as an adult can impact your attachment style, explains Maggie Holland, MA, MHP, LMHC. People with fearful-avoidant attachment were likely encouraged to be highly independent as a child—to the point of feeling like relationships aren’t needed or aren’t safe. Maybe parents or guardians were overly strict or dismissive of feelings and physical intimacy. Basically, because a child’s emotional and physical needs weren’t met, they learned they couldn’t depend on relationships.

While it may not always be clear why someone may develop a fearful avoidant attachment style, it is often because of the parenting by caregivers. Some of the ways in which parenting styles can cause a fearful avoidant attachment include the following

1* Abuse or trauma

Oftentimes, fearful avoidant attachment is common for those who have experienced abuse or trauma in their childhoods involving their caregiver.

In response to abuse, a child becomes stuck between deactivation since the caregiver cannot be a source of reassurance, and hyperactivation since the presence of the frightening caregiver constantly triggers attachment needs. The child desperately needs comfort but has learnt that their caregiver cannot give it to them.

READ ALSO: INTIMACY AVOIDANCE: (HOW TO COPE WITH SOMEONE WHO HAS INTIMACY AVOIDANCE

2* Threatening language

Toxic language from a caregiver such as making threats can result in a child not feeling secure in their relationship.

This can include using threats of punishment and threats of physical violence to incite fear in the child. When a child feels fearful of their caregivers, they also learn they cannot rely on having healthy and supportive communication with them.

How To Know If You Have A Fearful Avoidant Attachment Style

If you have a fearful-avoidant attachment style, certain situations may ring true. “A true yearning for closeness, yet a real fear of it and avoidance of closeness at the same time is a hallmark of fearful-avoidant attachment style,” says Dr. Levine. You may also be extra sensitive to potential rejection. And this is why fearful avoidants tend to go out with people they’re less attracted to — it feels “less threatening” to them, Dr. Levine explains, and then they don’t understand why they can’t make the relationship work.

Types of attachment styles

1* Set and Communicate Boundaries in Relationships

If you fear that sharing too much about yourself in a relationship too quickly will lead you to withdraw, slow things down. Communicate to your partner that you are most comfortable taking your time opening up and that you will be doing so gradually.

You can also communicate what makes you anxious and what will help you feel more secure, enabling you to feel safer in the relationship

2* Understand your instincts

You and your family member, friend, or partner are quite different. You react in different ways to one another. It takes a great deal of self-awareness to recognize your tendencies and actively work to correct them.

If you tend to shut down when emotional conversations begin, a partner can actively push you to be open. If your partner becomes emotionally charged, you can employ ways to promote calmness.

3* Be Kind to Yourself

People with fearful-avoidant attachment think negatively about themselves and can often be self-critical.

It can help you to learn to talk to yourself like you would a friend. This enables you to be more compassionate and understanding of yourself while shutting down self-criticism

4* Be reassuring

If your partner or loved one has this attachment style, they ultimately fear you’ll leave them or that they’ll want to leave. Be comforting and supportive. Seeing you’re sticking with them through this time of understanding and change can go a long way to building confidence.

5* Seek Out Therapy

It can be helpful to discuss your challenges with fearful-avoidant attachment with a counselor or therapist.

Research has shown, however, that fearful-avoidant attachment may impede treatment because people with this attachment style are prone to avoiding intimacy even with a therapist.

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