This is the second in a series of articles focusing on adult attachment styles and how they impact the way we deal with intimacy, how we communicate our feelings and needs and listen to our partners, how we respond to conflict and our expectations in relationships. There are four distinct adult attachment patterns: secure or autonomous, anxious or preoccupied, avoidant and disorganized or unresolved.

The anxiously attached adult is preoccupied with unresolved issues from their past. Often, their childhood was filled with disappointment, frustrating efforts to please their parents and role reversal where they are forced to be the caregiver to their parent(s). Their parents tended to be inconsistent and unreliable, alternating between warmth and availability and coldness and rejection.

As adults, these individuals have romantic relationships that tend to be characterized by anxiety and uncertainty. These individuals are so sure they won’t be loved and supported that they are excessively vigilant, constantly demand reassurance, are jealous and end up scaring others away. They are often controlling, critical and argumentative. They have a profound need for closeness but little trust in the emotional availability of others.


Anxious/Preoccupied Attachment Traits


  • Insecure in relationships. The individual is constantly worried about rejection and abandonment. They are preoccupied with the relationship and have hyperactivated attachment needs and behaviors.


  • Needy. The individual requires ongoing reassurance. They want to merge with the partner in a way that can scare a partner away. They tend to act childish, helpless and clingy.


  • Perseverative. They tend to ruminate about unresolved past issues, which intrude into present perceptions and relationships including feelings of fear, hurt and anger.


  • Overly sensitive. They take their partner’s moods and actions too personally.


  • Highly emotional. The individual can be argumentative, combative, angry, controlling. They often have poor personal boundaries.


  • Unpredictable and moody. They find connection through conflict and tend to “stir the pot.”


  • Blaming. The individual is often unaware of their responsibility in the relationship and does not communicate collaboratively or take accountability.


  • Inconsistent. They are inconsistently attuned to their children, who as a result, are also likely to be anxiously attached.


Many of the behaviors and patterns of interacting in adult intimate relationships can be traced back to the internal working models formed early in life. These mindsets and core beliefs become biases and expectations, the lens through which we view ourselves and our partners. Adults with insecure attachments view themselves as not being deserving of love and expect their partners to reject, abandon and abuse them. These mental models and beliefs influence behavior and emotional reactions, and eventually develop into ongoing patterns – the dance of relationships.

A useful and practical way to change negative patterns is to learn how to communicate effectively, to share and listen in honest, deep, positive and constructive ways. At Evergreen Psychotherapy Center we teach individuals and couples the concepts and skills of Attachment Communication Training (ACT) which helps to build the trust and connection necessary for maintaining securely attached relationships.