Avoidant Attachment

Last Updated: April 24, 2024

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Explore how an avoidant attachment style shapes interactions, prioritizing independence over closeness and often influenced by past experiences and relationships.

Key Takeaways

  • Prioritizes Independence: Individuals with an avoidant attachment style highly value their independence and may see emotional needs as weaknesses.
  • Challenges with Intimacy: They often experience discomfort with emotional closeness, making it difficult to form deep, emotional connections.
  • Self-Sufficiency: Avoidants tend to suppress their emotional needs and manage challenges on their own, believing that relying on others may lead to disappointment.
  • Potential for Growth: Recognizing an avoidant attachment style is the first step towards fostering more meaningful relationships through understanding and evolving one's approach to intimacy.

Avoidant Attachment Defined

If the idea of being too close to someone makes you instinctively want to take a step back, or if you pride yourself on your independence and see no reason to rely heavily on others, you might be familiar with what's known as the avoidant attachment style. This approach to relationships is more common than you might think and affects how people handle intimacy, dependence, and personal space.

For those with an avoidant attachment style, the mantra might as well be, "I've got this, I don't need help." It's not that they're incapable of love or don't desire connections; rather, their comfort zone lies in not being too entwined with others. They value their independence above all the other attachment styles and often view emotional needs as weaknesses or inconveniences.

“To be human is to need others, and this is no flaw or weakness.”Dr. Sue Johnson, The Love Secret: The Revolutionary New Science of Romantic Relationships.

For those of us with an avoidant attachment style, the concept of self-sufficiency is a double-edged sword. It empowers us to tackle life's challenges independently but can also wall us off from the deep, enriching connections that require vulnerability and interdependence.

Recognizing this attachment style in ourselves is not a verdict but a starting point. It's the first step towards understanding that our ways of relating can evolve and that the walls we've built for protection can become gates to deeper emotional landscapes.

Signs of Avoidant Attachment

There are several signs of an avoidant attachment style that can make forming deep, emotional connections with others challenging:

  • Valuing independence: A strong emphasis on self-reliance, often pushing away attempts by others to get close, is a common personality trait.
  • Difficulty with emotional closeness: Feeling uncomfortable with emotional intimacy and vulnerability.
  • Skeptical view of relationships: A tendency to view close relationships with skepticism, fearing loss of independence.
  • Suppression of needs: Avoidants often suppress their emotional needs, believing that showing vulnerability is a sign of weakness.
  • Discomfort with physical affection: They may also be uncomfortable with physical closeness, viewing it as unnecessary or overwhelming.

Understanding these characteristics is the first step toward addressing this avoidant attachment behavior and working towards more secure and fulfilling relationships.

What Are the Attachment Styles?

Attachment theory outlines four main adult attachment styles:

  • secure
  • anxious,
  • avoidant,
  • and disorganized (a combination of anxious and avoidant).

People with a secure and healthy attachment to style feel comfortable with intimacy and independence, balancing their needs and those of their partners.

Those with an anxious attachment style often experience a deep fear of abandonment and may seek constant validation and reassurance from their partners.

A disorganized attachment style combines elements of anxious and avoidant tendencies, leading to unpredictable behaviors.

Why Someone Develops Avoidant Attachment

Understanding why someone develops an avoidant attachment style is like peeling back the layers of an onion, revealing the complex interplay of early childhood experiences and interactions that shape our approach to relationships.

Often, it begins in childhood, in the dynamic between a young child and their caregivers. Suppose a child’s emotional needs are not met with love and care but with indifference or dismissiveness. In that case, they learn to stop expressing these needs (the child's attachment style is formed from these early connections with parents or caregivers).

Over time, this lesson solidifies into a belief that to be autonomous is to be safe; reliance on others is equated with vulnerability and potential hurt. This upbringing fosters a self-contained individual who sees emotional self-sufficiency not just as a trait but as a survival strategy.

As these children grow, the patterns of self-reliance and emotional distancing become cornerstones of their identity. This manifests as an avoidant attachment style in adult relationships, where closeness is kept at arm's length, and independence is prized above all.

This isn't to say that people with avoidant attachment do not desire connection or intimacy; instead, their early experiences have conditioned them to associate these needs with a risk of rejection or disappointment.

What Triggers Avoidant Attachment

Understanding what triggers avoidant attachment styles is crucial for recognizing it in ourselves and empathizing with others exhibiting these tendencies. Here are key factors that contribute to the development of an avoidant attachment style:

  • Demands for closeness and intimacy: When a partner or friend explicitly asks for more closeness, emotional sharing, or intimacy, it can trigger an avoidant reaction. Individuals with an avoidant attachment style might perceive these demands as threats to their independence and respond by withdrawing further to maintain their sense of control and self-sufficiency.
  • Perceived loss of independence: Situations that suggest a potential loss of personal freedom or autonomy, such as moving in together, discussing future plans that imply commitment, or even just spending a lot of time together, can activate avoidant behaviors. The prospect of being 'tied down' or losing one's independence can be alarming, prompting a person to pull away in an attempt to preserve their autonomy.
  • Emotional vulnerability: Instances where an avoidant individual is faced with emotional vulnerability, either their own or their partner's, can be deeply uncomfortable and trigger avoidance. This could be a situation where one is expected to share personal fears, feelings, or desires or when a partner is emotionally distressed and seeking support. The discomfort arises from a deep-seated belief that emotional exposure is risky and potentially harmful.

Recognizing when certain behaviors are responses to these triggers can lead to more compassionate interactions and discussions around needs and boundaries. It allows for a more informed approach to navigating the complexities of emotional connection, intimacy, and independence in relationships.

Dating with an Avoidant Attachment

Navigating romantic relationships can be particularly challenging for those with an avoidant attachment style. The intimacy and vulnerability required in these connections can trigger avoidants' deepest fears, leading to a cycle of distancing behaviors.

Dating as someone with an avoidant or insecure attachment style is marked by a constant tug-of-war between the desire for connection and the urge to protect oneself from potential hurt. This results in a pattern where the avoidant partner may pull away or shut down emotionally as the relationship deepens, making it difficult to establish a secure and trusting bond.

The struggle isn't with love or affection but with the emotional closeness and dependence that intimate relationships entail. For avoidants, backing off often feels safer than getting close, as they avoid emotional intimacy that is associated with vulnerability and the risk of being let down.

How to Work on Healing Your Avoidant Attachment

Resolving avoidant and insecure attachment styles requires patience, self-reflection, and, often, the willingness to seek support from others. Here are strategies to consider if you're working towards overcoming avoidant attachment tendencies and are looking to become securely attached:

Reflect on Your Relationships

Examine your past and present romantic relationships for patterns of avoidance. Understanding these can help you identify areas for growth.

Challenge Your Beliefs About Intimacy

Many with avoidant attachment hold deep-seated beliefs about the dangers of closeness. Challenging these beliefs by slowly allowing yourself to experience vulnerability can be transformative.

Practice Expressing Your Needs

Start small by voicing minor needs or preferences to friends or loved ones. Gradually work up to more significant emotional disclosures.

Seek Therapy

A mental health professional can provide guidance and emotional support as you explore the roots of your attachment style to learn new ways of relating to others and how to feel safer in intimate relationships.

Build Trust Gradually

Trust is foundational to overcoming your avoidant tendencies. Work on building trust in your relationships by being reliable and allowing others to show you the same reliability and care.


Understanding and addressing avoidant attachment is a journey towards healthier, more fulfilling relationships. By recognizing the patterns of avoidant parents in your life and learning how to get comfortable with closeness, you can slowly shift towards a more secure attachment style.

Remember, change takes time and effort, but the rewards of deeper, more meaningful connections are well worth it. Whether you're navigating romantic relationships, friendships, or family dynamics, embracing vulnerability and emotional intimacy can lead to a richer, more connected life.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an anxious-avoidant attachment style?

An anxious-avoidant attachment style, sometimes referred to as the insecure-avoidant attachment style, represents a complex pattern where individuals exhibit both anxious and dismissive avoidant attachment behaviors in their relationships.

People with this attachment style crave closeness and intimacy due to their anxious tendencies but are also fearful of becoming too close and vulnerable, leading to avoidant behaviors. This internal conflict creates a challenging dynamic where individuals oscillate between desiring deep connections and pushing them away out of fear.

How do Avoidants show love?

Avoidants may show love through actions rather than words or emotional expressions. They might do things they believe will make their partner's life easier or more enjoyable, offer practical support in times of need, and show loyalty and commitment in their own way.

Is it possible to build a healthy relationship with an avoidant person?

Yes, building a healthy and fulfilling relationship with someone with an avoidant attachment style is entirely possible. Success in such relationships often hinges on clear communication, patience, and mutual effort to meet each other's needs while respecting personal boundaries.

Understanding insecure-avoidant attachment and addressing the emotional wounds or unmet needs from early childhood may also be healing for the avoidant partner when done safely.


How to Deal with Avoidant Attachment Style | wikiHow

How to Overcome Dismissive Avoidant Attachment Style | wikiHow

Attachment Theory | Wikipedia

Attachment Theory: A Guide to Strengthening the Relationships in Your Life | Thais Gibson

Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love | Dr. Sue Johnson


The contents of this article are provided for informational purposes only and are not intended to substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It is always recommended to consult with a qualified healthcare provider before making any health-related changes or if you have any questions or concerns about your health. Anahana is not liable for any errors, omissions, or consequences that may occur from using the information provided.