People who have an anxious attachment style can be self-critical and insecure, and although they may have positive views of others they have a negative view of themselves. This can mean they rely on other people to validate them, but although they want approval and reassurance it does little to comfort them. Often they feel that other people will reject or abandon them and because of this they look for signs of rejection in their relationships. It also means they do things like become clingy or demanding to avoid the rejection they fear is coming but it can be this possessiveness and dependency that ultimately ruins their relationships.
Anxiously attached parents may look to their children to meet their needs, but when it is the child who needs some emotional comfort from the parent, they are distracted or preoccupied. For example, an anxious mum who has had a bad day may want reassurance from her child, but when her child has had a tough time she isn’t able to reassure them. Anxious parents may act in ways that are intrusive or more about themselves and what they need (‘I need a hug‘) than what the child needs.
Anxiously attached children tend to cling to their caregivers and act desperate for their attention. They can be upset when they are separated and but have trouble calming down when the caregiver comes back. Because anxious caregivers are sometimes able to tune in to what their child needs, the child is left feeling desperate and needy, feeling they have to make a fuss in order to get what they need. They can feel drained rather than nurtured by their parents attention because the attention feels empty
Anxiously attached adults tend to be overly preoccupied with their partners, spending a lot of emotional energy on their relationship and needing a lot of reassurance. They are concerned about whether their partner loves them back, wanting signs that they are special and feeling angry or resentful if they don’t get the attention or reassurance they need. Even if they do get it, they may have trouble trusting the affection or warmth given. They are sensitive to small changes in their partner’s moods and behaviours and can take them as signs of rejection. This can lead to them acting out in ways they later regret, for instance becoming clingy, demanding or possessive.
Attachment theory is useful when it comes to understanding the more subtle aspects of relationships but it’s only one factor in many. Having an anxious attachment style doesn’t mean you are destined to have bad relationships or that you will be anxiously attached your entire life or in all your relationships.