Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo
Wellness > Mental Health

Here’s How You Can Start Coping With Your Anxious Attachment Style

Our relationships with others have the ability to affect all aspects of our lives. Sometimes, they make the days easier, bearable, and, hopefully, even better. All of us deserve the right to happy and healthy relationships, but, sometimes, there are elements that can make this feel like more of a challenge.

An anxious attachment style, for example, may cause some to struggle in maintaining healthy relationships; Those with this style worry about how others may perceive them and adjust how they respond based on these fears. I had the chance to chat with a Licensed Clinical Psychologist specializing in attachment theory, Dr. Sarah Bren, as well as Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry at The New York Presbyterian Hospital Dr. Gail Saltz about the anxious attachment style and how to work toward healing it. 

What does it mean to have an Anxious Attachment Style?

Used to help categorize how we interact with others, there are four types of attachment styles: anxious-preoccupied, avoidant-dismissive, disorganized/fearful-avoidant, and secure. These are patterns of emotions and behaviors that are learned in early childhood, typically beginning with relationships with parents.

“These early relationships became your attachment ‘blueprint,’ like how you anticipate others responding to you and meeting your emotional and physical needs,” Bren tells Her Campus. “[An anxious attachment style] is characterized by an anxious sense that ‘I really, really want people to take care of me, but I don’t always think that they will.’” 

Saltz elaborates on identifiable traits of this anxious attachment style, including fears of abandonment or rejection resulting in intense clinginess, people-pleasing,  or internal emotions such as low-self esteem. “In college, this can happen in friendships and/or romantic relationships.”


This has been one of the most FREEING habits ive ever applied. 😭😭 #anxiousattachment #anxiousattachmentstyle

♬ original sound – Naya A Ford

Anxious Attachment Styles are pretty prevalent in Gen Zers.

While being a member of this generation does not result in distinguishable differences from others, there are environmental factors that can play a role. Our rapidly evolving technology has made it possible to interact with anyone as immediately as we desire, which Saltz classifies as a “vehicle and an expectation that one could be connected at all times.” This could lead to unhealthy exhibitions of an anxious attachment style in which the person can more easily engage in these stressful behaviors. 

Bren makes an important connection between entering college and beginning to heal this attachment style: “You’re contending with one of the very biggest separations from your attachment. Going off to college or moving out of your parent’s home is a big step in that transition to adulthood. It’s also one of the most significant attachment separations that we usually face in our lifetime.” 

This period of growth, learning to carve out your identity and autonomy outside of your family, can give you some space from the factors that may have played a part in forming your attachment blueprint. 

Relationships with an Anxious Attachment Style can vary.

It’s important to remember that not all relationships are built equally under this attachment style, and it is possible to have healthy ones. When forming new relationships, those with this attachment style should be searching for people who exhibit signs of healthy friendships. Bren outlines this as those who are “emotionally intelligent, responsive to our emotional state, curious about our needs and our interests and our perspectives.” Identifying people in your life capable of these behaviors will assist in creating a safe space where you feel comfortable enough to be vocal.

Saltz elaborates on this idea of vocalizing in your relationships as a means of healing this attachment style. “Being able to say what you like or don’t like, rather than just pleasing everyone and accepting a certain amount of vulnerability on your part to grow real relationships as opposed to those built on your needed to agree or please all the time,” Saltz says.

The process of healing IS POSSIBLE.

Practicing healthier patterns of communication is a great start, but what are signs that more support is needed, and what does that support look like? Both Saltz and Bren advise noticing the state of your current relationships. If you are unable to maintain longstanding ones, whether it be because you find yourself engaging in things you don’t want to in order to please that person or if you feel rejected or experience chaos and intense highs and lows in your relationships, it might be time to consider options such as therapy and mindfulness.

Bren says, “Things that we can do to sort of try to notice when we’re feeling scared in relationships and to do some internal work a little bit include trying to create a sense of safety for yourself internally, like naming the fear and trying to check out and see if there’s any evidence for that fear.”

I’ve mentioned the word “blueprint” a few times, and Bren uses the phrase as a means of offering comfort and control to those who may not understand their attachment style. “A lot of what we do in therapy when someone working on their attachment systems is to really understand early attachment experiences,” Bren says. “You have to go back and understand how the blueprint you’ve got was written, and work on creating opportunities to take in new information from new, safer relationships — perhaps with your therapist, or perhaps with other people in your life as well, and use that information to kind of edit the blueprints.” 

remember that growth isn’t linear.

Bren uses the blueprint metaphor to emphasize the flexibility of attachment styles and to help others understand that they can be changed. Bren says there is no cure, but rather that “the healing comes from finding more of those kinds of [healthy] relationships.”

Though many feel the urge to close themselves off, the solution lies in not giving up on trying to find healthier relationships. Those who are older and have lived with this attachment style without support are still able to heal and make changes. Identifying your style now and finding support when you need it allows for more feelings of control and flexibility. 

“College years are often the first years you form new relationships away from the safety of family, and that can make them scarier, with more bumps in the road, but it’s a process to figure out how to have healthy relationships,” says Saltz.

While the idea of having a labeled attachment style may sound intimidating, t you are not stuck in this style, and you are deserving of happiness in your relationships. Even with an anxious attachment style, relationships that bring you peace and joy are possible, and worthy of pursuing.

Ariana Martinez (they/them) is a Florida-based freelance writer and filmmaker currently pursuing a degree in cinema studies. Their work gravitates toward explorations of gender and sexuality in film and T.V., and they have a Youtube channel and website, Awake in the A.M., dedicated to film analysis. In their free time, they enjoy traveling and yelling at the television with their friends.