Guide-Me: What Is An Anxious Ambivalent Attachment?

Last Update on April 26, 2024 : Published on April 27, 2024

Do you distrust the person you’re in a close relationship with? If yes, please know that this type of behavior can be associated with feelings of depression or low self-esteem.

When a partner lives under the fear of abandonment and needs constant reassurance from their partner, it is referred to as anxious ambivalent attachment.

This type of attachment can take up its roots in early childhood due to emotional unavailability and less responsiveness by the parent or caregiver. 

Anxious ambivalent attachment is one of the forms of insecure attachment which can make a person hold a positive image of others but a negative self-image of themselves.

The only difference between this type of attachment is that it promotes a sense of unworthiness for themselves but assesses others in a positive way. In this blog, let us explore what anxious ambivalent attachment is and how to overcome it. So, let’s get started! 

What is an Anxious Ambivalent Attachment? 

Anxious Ambivalent Attachment was derived from an attachment theory developed by John Bowlby. It’s a fact that all children need to feel secure and attached to their parents or caregivers.

In this relation, psychologists developed four attachment styles: secure attachment, avoidant attachment, ambivalent attachment, and disordered attachment. The theory states that when children experience insecure attachment, they may develop anxious ambivalent attachment which results in unhealthy relationships.

Anxious-ambivalent attachment is defined as an inconsistent response of caregivers. It usually takes up its roots in childhood based on a child’s anxiety and preoccupation about their parent’s or caregiver’s accessibility, responsiveness, and availability. 

Anxious ambivalent attachment can be manifested in different ways such as: 

  • Repeated calling or texting 
  • Frequently checking social media 
  • Feeling suspicious 
  • Unable to say “no” 
  • Forming unhealthy patterns in relationships 
  • Increased arguments
  • Self-sabotaging behaviors 
  • Ghosting or communication challenges 

Signs of Anxious Ambivalent Attachment

Below listed are some of the common signs of an anxious ambivalent attachment: 

  1. Avoids being alone 
  2. Co-dependency 
  3. Clinginess 
  4. Extreme emotional discomfort 
  5. Extreme need for validation and reassurance
  6. Extreme jealousy 
  7. Fear of abandonment 
  8. Feeling dependent on others 
  9. Intense desire to form closeness or intimacy 
  10. Lack of self-esteem 
  11. Lack of trust 
  12. People-pleasing behaviors 
  13. Sensitivity towards change 
  14. Unhealthy behaviors 
  15. Unhealthy boundaries 
  16. Unworthiness 

Causes of Anxious Ambivalent Attachment

Basically, anxious ambivalent attachment takes up its roots in early childhood. This shows that insecure attachment is the major cause of anxious ambivalent attachment. When caregivers do not seem to be responsive or available, it can result in anxiety, ambivalence, distrust, or confusion. Below listed are some of the common causes of anxious ambivalent attachment: 

  • Less responsiveness to the emotional needs of children 
  • Emotionally unavailable caregivers 
  • The urge to “earn” love or attention from the parents or caregivers 
  • Inconsistent parenting style 
  • Emotionally distant parents or caregivers 
  • Intrusive parenting 
  • History of traumatic events or abuse 

How Does Anxious Ambivalent Attachment Look in Adults and Children? 

Due to a lot of inconsistencies, unresponsiveness, and anxiety, anxious ambivalent attachment in adults and children can look a bit different, here’s how: 

Anxious Ambivalent Attachment in Adults 

  • Self-sacrificing behaviors to enhance feelings of security and stability 
  • Catering to other’s needs and desires 
  • Gaining emotional intimacy or closeness to validate self-worth 
  • Clinginess in relationships 

Anxious Ambivalent Attachment in Children 

  • Feelings of agitation, bewilderedness, or avoiding eye contact with their mothers or caregivers on their reunion
  • The urge to stay close to mothers but lack of comfort from mothers 
  • “Up-regulating” behaviors or actions such as temper, showing tantrums, stress, and more 
  • Clinginess in order to feel secure 
  • Trying to gain the attention of adults to feel secure or safe 

Mental Health Effects of Anxious Ambivalent Attachment 

Research shows that people struggling with anxious ambivalent attachment are at an increased risk of experiencing mental health issues like low self-esteem, emotional dysregulation, and depression.

Additionally, one study shows that anxious ambivalent attachment might result in the development of eating disorders or negative body image. Below listed are some other possible mental health effects of struggling with an anxious ambivalent attachment style: 

  • Chronic anxiety
  • Clinical depression 
  • Emotional distress 
  • Personality disorders such as borderline personality disorder and histrionic personality disorder 
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Schizophrenia 
  • Self-harm or suicidal ideation
  • Psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations, delusions, and suspiciousness 

Overcoming Anxious Ambivalent Attachment

If you think you or your loved ones were raised by an unresponsive caregiver or parent who was not able to provide reliable and secure attachment related to emotional support, please know that you are not alone and the signs are completely manageable. 

The first step to overcoming anxious ambivalent attachment is to understand the symptoms and cause behind your problem. In order to learn how to be emotionally available and how to form secure attachments with others, you can try talk therapy. Below are some effective talk therapy options that help in managing insecure attachment and work on inner healing. 

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT helps in identifying negative patterns and replaces them with positive ones. CBT is one of the most effective therapies to address insecure attachment styles. 

Key Takeaway: Helping a Partner Overcome Anxious Ambivalent Attachment

Here are some quick and effective ways to help a partner overcome anxious ambivalent attachment: 

  1. Be consistent with responsiveness, security, and reliability with your partner. 
  2. Participate in therapy sessions together. 
  3. Practice vulnerability and forming emotional safety together. 
  4. Consider practicing mindfulness exercises together. 
  5. Learn more about attachment theories to help you partner the right way. ‘

What is anxious-ambivalent attachment?

What is the unhealthiest attachment style?

How do you get over anxious ambivalent attachment?

What triggers anxious-ambivalent attachment?

What is an example of an anxious-ambivalent attachment child?

I hope this blog helps you understand anxious ambivalent attachment and how to overcome it. For more such content, connect with us through all social media platforms. 

Thanks for reading! 

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