Attachment anxiety | partnership

Fear of attachment is the fear of building close relationships and bonds with other people. Affected people have problems long-term relationships and, for example, entering into a partnership. In psychology, a strong form of attachment anxiety is part of what is known as attachment disorder. Men and women are roughly equally affected.

How does attachment anxiety arise?

A drug or a particular remedy for the fear of tying up does not exist. However, if life and anxiety have a strong impact on the person's life, psychotherapy can help.

Fear of attachment and how to deal with it
Fear of commitment and how to deal with it - © Dan Race / Adobe Stock

There are some theories as to what can cause attachment anxiety. It is most often based on fear of being emotionally hurt or abandoned by others. Especially when people have been seriously injured in previous relationships, this can lead to attachment anxiety.

Many also believe that the disorder is due to trauma in childhood and affects adulthood. Neglect or mistreatment in the first three years of life, for example, should have much influence on a person's ability to bind.

Even the separation of mother, father or close caregivers can cause attachment anxiety. The child's early experiences have an influence in adulthood, as certain things and behaviors are imprinted on a child's subconscious.

Likewise, frequent hospital stays may be the cause of attachment anxiety, painful surgery, or chronic pain.

Other things that can trigger attachment anxiety are sexual abuse or alcohol and drug abuse by the mother during pregnancy. Especially if a close relationship between baby and caregiver cannot develop in the first few years after birth, this can lead to fear of attachment in adulthood. As well as frequent changes of caregivers, as the child lacks security and stability.

Furthermore, people with the fear of tying themselves are also afraid of losing their own freedom and free space.

Signs and symptoms of attachment anxiety

Many people with attachment anxiety are very afraid of emotional closeness. On the other hand, that's exactly what you want because that's where they really are.

This often results in certain behavior patterns in relationships. The relationships are often not constant, due to the constant withdrawal and then getting closer to the person concerned. In addition, people with this fear are very unreliable, especially in relationships, and often cancel appointments or do not stick to agreements, for example.

Other typical behaviors are, for example, that the person concerned does not speak about his feelings and does not let anyone in touch with him. People with attachment anxiety have problems fixing themselves and frequent changes in sexual partners are also not uncommon.

It also happens that people with fear of attachment “fall in love” with forgiven or unreachable people. Thus you avoid the possibility of closeness and it is a kind of protective mechanism.

Nevertheless, they have a great need for security, but also very high expectations of the partner. This often triggers disputes and gives those affected the opportunity to withdraw.

In addition, these people usually have a low self-esteem and have a very negative image of themselves. This leads to fear of the partner's reaction as well as his own reaction.

Sufferers are, paradoxically, often unaware of their own behavior and their own anxiety. Since you desire a relationship and proximity, and it is often an issue, this obscures the fear of closeness.

What can you do about fear of attachment?

If the cause of attachment anxiety is already in childhood, therapy can help treat existing trauma. Although the attachment disorder may appear as early as childhood, therapy that includes close caregivers may help.

For adults with fear of attachment, it is important to have new and positive experiences with the partner and also to express their own wishes openly.

You have to learn that you are now able to ward off claims better and that your own needs are normal and in order. The experience that the partner takes you as you are is very important if you want to overcome the attachment fear. For those affected, this means first of all taking a risk.

However, the exchange with other people affected can also help, since those affected can speak openly with one another and there is mutual understanding. Knowing that you are not alone can also help.

The most important thing is the support and understanding of the partner and the environment. Your own will to overcome fear is fundamental to overcoming attachment fear. However, if the fear of attachment arises from experiences of abuse or other trauma, usually only therapy helps. Such a trauma is difficult and often not manageable alone.

How do I deal with those affected?

Whether as a family member, friend or partner - dealing with someone who is afraid of commitment can sometimes be difficult. Especially if this fear is deep and has a strong impact on the life of the person concerned. So here are some final tips on how you, as a loved one, should best deal with those affected.

Open and honest communication is everything, above all, it is important that those affected know what they are and that they are accepted.

Often people with fear of attachment are idealized by their partners in particular; the closeness - distance - game makes them appear even more desirable to the other person. When the person concerned withdraws, many make the mistake of wanting to be there and practically running after the person concerned. However, this only makes a person with fear of attachment feel harassed.

It is therefore advisable to bring a lot of patience and to accept the distance. And then just be there when the person needs one. So you show that the behavior of the person is not bad and you are still there when he comes back. So it gives a sense of reliability.

Furthermore, you should be careful not to have too high expectations - not of people with fear of attachment, and neither of yourself.

Do you have questions, suggestions or criticism? Please do not hesitate to contact us.

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