Coping With an Avoidant-Insecure Attachment

According to attachment theory, our relationships with our parents or caregivers in infancy and early childhood influence how we view and operate in relationships into adulthood.

Attachment theory was proposed by psychoanalyst John Bowlby in the 1940s and was aided in development by developmental psychologist Mary Ainsworth.

Based on attachment theory, attachment can either be secure or insecure. Secure attachments are considered healthy, while insecure ones can cause dysfunctional effects.

Read on to explore the avoidant attachment style in more depth.

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What Is Avoidant-Insecure Attachment?

The avoidant attachment style is one of three insecure attachment styles identified in attachment theory. The three types of adult insecure attachment styles are identified as anxious (also called preoccupied), avoidant (also called dismissive), and disorganized (also called fearful-avoidant).

People with an avoidant attachment style have trouble trusting others to meet their needs in a relationship. Though they tend to have positive views of themselves, they often have negative views of romantic partners and minimize the importance of close relationships.

Someone with an avoidant attachment style typically seeks independence in their relationship and may even push others away. They value control and autonomy and often use distancing strategies.

What Causes Avoidant-Insecure Attachment?

People with an avoidant attachment style often have parents or caregivers who were emotionally distanced and intolerant of the expression of feelings. They may have been strict and have expected their child to be tough and independent.

The parent or caregiver may have been reserved and backed away when their child reached out for support, affection, or reassurance.

When a child learns that they can't count on their basic or emotional needs being met, they can begin to see social bonds as unsafe or unstable and have a hard time trusting people. This insecurity and lack of trust can carry into adulthood and affect their adult relationships.

Often, parents or caregivers who have an avoidant attachment style themselves parent in a way that fosters avoidant attachment in their children.

Examples of Avoidant-Insecure Attachment 

People with avoidant attachment styles can:

  • Appear confident and self-sufficient
  • Be independent, including in the workplace
  • Be easygoing and fun to be around
  • Be social, have a lot of friends and/or sexual partners
  • Have high self-esteem
  • Seek personal success and invest in their professional development
  • Keep social interactions and bonds on the surface level, avoiding strong closeness and emotional intimacy
  • Close themselves off or distance themselves from their partner when a relationship begins to get serious
  • Look for a reason to end a relationship when it begins deepening, such as getting annoyed with their partner's habits or behavior
  • Avoid seeking emotional comfort and support from their partner
  • Offer less comfort and support when their partner seems upset

Can You Change Your Attachment Style?

Attachment styles can naturally change over time through life and relationship experiences. They can also be changed intentionally, but it requires effort and a drive to do so.

A 2020 study found that those who indicated they wanted to be less avoidant tended to decrease in attachment avoidance faster than those who did not wish to change.

How to Overcome an Avoidant-Insecure Attachment Style

A 2020 study found support for a "fake it til you make it" type of approach to changing an avoidant attachment style. Essentially, by behaving less avoidant for an extended period of time (this study suggests as little as six weeks), those changes become habitual and incorporate into the person's identity, creating lasting change.

Repeated positive interactions with a partner can help create and reinforce more secure attachments as the avoidant person begins to trust their needs will be met.

To start making changes, a person with an avoidant attachment style can:

  • Pay deliberate attention to how they feel, physically and emotionally, when they are around emotional intimacy
  • Self-reflect and look for avoidant patterns
  • Explore their emotional needs and seek to understand them
  • Work on expressing their emotional needs and responding to the emotional needs of those whom they are close to

Changing an avoidant attachment style can be difficult to manage on your own. It can be a good idea to consult with a professional who has knowledge and experience working with insecure attachment styles.

If you are unhappy with the patterns of your relationships or any other area affected by your attachment style, seeing a professional such as a therapist can help.


Avoidant attachment is one of three adult insecure attachment styles. People with an avoidant attachment style tend to be independent and find emotional intimacy difficult. It is often hard for them to form and maintain deep romantic relationships.

It's possible to change an avoidant attachment style through working on being more emotionally available and responsive. It can help to see a professional such as a therapist to assist in guiding this transition.

A Word From Verywell 

If you have an avoidant attachment style and it is having a negative impact on your relationships or other areas of your life, consider talking to a professional such as a therapist. They can help you explore your thought processes and emotions and work with you to change them to ones that better serve your needs.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is insecure attachment the same as avoidant?

    Avoidant attachment is a form of insecure attachment. Three of the four adult attachment styles are classified as insecure.

  • What are the signs of an avoidant attachment?

    People with an avoidant attachment style tend to be independent and value autonomy. Emotional intimacy is challenging for them. They can have a difficult time showing their emotions, seeking reassurance, and providing comfort to their partners.

  • How does an insecure-avoidant attachment develop in children?

    Children who grow up in an environment where emotional displays are discouraged or punished may develop an avoidant attachment. When their basic needs, including emotional needs, are not consistently met, they can learn to distrust close relationships and become overly independent.

6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. The Attachment Project. Avoidant attachment style: causes & symptoms.

  3. Abdul Kadir NB. Insecure attachment. In: Zeigler-Hill V, Shackelford TK, eds. Encyclopedia of Personality and Individual Differences. Springer International Publishing; 2017:1-8. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-28099-8_2025-1

  4. Hudson NW, Chopik WJ, Briley DA. Volitional change in adult attachment: can people who want to become less anxious and avoidant move closer towards realizing those goals? Eur J Pers. 2020;34(1):93-114. doi:10.1002/per.2226

  5. PsychAlive. Avoidant attachment: understanding insecure avoidant attachment.

  6. Sheinbaum T, Kwapil TR, Ballespi­ S, et al. Attachment style predicts affect, cognitive appraisals, and social functioning in daily life. Front Psychol. 2015;6. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00296

By Heather Jones
Heather M. Jones is a freelance writer with a strong focus on health, parenting, disability, and feminism.