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The Truth About Attachment Styles and How They Impact Your Life

Your attachment style develops in childhood based on your experiences with your primary caregivers and continues to influence your relationships as an adult. Whether you have a secure, anxious, avoidant or disorganized attachment style; it impacts who you're attracted to, how you behave in relationships, and your expectations of the people in your life. Understanding your own attachment style can help you build healthier, happier relationships.

What Are Attachment Styles?

Attachment styles refer to the way you emotionally bond with other people. The way you attached to your primary caregivers as an infant shaped your attachment style, and it continues to impact how you form relationships as an adult.

There are four main attachment styles:

  1. Secure: You feel comfortable with intimacy and independence. You view relationships as mutually supportive and trust that your needs will be met. About 50-60% of adults have a secure attachment style.

  2. Anxious: You crave intimacy and worry your needs won't be met. You may come across as clingy or possessive in relationships. Roughly 20% of adults have an anxious attachment style.

  3. Avoidant: You value independence over intimacy. You may seem detached or distrustful in relationships. An estimated 25% of adults have an avoidant attachment style.

  4. Disorganized: Your attachment style is inconsistent and confusing. Disorganized attachment often develops from inconsistent or frightening caregiving as an infant. About 5-10% of adults have a disorganized attachment style.

Your style develops in infancy based on your relationship with primary caregivers. The good news is you can strengthen a secure attachment at any age through self-reflection and work with a therapist.

While attachment styles are complex, awareness and understanding are the first steps to growth. With time and effort, you can develop secure attachments and connect with others in a healthy, fulfilling way.

Early Experiences Matter

The first few years of life are critical for forming secure attachments. If your parents or primary caregivers were:

  • Responsive to your needs, emotionally available and provided consistent care and comfort, you likely developed a secure attachment style. As an adult, you feel comfortable with intimacy and are able to have healthy, long-term relationships.

  • Inconsistent or unresponsive to your needs, you may have an anxious or avoidant attachment style. You tend to worry about relationships or avoid closeness to protect yourself.

  • Neglectful or abusive, you can develop a disorganized attachment style, struggling with trust and having chaotic relationships.

Patterns Repeat Themselves

Our early attachment experiences create a model of what relationships should be like. As adults, we unconsciously seek out partners and relationships that confirm these expectations. So if you had unreliable or rejecting parents, you expect the same in your adult relationships.

The good news is, while attachment styles are formed early on, they can change. Developing an awareness of your attachment style, addressing any unmet needs from childhood, and learning new relationship skills can help you move towards a more secure attachment style and healthy relationships.

How to Identify Your Attachment Style

The best way to determine your attachment style is through self-reflection and assessment. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • How did your parents or primary caregivers respond to you emotionally as a child? Were they consistently available, loving, and supportive or were they distant, rejecting, or inconsistent?

  • How do you typically feel in your close relationships? Do you feel secure and comfortable depending on others or do feelings of anxiety, distrust, or discomfort arise?

  • How do you normally behave in relationships? Are you able to be intimate without losing your sense of self or do you become clingy, controlling, or avoid commitment and closeness?

Take an attachment style test. Several quizzes and assessments based on decades of attachment theory research are available free online. They ask you questions about your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in close relationships to determine where you fall on the spectrum of attachment styles.

Talk to a therapist. Speaking to a professional therapist or counselor can provide insight into your attachment style through discussion of your relationship history and dynamics. Therapy can also help you address attachment injuries from childhood and learn skills to develop healthier relationships as an adult.

With awareness and effort, it is possible to become securely attached by addressing attachment style tendencies that don't serve you, learning to trust others, and building closeness. The journey begins with understanding how your formative relationships impact your adult relationships today.

Improving Your Attachment Style

Improving your attachment style is possible with conscious effort and practice. The first step is awareness - recognize your habitual patterns of thinking and behaving in relationships. Then, work to challenge those patterns and adopt new ways of relating that feel more secure and healthy.

Identify your attachment style

Take an online assessment to determine where you fall on the secure to insecure spectrum. The most common styles are secure, anxious, and avoidant. Knowing your tendencies can help you understand how you relate to romantic partners, friends, and family members.

Challenge anxious thoughts

If you have an anxious attachment style, learn to identify anxious thoughts like “My partner doesn't really love me” or "I'm unlovable.” Challenge these worries with more balanced thoughts, like “My partner shows they care in many ways” or “I have a lot to offer in relationships.” Practice self-soothing when you feel distressed.

Face your avoidance

For those with an avoidant attachment style, try opening up to others in small ways. Share details about yourself, express appreciation for your partner, and engage in meaningful conversations. Accept that emotional intimacy, while risky, is worthwhile and healing.

Seek secure relationships

The interactions we have in our close relationships shape our attachment styles over time. Spend time with securely attached people who make you feel safe, accepted and cared for. Their healthy ways of relating can help strengthen your own security. You may also consider speaking to a therapist.

With patience and persistence, you can improve your attachment style. But go easy on yourself - change won’t happen overnight. Learn to accept yourself as you are, imperfections and all, while still striving to build healthier connections with those closest to you.


Ainsworth, M. D. Blehar, M. C. Waters, E. & Wall, S. (1978). Patterns of attachment: A psychological study of the strange situation. Psychology Press.

Bartholomew, K. & Horowitz, L. M. (1991). Attachment styles among young adults: A test of a four-category model. Journal of Personality and Social psychology, 61(2), 226.

Bowlby, J. (1982). Attachment and loss: Retrospect and prospect. American journal of Orthopsychiatry, 52(4), 664.

Mikulincer, M. & Shaver, P. R. (2007). Attachment in adulthood: Structure, dynamics, and change. Guilford Press.

Mikulincer, M. & Shaver, P. R. (2016). Attachment in adulthood: Structure, dynamics, and change (2nd ed. . Guilford Press

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