Whether you realize it or not, you have an attachment style. Everyone does. It’s a way to understand how you connect with others — including romantic partners. If you have a preoccupied attachment style, then it’s likely that you struggle with insecurity in your relationships.

Ideally, you’d like your attachment style to be secure. That’s because the people that have a secure attachment style can flexibly regulate themselves. This means they can turn to others for support, and reliably self soothe when alone. However, most attachment styles are insecure in one way or another. Some of the words assigned to such styles include:

  • Anxious
  • Ambivalent
  • Disorganized
  • Avoidant
  • Preoccupied

While we cannot pinpoint exactly what causes an attachment style, most research indicates that it is the interaction of the child’s temperament with their caregiver’s parenting style that shapes attachment. Attachment style is formed in early childhood. If you or someone you know falls into the category of preoccupied attachment style, this post is for you.

Preoccupied Attachment Style Causes

Again, exact causes can be difficult to identify but inconsistent parenting and caregiving are usually the major concern. Your parent or parents or childhood caretaker may have displayed behaviors that would lead a child to believe that they can’t completely relax and trust that mom or dad is going to be there to help and comfort them.

For example, the child may have a parent who sometimes comforts them but other times does not pick them you up or comforting you when you were in distress

Some people with preoccupied attachment style had parents that were focused on meeting their own emotional needs. So, the parents reached out mostly when they themselves needed reassurance. This type of misattunement  lead the child to feel as if parent is nurturing at times but unavailable at other times

It’s easy to see how this could confuse and thus impact a baby. They don’t know what to expect. They also don’t know how to get attention when it’s needed. The result is insecurity and it usually carries over into adult relationships.

Preoccupied Attachment Style Signs

Look at this post’s title for two big signs: clingy and worried. The anxiously attached child will worry about and cling to his caregivers. With adults, the worry and the clinging are done with friends and/or lovers. Other common signs include:

  • Abandonment issues
  • Codependency in relationships
  • Unwilling or unable to trust others
  • Fear of rejection
  • Craving intimacy and feeling dependent on it
  • Sensitive to the moods of others
  • Poor impulse control
  • Require frequent reassurance
  • Possessiveness
  • Seen by others as moody or unpredictable or the cause of drama

It is not unusual for someone with a preoccupied attachment style to be struggling with an anxiety disorder. These can range from generalized anxiety to social anxiety to panic attacks.

Preoccupied Attachment Style Triggers

Behaviors that might typically be seen as unimportant can seem catastrophic to the preoccupied person. Any of the following — if acted out by a partner or friend — could be quite triggering:

  • Slow Response Time: Being left on “read” is bad news. For the anxious, preoccupied person, any delay in response is cause for worry. This can, in turn, lead to more clinginess.
  • Unpredictability: Those with a preoccupied attachment style need to know what to expect. They’ve already had too many mixed messages in their lives.
  • Independence: If your partner wants to hang out without you, this is concerning. If they develop new hobbies or habits, it’s time to panic.  If you have a preoccupied attachment style, you likely see distance is seen as detachment.
  • Criticism: Should someone offers anything less than praise, it can only mean they no longer like you. If it’s a partner, you immediately see the worst-case scenario: a break-up.

Addressing a Preoccupied Attachment Style

Good news: You can change your attachment style. For those who qualify as preoccupied, anxious, and insecure, there are some self-help steps you can take, e.g.

Regulate Your Emotions

Remind yourself that you have fears that date back to your childhood. They rarely reflect the truth. Keep this in mind whenever you sense yourself overreacting.

Take Your Time

When you meet someone you like, don’t be in a rush. Get to know each other. Learn their attachment style. Listen carefully when they talk about previous relationships. Watch closely when they deal with the normal daily stress of life. If things get serious, consider counseling to work out issues while you’re still in the early phase of your connection.

Better yet, learn more about yourself and your approach to relationships individually. You might consider anxiety therapy, to discern what attachment history and current needs interfere with your current relationships. I’m here to help guide you toward a path of relationship security and peace of mind. Please reach out for a consultation soon.