Fearful Avoidant Attachment Style

by | May 12, 2023 | Advices

What is Fearful Avoidant Attachment Style?

The way we connect with other people— our attachment styles —are generally developed as infants, and further refined as children, adolescents, and adults.

Fearful avoidant attachment is an insecure attachment style where a person wants to trust others but is afraid to do so. Individuals with a fearful avoidant attachment style may fear closeness and appear to seek independence. At the same time, however, they rely heavily on the support of others. Psychologists may also refer to this style as a disorganized attachment style.

What Causes Fearful Avoidant Attachment?

Fearful-avoidant attachment style is often seen in children that have experienced trauma or abuse. It is rooted in a childhood in which at least one parent or caregiver exhibits frightening behaviour. The frightening behavior exhibited by a parent or caregiver can range from overt abuse to more subtle signs of anxiety or uncertainty, but the result is the same. When a child approaches a parent for comfort, the parent is unable to provide it.

During this formative period, a child’s caregiver may have behaved chaotically or bizarrely. In some cases, the parent could even behave aggressively, causing the child to see them as “scary”. Since the caregiver’s behavior is too unpredictable, the child ends up confused and conflicted about how they should act; their experience is that of fear without a solution.

The fearful avoidant attachment style occurs in about 7% of the population and typically develops in the first 18 months of life.

What are the Signs of a Fearful Avoidant Attachment Style?

Childhood: A slightly older child with a fearful avoidant attachment might find it hard to self-soothe. Further, these children may struggle with opening up to other people. Since they do not feel safe and secure in the world, they may be always looking out for the next negative event.

Fearful avoidant children sometimes have no sense of personal boundaries. For example, they might discuss intimate and inappropriate details with people unfamiliar to them. In addition, they may also only be able to maintain short and superficial interactions with others.

Moreover, they tend to show no bias between people familiar to them and strangers. They may lack a sense of guilt, show erratic behavior and difficulty in concentrating. These children also often have a hard time keeping long-term friends or deep relationships.

Sometimes, children with a fearful-avoidant attachment style require professional help. Otherwise, they could be at risk of carrying these behaviors into adulthood and their relationships.

Fearful Avoidant Attachment in Adults

Adults: According to attachment theory, a person’s early relationships in life can affect their romantic relationships later on in life. Fearful avoidant style is typically called dizorganised style in adulthood.

Adults with the fearful avoidant attachment may show signs like conflicting feelings about relationships (both wanting a romantic relationship and being fearful of being hurt or left by a significant other). Further, they may also demonstrate a tendency to seek out faults in partners or friends so they can have an excuse to leave a relationship.

Moreover,  they tend to attach in a disorganized way. Oscillate from two biological drives whenever the opportunity to attach comes about: the need to belong (to love and connect with others) and the need to survive (to protect oneself).

People with this style of attachment often feel fear and anxiety when forming intimate relationships. Suffering from a negative self-image and extremely damaging self-talk. They often feel intense loneliness because of the need for genuine connection. Although, the stress and fear response, linked to that want, causes them to act erratically, driving away potential connection.

Disorganized Attachment Style

It has also been suggested that people with Borderline Personality Disorder evidence a disorganized attachment style. They have an extreme need for closeness, fear of rejection, and contradictory mental states and behaviors.

The pain of those with a disorganized style of attachment is this: They want to love. They want, as any human, to be understood, to feel safe, to feel connected to another person. But, the process is extremely jarring, and developing feelings for another person can be marred with more negative emotion than positive. Including anxiety, confusion, self-hatred, and doubt.

More on Fearful-Avoidant Attachments

These individuals experience a delicate mixture. Fearing both being too close to or too distant from their lovers. People with a fearful-avoidant attachment style may think that connections are not important.

These people can be unpredictable and are often overwhelmed by their emotions. They fear being abandoned and struggle with being confident in their partner or relying on them. They face a lot of inner conflict between wanting intimacy and resisting it.

As a result, they usually experience many highs and lows in relationships. They cling to their partners when they feel rejected and, if not careful, can end up in abusive relationships. In addition, having few close relationships.

How can you overcome fearful avoidant attachment?

There is hope and one should consider looking into therapy.

If your fearful avoidance really is tied to experiencing trauma in childhood, therapy must play an important role in healing from this attachment wound. Therapy focused on dealing with this style would support the person to build and maintain healthy adult relationship.

As in any area of life, as adults, the responsibility to change falls within: What it takes to unlearn bad habits in attachment is time, skills, and reassurance, support, and ongoing safe, positive and trusting relationships, which truly help heal trauma. Despite understanding this intellectually, it also takes time for emotions and actions to catch up.

Overcoming a Fearful-Avoidant Attachment Style

This is where therapy can help. Through therapy, a safe and trusting environment and relationship are made, where skills like identifying, verbalizing and communicating thoughts and feelings can be learned. Therapy can also help someone with disorganized attachment test the waters in future relationships by learning how to feel safe while communicating, including sharing how one feels, instead of making premature assumptions leading to acting out the unhealthy attachment style.

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