The Superpowers of Anxious Preoccupied Attachment

There are many benefits of being an adult with anxious preoccupied attachment. And we’re not just lifting these superpowers from our imagination. They’re backed up by research and observations, so you don’t have to just take our word for it. However, in order to successfully improve your personal strengths, you may first need to be able to recognize them.

This article will discuss the superpowers that an anxiously attached person may possess in the different domains of their life. You might just discover a superpower that you didn’t realize you had. even one that you previously might have thought was a challenge!

In this article we will discuss:

  • Brief intro on attachment theory
  • What is anxious attachment?
  • What is positive psychology?
  • The six workplace superpowers of anxious preoccupied colleagues
  • The five relationship superpowers of anxious preoccupied partners
  • The four friendship superpowers of adults with anxious attachment

First things first – what is attachment?

An attachment style is someone’s way of relating to others in relationships – both personal and professional. According to the parameters of attachment theory, which John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth initially developed in the 1950s, a person’s attachment style forms as a response to their relationship with their caregiver.

There are four types of attachment: secure, anxious, avoidant, and disorganized.

What is anxious preoccupied attachment?

The anxious preoccupied attachment style is a form of insecure attachment. Insecure attachment usually manifests from inconsistent parenting during a child’s formative years. In other words, the caregivers may have been supportive and attentive to their child’s needs at times. However, on other occasions, they may not have been attuned to their child’s needs. 

Common signs of anxious attachment in adults
  • Deep fear of abandonment
  • Highly insecure in relationships
  • Exhibits clingy and needy behaviors
  • Often searching for external validation
  • Worried that a partner doesn’t love them
  • Anxiety that a partner will leave them

Anxiously attached people tend to have a deep fear of abandonment. As a result, they are highly insecure about their relationships. This attachment style typically identifies with clingy and needy behaviors. Anxiously attached people may even express an “emotional hunger” as they constantly search for validation from their partner that they love them and won’t leave them.

It is important to be aware of the traits of your attachment style, as well as how they can negatively impact your life. However, you can derive a variety of benefits from focusing on the positive aspects. You may have heard of positive psychology. In essence, positive psychology is the scientific study of the elements “that make life most worth living”. Practicing it can help you to build upon your strengths, increase your self-esteem, and improve your relationships.

We’re all aware that the secure attachment style is the one that’s typically aspired to – and that’s not surprising. After all, they are emotionally balanced, calm, and comfortable with intimacy without becoming overly needy or clingy. In contrast, having an anxious attachment style tends to be seen as neurotic. These individuals so desperately want approval that they drive the people close to them away. But this isn’t always the case.

1. Workplace superpowers of anxious preoccupied attachment

anxious preoccupied at work

Anxious adults may unintentionally act as workplace “sentinels”; guardians of the team whose job it is to stand watch and make sure that nothing bad happens. In fact, a study by Ein-Dor and Tal (2012) showed that people who scored highly on a questionnaire designed to assess for anxious attachment were more likely to detect and alert others to threats.

These individuals didn’t delay before reporting potential danger, thus saving their workplace hours of hassle and countless funds. Therefore, an anxiously attached person may be the “scared savior” of a team, but they are one that many employers would express extreme gratitude for!

Because of their enthusiasm regarding opening up to other people, anxious people have the advantage of being able to deal with challenging work scenarios through effective cooperation skills, willingness to seek support from others, and trust in other people’s abilities.

Let’s consider this as a constructive balance between the fight or flight response characteristics. Each specific attachment style governs our fight or flight response. For example, a stressful work situation may activate the attachment system of an avoidant person and trigger their tendency to avoid difficult situations. Thus, they may react with the flight response. In contrast, when an avoidant individual’s attachment system is triggered, they are more likely to try and fight for a positive outcome.

Someone with an anxious attachment tends to be hyper-vigilant regarding their actions and how they could possibly be upsetting for someone else. For this reason, they are unlikely to be troublemakers in the workplace, and instead, they are likely to constantly evaluate their behavior and quality of work to avoid confrontation. Although this may be a little exhausting for the individual, these traits are undoubtedly highly desirable in a professional context!

To sum it up, here are some of the superpowers that an anxious employee can bring to their job:
  • Likely to detect and alert others to workplace problems
  • Open to working and communicating as part of a team
  • Willing to seek support from a team and trust in others
  • Likely to work hard to achieve a positive outcome 
  • Compliant in the workplace
  • Continuously evaluate their performance and quality of work

2. Relationship superpowers of Anxious preoccupied attachment

healthy relationships - secure attachment style

Anxious adults are likely to give themselves over to relationships entirely. They fall in love easily and tend to hold their partners in high regard. For this reason, they put a lot of effort and dedication into their relationships. Even when a relationship is in trouble, someone with anxious attachment is less likely to give up on it than the other attachment styles.

Furthermore, an anxious adult is not likely to run away from intimacy or emotional closeness. In fact, they welcome it as it makes them feel more secure in their relationship. Someone with this attachment style can highly attune themselves to their partner’s needs due to their hyper-vigilant behaviors. Meaning that when their partner needs emotional or physical support, they are sensitive enough to detect what they need.

Although people with anxious attachment tend to see themselves in a less favorable light, they tend to see their partners in a largely positive one. This means that they are more likely to promote them and help them to see them through their eyes, as lovable people.

To sum it up, the superpowers of anxious attachment in relationships are:
  • Devote themselves to relationships fully
  • Fall in love easily
  • Willing to work on relationships
  • Highly attuned to their partner’s needs
  • Help partners to see themselves positively 

3. Friendship superpowers of anxious preoccupied attachment

healthy friendship

Anxious adults crave closeness in friendships. They may even experience a sense of “falling in love” with a new person in their friendship group. They may see someone new as exciting and impressive; therefore, they may be very friendly and accepting to others as they are hoping to forge close friendships.

Someone with this attachment style tends to be the caretaker within a friend group as they can be very thoughtful and supportive of their friends. Therefore, other people feel safe turning to an anxious adult when they need to discuss personal problems.

The anxious preoccupied attachment style correlates with feelings of insecurity and inconsistency. In other words, anxiously attached adults will likely be eager to keep in contact with others and work hard at maintaining the friendship. They may also people-please, as it is essential to them that their friends are happy with them. Even if this does sometimes mean that others take advantage of their kind and generous nature!

In summary, the superpowers of anxious preoccupied attachment in relationships are:
  • Crave closeness and connectedness with friends
  • Can be friendly and accepting
  • Act as the caretaker within groups
  • Work hard at maintaining friendships

Time to Reflect

How much do you agree with how fitting the superpowers for anxious preoccupied attachment are for you? Attachment styles are often a spectrum, and the amount that you identify with these traits might differ from someone else.

Would you like to find out whether you identify with the superpowers of another attachment style? We have three more posts on attachment style superpowers for those who are secure, avoidant and disorganized.

References:

Frankenhuis, W. E. (2010). Did insecure attachment styles evolve for the benefit of the group? Frontiers in Psychology, 172.

Get mental health tips straight to your inbox