What you need to know about attachment theory

In a time where most of us are at home, there’s space to consume more content about the world and current events. If you’ve been reading more about psychology, personal development, or simply scrolled down your newsfeed, you may have come across content discussing the concept of attachment theory. 

What is attachment theory?

There’s always been some curiosity to learn more about ourselves and how we relate to others. According to this Simply Psychology article, “Attachment theory explains how the parent-child relationship emerges and influences subsequent development.” The attachment theory focuses on exploring how the relationship between a child and their primary caregiver, sets the tone for future romantic and platonic relationships ahead. 

Okay, but how does attachment theory affect me?

The attachment theory was pioneered by British psychologist John Bowlby. Simply Psychology explains that Bowlby’s evolutionary theory of attachment suggests that children come into the world biologically pre-programmed to form attachments with others because this will help them to survive.Thus, our childhood plays a major part in how we relate to others. Attachment theory gives insight through distinct attachment types. Each style has its own behavioral patterns and while your personality may not be as clear cut, it’s helpful to know how to describe and determine your own behavior. As this 2016 article by The Cut explains, “A boom in attachment research now links adult attachment insecurity with a host of problems, from sleep disturbances, depression, and anxiety.” 

If you’re interested,take taking the attachment theory test to find out more about how this can impact your own personal development. The test isn’t a substitute for seeing a licensed professional but can point you in the right direction to start doing the work to improve your relationships. 

So, what are the attachment styles?

There are four main attachment styles and they differ slightly depending on what test you take. It must be said that it is highly likely that you’ll fit into more than one type and be able to recognize traits you display from each category. 

  • Secure 
  • Anxious 
  • Dismissive-Avoidant 
  • Fearful-Avoidant 

Secure Attachment Style

Most people who take the attachment style test, fall into the secure attachment category. So, what does this mean? You’re able to form relationships relatively easily and make healthy affirming connections. This is the attachment style we all want to eventually fall into and while it takes some work, it’s definitely possible. According to Very Well Mind, adults with a secure attachment style tend to have long-lasting relationships that come in part from having a healthy self-esteem. Secure attachment styles are able to communicate their feelings openly and feel, you guessed it: secure. 

Anxious Attachment Style

The definition explains it all, this attachment style manifests anxiety around relationships and a high level of insecurity. Anxious attachment often manifests as “clingy” behavior and needing reassurance from partners or loved ones. This Psych Alive article further explains, “As adults, they tend to be self-critical and insecure. They seek approval and reassurance from others, yet this never relieves their self-doubt. In their relationships, deep-seated feelings that they are going to be rejected make them worried and not trusting.” Does this sound familiar? This behavior is exhausting – and can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. You’re anxious that your partner will leave, their reassurances don’t work, and the cycle cannot be broken. It can end up in partnerships ending because of insecurity and a lack of space. 

Dismissive-Avoidant Attachment Style

And then you get the other end of the spectrum – dismissive-avoidant. This attachment style is focused on being independent, “not needing others” and essentially pushing away potential partners in romantic relationships. As Psych Alive mentions, ”Dismissively attached adults will often seek out relationships and enjoy spending time with their partner, but they may become uncomfortable when relationships get too close.” The truth is, we all need someone and some help in our lives. Dismissive attachment types might resort to independence as they’ve been let down or rejected before and don’t know how to rely on anyone or let people in. 

Fearful-Avoidant Attachment Style

The last attachment style can be an unpredictable one. Fearful avoidant types are prone to mood changes and can act defensively resulting in dramatic relationships. Sounds chaotic? That’s because it is. It’s a push/pull dynamic that can stem from enduring trauma as a child or as an adult that results in wanting intimate connections but also being afraid of what happens when someone gets too close. Psychology Today says, “As adults, they will simultaneously desire closeness and intimacy, and approach potential attachment figures (close friends or romantic partners), but then become extremely uncomfortable when they get too close to those partners and withdraw from just that.” 

While attachment styles might offer insight into your own behavior or that of your partners – it can also be the stepping stone to finding more concrete assistance to better your romantic relationships along with being a healthy parent or loved one. 

This article originally appeared on All the Pretty Birds

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