Emerging blogger series, Mental health

Emerging Blogger Series: Sana (The Curly Therapist)

The Emerging blogger series on Mental Health @ Home; background of cherry blossoms

The emerging blogger series is aimed at community building through giving mental health bloggers who are early in their blogging evolution the opportunity to have their work seen by a wider audience.  It’s also a way to introduce you as a reader to some newer members of our community.

This post is by Sana of The Curly Therapist.

man and woman sitting together
Photo by guest author

What Does Your Attachment Style Say About You?

What is “Attachment”? 

Attachment theory is focused on the relationships and bonds between people, especially long-term relationships, between a parent and child and between romantic partners. John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth, pioneers of this subject, found that the way infants’ needs are met by their caregivers significantly forms their “attachment strategy” in their adult relationships (1). In other words, as adults we tend to find partners that confirm our attachment models from childhood. For example, if you grew up with an insecure attachment pattern, you may search for similar patterns in your adult relationships, even if these patterns are harmful.

Your attachment style doesn’t explain everything about your relationships, but it may help explain why your relationships have succeeded or failed in the way that they did, why you’re attracted to certain people, and why certain relationship problems keep coming up. 

Why Does Your Attachment Style Matter? 

Educating myself on attachment theory radicalized the way I saw myself and others. Your attachment style influences your partner selection, how well your relationships progress, and how they end. Mindfulness of your attachment style can help you understand your strengths and vulnerabilities in a relationship. 

Four Attachment Styles

There are four attachment styles that adults can adopt (1): 

  • secure
  • anxious
  • avoidant
  • anxious-avoidant

Secure Attachment Style 

People with secure attachment styles are comfortable showing interest and affection toward others. They can prioritize relationships within their life and establish healthy boundaries with others. They’re also comfortable with being alone and independent. You may have already guessed it, but secure attachment types tend to make the best romantic partners, friends, and family members. They’re able to trust others, are trustworthy themselves, and can accept rejection despite the pain. 

Anxious Attachment Style

Anxious attachment types tend to be nervous and insecure about the strength of their relationships and need lots of reassurance and validation from their partner. They find it difficult to be alone and may find themselves in unhealthy relationships. They find it difficult to trust people, even those they’re close to. They may find themselves behaving irrationally and being overly emotional. This may be reflected in someone who constantly doubts the loyalty of their partner or needs constant reassurance that their partner is attracted to them. 

Avoidant Attachment Style

Avoidant attachment types are self-reliant, independent, and often uncomfortable with intimacy. They often fear commitment and avoid emotionally intimate situations. When faced with intimacy, they complain about feeling “suffocated” and may distance themselves further. In every relationship they have an “escape route,” and may structure their lifestyle to minimize emotional intimacy. This may be reflected in someone who gets annoyed when their partner wants to spend extra time with them or feels uncomfortable when their relationship becomes more intimate. 

Anxious-Avoidant Attachment Style

Anxious-avoidant attachment types (also known as “fearful-avoidant”) are a combination of two attachment “extremes.” Anxious-avoidant types crave intimacy and commitment, but when relationships get deeper, their fear and mistrust leads them to distance themselves. This creates a cycle in which the anxious-avoidant desperately seeks out intimacy and validation yet withdraws when they near intimacy. They may find themselves in a series of short relationships that end with them finding fault in a partner who seems more threatening as the relationship grows deeper. Research has found that a small percentage of the population qualifies as anxious-avoidant, and these individuals typically struggle with mental illness and/or substance abuse as well. (2) 

The Anxious-Avoidant Trap

In codependent relationships, a common pattern of behavior is the “anxious-avoidant trap.” This relationship feels like a “push and pull” as both partners are at are at opposite ends of the attachment spectrum.  The anxious person in the relationship moves closer to their partner and craves lots of attention, validation, and intimacy. The avoidant person, on the other hand, responds by moving away as they interpret the emotional advances as suffocating. The avoidant type feels threatened and then overloaded by their anxious partner. They feel they’ve lost their autonomy and sense of self as their anxious partner seeks to move even closer.  This push-and-pull creates a cycle that is referred to as the “anxious-avoidant trap.” 

Your Attachment Style Can Change

The attachment style you formed as a child based on your relationship with a parent or caregiver doesn’t have to define your ways of relating to those you love as an adult. If you become aware of your attachment style, you can discover ways you’re defending yourself from emotional intimacy and can then work toward forming a secure attachment. For example, you can challenge yourself by choosing a partner with a secure attachment style and work on developing yourself in that relationship. Therapy can also be helpful for changing maladaptive attachment patterns that you feel you’ve developed from childhood.  Awareness of your attachment style is the first step to challenge insecurities and fears, and cultivate new styles of attachment for a satisfying, loving relationship.

All the attachment types discussed are scalar, and while one has a “dominant” attachment type, it’s possible to exhibit tendencies of more than one type. For example, all non-secure attachment types will probably score some amount on the “secure” scale, and secure attachment types may score some amount on the “anxious” and/or “avoidant” scales. 

Attached: A Must-Read

The book Attached, by Dr. Amir Levine and Rachel Heller, M.A., piqued my interest in attachment theory. It was comprehensive yet explained simply, and I recommend it for anyone interested in learning more about the concept of attachment and their own attachment style. It also includes interactive and self-reflective components that are helpful as one progresses through the book. 

So… What’s Your Attachment Style?

Psychology Today offers an online test you can complete to find out. 

Bio:

Sana is an Indian-American psychotherapist who writes about diverse mental health issues, the mind-body interconnection, and neuroscience.

Visit Sana on her blog The Curly Therapist.

References

  1. Bartholomew, K., Kwong, M. J., & Hart, S. D. (2001). Attachment. In Handbook of personality disorders: Theory, research, and treatment (pp. 196–230). New York, NY, US: Guilford Press.
  2. Caspers, K. M., Yucuis, R., Troutman, B., & Spinks, R. (2006). Attachment as an organizer of behavior: implications for substance abuse problems and willingness to seek treatment. Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy, 1(1), 32.

Thanks so much Sana for participating in the emerging blogger series!

You can find a listing of all of the posts in the series directory.

The Emerging blogger series on Mental Health @ Home; background of cherry blossoms

Do you want to be the next emerging blogger?

Criteria:

  • you have a personal (rather than business-oriented) blog that’s focused primarily on mental health and illness
  • you’re a new(ish) blogger, with WordPress following <100 preferred

Interested?  If you fit the criteria above:

  • email me at mentalhealthathome (at) gmail (dot) com
  • let me know the topic you’d like to write about and include your blog name/URL
  • don’t think of this as having to “pitch” an idea – I’m just trying to make sure people actually fit the criteria and spirit of the series

22 thoughts on “Emerging Blogger Series: Sana (The Curly Therapist)”

  1. I was avoidant and worked it through to more secure. It’s a great feeling to have some of the difficult bridges crossed. Now I know when ‘avoidant’ says hello again, I hear myself talking and can switch it around quite easily. It took me some practice though.

  2. That is so interesting and informative! Great emerging blogger post!! I might be anxious, but I’m not avoidant (nor anxious-avoidant). But I know for a fact (because my mom has told me this repeatedly) that she held me for hours and hours when I was a baby. I’d start to cry, she’d pick me up. She was so taken with Baby Meg that she would just hold me for hours and hours. That might explain why I don’t have more serious attachment issues!! 😮

  3. Boy there are some freaky as hell questions on that test .. l mean some of the questions l was like ‘do people really feel that way??’

    That all aside, another cracking post Ashkey 🙂

  4. None of those types describes us. This is to be expected.

    We took the test, and it is not geared for people who have been in the same monogamous (auto correct made it say monotonous, which is not true lol) relationship for 30 years.

    Arg, we sound old, er, wise

  5. Informative and interesting post Ashley and Sana. I like the concept of Attachment theory and over the years I’ve seen me move around the four styles of attachment – finally Secure is my style. It’s taken lots of years, loads of studying, nurse training, much therapy and self-development to get here. I hope to stay within that style always.
    Caz x

  6. My attachment style depends on the relationships I have I think. Primarily anxious-avoidant, but with chosen family, and my therapist, it has slowly shifted to secure-ish 🙂

Leave a Reply