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Anxious Ambivalent Attachment


Anxious ambivalent attachment is an attachment style (which is a psychological, evolutionary and ethological theory) that begins at a young age and is often seen in both adults and children. Typically, anxious ambivalent attachment is when an individual relies on emotional responses from others to manage their emotions. Individuals with anxious-ambivalent disorder are often worried about their relationships with others and may sometimes take steps that others can see as extreme in order to maintain and affirm these relationships.

In children, anxious ambivalent attachment can be developed as a result of inconsistent caretaking by the parents or guardians. Many times, if the child’s caretaker seeks emotional or physical closeness with their children in order to meet their own needs (to seem like the “perfect” parent, etc.) children can feel as if their parent(s) don’t respect their boundaries. Although attachment styles are not genetic, they are more than often caused by behavioral patterns continuing through several generations. A factor that can put children at a higher risk for this attachment style can be physical or psychological abuse, or an early separation from the parent figure in the child’s life.


Although this is an attachment style that develops at a young age, individuals are likely to continue having this attachment style during adulthood. They may need frequent, consistent reassurance that their loved ones care for them, while simultaneously finding it difficult to trust others and be close to them. If they do not feel as if their connection with the other person is not strong, they may begin blaming themselves for not being good enough for the other person. This can also include believing that they are not worthy of the person’s love. Some general characteristics of anxious ambivalent attachment are:

  • Lacking a strong sense of self and self-esteem

  • Tendency to put others before themselves

  • Avoiding spending time at home

  • Seeking reassurance from others

  • Fear of rejection

  • Inability to accept criticism


Anxious ambivalent attachment style is very relevant to the topic of mental health and disorders, because it can cause individuals to go from a mindset that tells them they have no worth if they do not get a very specific reaction or interaction from a particular person.

Although these characteristics seem negative, it is possible to change your attachment style through healthy relationships with others and therapy, because realizing what childhood memories caused this attachment style and how although the past is permanent, the future and present are in your hands is an integral part of the process. By learning new behavioral patterns and thinking differently, individuals can become more trusting of others and confident in themselves.

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