How to Heal and Self-Soothe Anxious Attachment

The relationships we form with others are essential to our well-being. For people with an anxious attachment style, the fear of rejection and abandonment can make it challenging to form healthy relationships.

The relationships we form with others are essential to our well-being. For people with an anxious attachment style, the fear of rejection and abandonment can make it challenging to form healthy relationships. By learning how to heal anxious attachment, you can develop stronger and more meaningful connections.

Here’s what you need to know about attachment styles, as well as some practical strategies from a counsellor on healing and self-soothing anxious attachment.

What Is Anxious Attachment?

Anxious attachment is an attachment style characterized by feelings of insecurity and a fear of loneliness. Attachment styles refer to how we relate, interact, and behave in our relationships. The four primary attachment styles are:

  • Anxious attachment: You crave intimacy and fear abandonment. You often seek reassurance from your partners. 
  • Avoidant attachment: You are emotionally distant. You withdraw from your partners and feel happier when alone.
  • Fearful-avoidant attachment: You experience both anxious and avoidant patterns. 
  • Secure attachment: You set boundaries and navigate relationships with confidence.

Causes of Anxious Attachment

Attachment theory focuses on the importance of early relationships with caregivers. The emotional bonds—or lack of bonds—formed with parents or caregivers can impact our attachment style in adulthood. Negative childhood experiences with caregivers can lead to feelings of insecurity, distrust, and abandonment.

Some potential causes of anxious attachment are:

  • Inexperienced or inconsistent parenting
  • Traumatic experiences, such as abuse or the loss of a parent
  • Living in an unsafe environment 
  • Emotionally distant or neglectful caregivers
  • Parent/caregiver’s own insecure attachment style

Signs of Anxious Attachment

Anxious attachment can manifest in many ways, from an individual's thoughts to their behaviours. Here are a few common signs:

 

  • Low self-esteem and feelings of unworthiness: You feel that you’re undeserving of your partner’s love. You tend to blame yourself for problems in a relationship.
  • Fear of abandonment or rejection: You are frequently trying to please your partner. You always worry that you will lose them. 
  • The constant need for validation: You focus on perceived threats to your relationship and need reassurance of your partner’s love and commitment.
  • Jealousy and possessiveness: You crave your partner’s attention and may feel threatened by their independence. 
  • Preoccupied with relationships: You excessively worry about your relationship, overanalyze your partner’s behaviour, and have trouble being alone. 
  • Difficulty setting boundaries: You don’t like saying no and often elevate the needs of others above your own.

Anxious Attachment Triggers

As part of learning how to overcome anxious attachment, it’s important to understand what actions or perceived actions can be triggers. Identifying these can help you understand the cause of your insecurity so you can better manage anxious attachment and learn how to move from anxious attachment to secure bonds. The triggers for people with anxious attachment are:

  • Inconsistent or unpredictable behaviour: Such as your partner coming home later than usual.
  • Forgetfulness: Such as your partner forgetting your birthday or anniversary.
  • Lack of attention: Such as your partner spending most of their time on their phone when you’re together.
  • Unresponsiveness: Such as your partner not answering your calls or texts.
  • Greater independence: Such as your partner participating in new activities without you.
  • Physical separation: Such as your partner going away on long work trips.

How to Self-Soothe Anxious Attachment

If you have an anxious attachment style and you feel yourself getting triggered by a situation, here are a few self-soothing techniques and strategies that you can use to help you calm and regulate your emotions and self-soothe anxious attachment: 

Engage in a relaxing activity

Self-care activities such as watching your favourite TV show, taking a bath, walking, doing yoga, or listening to music can help calm your nervous system and reduce stress.

Challenge your thinking

You don’t need to repress negative feelings—rather, process and challenge them. Consider if there’s evidence for what you’re thinking, and find examples that disprove unhelpful thoughts. For example, a negative thought may be: “My partner didn’t reply to my text so they must have lost interest in me.” Ask yourself if there’s another reason why they might be late to respond and think of ways they have shown their commitment in the past.

Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness can help you become more aware of your emotions and thoughts in the present moment. Practices like meditation, deep breathing, and writing in a gratitude journal can help you manage anxiety, regulate unhelpful emotions, focus on positive thoughts, self-soothe, and overcome anxious attachment.

How to Heal Anxious Attachment

Self-soothing can provide immediate comfort and relief, but it’s also important to understand and address deeper attachment issues so you can learn how to move from anxious attachment to secure bonds.  

Learning how to heal anxious attachment requires a willingness and openness to work through your current patterns of behaviour. It’s possible to overcome an anxious attachment style through positive emotional experiences, healthy relationships, personal growth, and the right support network.

Build your sense of self-worth 

People with anxious attachment styles are often highly critical of themselves and seek validation from their partner. In comparison, people with high self-esteem worry less about rejection and understand that someone else’s behaviour isn’t a reflection of them.

To build self-esteem, try incorporating positive self-talk, focusing on your strengths, practicing self-care, and surrounding yourself with supportive friends and family. Remember that healing anxious attachment should come from a place of self-compassion and care. Show kindness to yourself on your growth journey, and understand that caring for yourself is essential for strong relationships.

Learn to set healthy boundaries

People with anxious attachment styles often sacrifice their own physical and emotional needs to please their partner. Setting healthy boundaries means knowing how and when to say no. This can help you better manage and prioritize your own needs. 

Learning to set boundaries will help you become more aware of your own needs and recognize unhealthy relationship behaviours. Ask yourself: What do I value in a partnership? How do I want to feel when I am in a relationship? What are my deal breakers?

When setting boundaries, consider using “I” statements to express how you feel. “You” statements can often sound accusatory. For example, if you want to set a boundary around technology use, you could say, “I feel that we aren’t able to fully connect where there are distractions. Can we agree to put away our devices for date nights?”

Improve your communication skills

Open and honest communication and active listening can help you build trust and intimacy in a relationship. Work towards healing anxious attachment by practicing expressing your needs and emotions assertively and respectfully while avoiding criticism and blame.

During conflicts, communication is key. Remember that disagreements are natural and healthy. It is an opportunity to grow individually and together. To ensure that conflict is helping rather than harming your relationship, communicate with empathy and respect so you can find a compromise. Be open to feedback and learn from each experience.

Seek professional support

If you feel anxious attachment is affecting your relationships, talking to a therapist can help you address underlying issues and move from anxious attachment towards a secure attachment style.

A therapist can help you recognize signs of anxious attachment and explore ways to form more secure bonds. There are a few common types of therapy for addressing attachment styles, including:

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT): CBT looks at how thoughts can influence beliefs and behaviour. It addresses the root causes of mental health issues and explores ways to identify and change negative thought patterns.

Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT): DBT combines CBT techniques with concepts of acceptance and mindfulness. It aims to equip you with skills for healthier emotional regulation and interpersonal relationships. 

Learn How to Move From Anxious Attachment to Secure Attachment With Phare Counselling

Learning how to heal anxious attachment is possible through self-compassion, an openness to change, and support from loved ones and professionals. Moving towards a secure attachment style can lead to stronger emotional resilience and interpersonal relationships, as well as increased trust in yourself and others.

If you are looking to explore treatment for anxious attachment, our team of registered counsellors is here to help. Get in touch today to find a counsellor that is right for you.

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