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Avoidant Attachment: 10 Ways To Heal, Causes & Effects

The avoidant attachment style is an insecure attachment pattern that develops in childhood when a child’s primary caregivers are unresponsive to their emotional needs. Parents may be unresponsive or reject their children due to several factors, including mental illnesses, personality disorders, addiction, their own childhood experiences, and life stresses.

Childhood experiences and subsequent relationships influence avoidant attachment in adults. A lack of emotional support during childhood leads to lower-quality adult friendships and an avoidant attachment style in adults. Individuals with avoidant attachment struggle with trust issues, over-self-reliance, emotional distancing from others, unsupportive behaviors, and suppressed emotions.

Signs of avoidant attachment include fear of emotional intimacy, suppressing emotions, difficulty opening up, and avoiding social situations. Avoidant attachment is associated with avoidant personality disorder, a type of social anxiety disorder characterized by extreme difficulties with interpersonal relationships.

Being in a relationship with someone with an avoidant attachment style can be challenging, often feeling one-sided and lacking in emotional closeness. Healing avoidant attachment involves acknowledging the traits, seeking therapy, and committing to overcoming these issues. Therapy can play a crucial role in this process.

woman looking at man who is looking at his cellphone with avoidant attachment disorder

What is the avoidant attachment style?

Avoidant attachment is an insecure attachment style a child develops when their primary caretakers are unresponsive to their needs. The caretaker consistently ignores or rejects the child when the child seeks comfort in distress.

Children with an avoidant attachment are independent and self-reliant because they have learned not to rely on the caretaker. As a result, avoidant children maintain an emotional distance from others and have difficulty trusting others. Avoidant adults hesitate to get too close to others and have difficulty showing vulnerability or developing intimate relationships.

What causes avoidant attachment?

Avoidant attachment results when parents or primary caregivers don’t show care or respond to children’s emotional needs consistently. Examples of parenting practices that can cause avoidant attachment include the following.

  • Ignore the child when they are in distress.
  • Discourage the child from crying by scolding or punishing them.
  • Shame or make fun of the child when they cry.
  • Show disapproval when the child expresses negative emotions.
  • Do not hug the child or have any physical touch.
  • Invalidate the child’s feelings when they feel hurt.
  • Tell the child, “Big kids don’t cry” or “Boys don’t cry.”
  • Abuse the child, including physical, emotional, and sexual abuse.

What causes parents to be unresponsive to or reject their children?

There are 6 reasons parents are unresponsive to or reject their children.

  • Mental illnesses, such as depression
  • Personality disorders, such as borderline personality disorder
  • Addiction, such as drug abuse or alcoholism
  • Their own parents were emotionally unavailable
  • Childhood trauma, such as abuse
  • Life distress, such as marriage discord or financial hardship​1​
avoidant dismissive kid sitting in playground alone

What causes avoidant attachment in adults?

In adults, avoidant attachment is caused by childhood experiences and later relationships in life, including those with parents, close friends, and romantic partners.​​​2​

A lack of emotional support in childhood hinders a person’s social competence development, resulting in lower-quality friendships in adulthood. The lack of emotional support in childhood leads to the lack of support in adulthood, causing an avoidant attachment style in adults.

What are the effects of avoidant attachment?

Avoidant attachment affects an individual in the following 5 ways.

  • Trust issues: Avoidant individuals are reluctant to rely on others. They do not believe in others and view trust as a risk of being hurt or let down.
  • Self-reliance: Avoidants prefer to handle problems alone and view dependence on others as a sign of weakness.
  • Emotional distance: Avoiding emotional closeness and deep conversations is prevalent in avoidant people. They strive to minimize emotional involvement, making it hard for others to know their feelings.
  • Unsupportive behavior: Those with avoidant traits don’t offer support when others are distressed. They find it challenging to understand or relate to the emotional needs of others.
  • Feeling suppression: Avoidantly attached people use deactivating strategies in emotion regulation, which helps them suppress their feelings.

What are the signs of an avoidant person?

There are 7 signs of an avoidant person.​3–5​

  1. Fear emotional intimacy and push others away when they get close
  2. Suppress outward displays of emotions
  3. Have difficulty opening-up
  4. Dismiss threats that require help
  5. Believe they are capable of solving all problems on their own
  6. Do not value relationships with others
  7. Avoid social situations bordering isolation

Keep in mind that correctly diagnosing avoidant attachment should be done by trained experts. If you think someone has avoidant tendencies affecting their daily life, consult a professional as soon as possible.

Do people with avoidant attachment have an avoidant personality disorder?

A 2015 study by Eikenaes, Pedersen, & Wilberg found that people with an avoidant attachment style and high level of attachment anxiety are associated with avoidant personality disorder (AvPD), which is a type of social anxiety disorder (SAD). Significant difficulties in interpersonal relationships characterize AvPD.​6​

What is it like in a relationship with someone with an avoidant attachment style?

Being in a romantic relationship with an avoidant person can be sad and frustrating. The relationship feels one-sided, where you are the only one trying to maintain it. The avoidant partner’s aloof attitude makes it seem like they’re just along for the ride.

Do avoidant attachment individuals sabotage intimacy?

Yes, avoidant attachment individuals sabotage intimacy when they withdraw from deep connection and push their partners away to protect themselves from vulnerability. Avoidant people with low attachment anxiety push others away because they downplay the significance of close relationships, whereas those with high attachment anxiety withdraw due to a fear of rejection.​7​

How to heal avoidant attachment style?

Here are 3 steps to overcome avoidant attachment issues.

  1. Acknowledge: The first step to healing is to recognize and accept the traits of your avoidant attachment style. Confront your vulnerabilities rather than avoid them. Understanding how your attachment style affects your relationships is critical to improving them.
  2. Seek therapy: Avoidant attachment affects one’s ability to form close and healthy relationships. It takes relationships to heal relationships. Psychotherapy provides a safe space and opportunity to form working relationships with someone trustworthy. Involving your partner in couple therapy also helps.
  3. Commit: To overcome avoidant attachment, you must be committed. No one can change you. Only you can. When things get tough, stick to your commitment and don’t give up.

How to help a child with avoidant attachment?

To help a child with avoidant attachment, here are key steps.

  1. Build or repair attachment: If your child’s avoidant attachment stems from someone else’s caretaking, communicate openly about how you will create a new interaction pattern to build trust. If your parenting contributed to their avoidant attachment, acknowledge your past mistakes and clearly explain how you plan to change your approach from now on.
  2. Be responsive and consistent: Attend to your child’s emotional needs reliably. Don’t ignore your child when they are in distress.
  3. Allow safe emotion expression: Make your child feel safe to express emotions, including negative feelings or crying. Avoid criticism, dismissal, or invalidation of their feelings.
  4. Validate their emotions and co-regulate: Validation and co-regulation are the keys to children developing adaptive emotional regulation.
  5. Seek mental health help: Both you and your child benefit from seeing a psychologist specializing in attachment issues.
  6. Encourage and facilitate social engagement: Encourage interactions with peers in a supportive environment to help develop social skills and a sense of belonging.
  7. Model healthy relationships: Demonstrate what healthy emotional regulation and interpersonal connections look like through your relationships with them and others.

What are some tips for dating someone with avoidant attachment?

Here are 7 tips on dating someone with avoidant attachment.

  1. Don’t take it personally: Avoidant people’s need for distance is more about their childhood experiences than a reflection of their feelings for you.
  2. Respect their need for space: Avoidant individuals value their independence and personal space. Don’t push hard for intimacy before they are ready.
  3. Build trust gradually: Trust is key in any relationship, but especially so with someone who has an avoidant attachment style. Building trust by being there for them consistently to give them experiences different from the ones they grew up with.
  4. Encourage therapy: Therapy can offer support for those with avoidant attachment, helping them navigate and heal their attachment problems. Understand that your partner might initially be reluctant to acknowledge the need for therapy. Being supportive and patient during this process can make a big difference in helping them take that important step.
  5. Communicate openly and honestly: Clear communication about needs and expectations is helpful in any relationship, but valuable particularly in avoidant relationships. Avoidant people may not be adept at reading emotional cues, so being straightforward can help.
  6. Be patient: Building a meaningful connection with someone with an avoidant attachment style takes time and patience.
  7. Don’t neglect your own needs: While accommodating your partner’s needs, don’t forget your own emotional needs and boundaries.

What are the 2 types of avoidant attachment styles?

The two types of avoidant attachment styles are dismissive avoidant attachment and fearful avoidant attachment. Both avoidant attachment styles show a lack of trust and distance themselves from others. However, dismissive-avoidant individuals have a positive view of themselves, while fearful-avoidant people think they are not worthy of love.

What is the difference between the 2 types of avoidant attachments?

The main difference between the 2 types of avoidant attachment is that dismissive-avoidant people are low in attachment anxiety, while fearful-avoidant ones are high in anxiety.

Attachment anxiety reflects whether an individual feels lovable or worthy of love.

Individuals with dismissive-avoidant attachment have a positive view of themselves but a negative view of others. They feel they are worthy of love but dismiss the importance of relationships due to their lack of trust in others. They are often angry and dismissive of others.​​​9​

People with fearful-avoidant attachments have a negative view of themselves and others. They fear they don’t deserve to be loved and are withdrawn when relating to others.

What do people mean by avoidant attachment in psychology?

In psychology, the term avoidant attachment refers to individuals with a high level of attachment avoidance according to Bartholomew’s model of attachment styles, which are dismissive and fearful avoidant attachment.

Avoidant attachment denotes the degree of avoidance, not anxiety levels. An avoidant person can be dismissive or fearful. However, some researchers use “avoidant attachment” interchangeably with “dismissive avoidant attachment.”​8​

What is Bartholomew’s model of attachment styles?

Bartholomew’s model of attachment styles classifies attachment along two independent dimensions: attachment avoidance and attachment anxiety.

  • Attachment Anxiety concerns how people see themselves and whether they feel worthy of love. Anxious people often feel like they’re not worth loving.
  • Attachment Avoidance concerns how people see others and whether they want to be close to them or keep their distance. Avoidant people prefer to stay away from others.

What is the fearful-avoidant attachment style called in children?

In children, the attachment style similar to fearful-avoidant in adults is known as disorganized attachment style.​10​ Fearful-avoidant children have a negative view of themselves and others. They blame themselves for being unlovable.​11​

anxious avoidant attachment chart

What is an anxious-avoidant attachment style?

Anxious-avoidant attachment refers to the fearful-avoidant attachment style, in which an individual has high levels of attachment anxiety and attachment avoidance. Individuals with an anxious-avoidant style have negative views of themselves and others.

“Anxious-avoidant attachment” is commonly used today but wasn’t part of the original attachment research.

How to prevent raising children with avoidant attachment

Preventing avoidant attachment involves proactive steps from the parents since early childhood. Providing consistently responsive parenting is the key to helping a child develop a secure attachment.

Here are 5 ways to achieve that.

  • Provide reliable care to your child so they know they can count on you for emotional support.
  • Validate and empathize rather than discourage or dismiss their feelings.
  • Allow them to express negative emotions.
  • Coach them to recognize and understand their different feelings.
  • Model how to express and regulate your own emotions healthily.

What is attachment?

Attachment is the close emotional bond between babies and their primary caregivers; attachment style is the behavioral patterns babies develop to maintain that connection because babies need to be with their caregivers for safety and survival. Attachment styles affect a child’s development, behavior, and relationships, according to the attachment theory.

What is the attachment theory?

The attachment theory was proposed by psychiatrist John Bowlby and later expanded by other psychologists, including Mary Ainsworth. John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth attachment theory suggests that if a young child receives consistently warm and responsive care, they feel loved and well-cared for. The child feels safe and counts on their caregiver for help and comfort. They develop a secure attachment. This early attachment relationship creates an internal working model representing themselves and others and helps shape the child’s thoughts about the world.

Therefore, attachment style affects how children act and grow. However, if the child is not well-cared for, they don’t expect help and develop insecure attachment styles.

What are the 4 types of attachment styles?

The four attachment styles in children are secure attachment style, ambivalent attachment style, avoidant attachment style, and disorganized attachment style.

The four equivalent attachment styles in adults are secure attachment style, anxious attachment style, dismissive avoidant attachment style, and fearful attachment style.


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