Published on October 12, 2022
From time to time, you may find that you struggle more than usual to achieve balance and peace of mind in your day-to-day life. Perhaps your partner is out of town for a few days, and you feel anxious in their absence. Or maybe you’ve decided to move in together, but you find yourself overwhelmed by having to share personal space and time.
Oftentimes, the reasons for these imbalances in emotions are caused by our attachment traits being triggered – which ultimately can create fears, worry, and distress in our relationships.
Yet, if you’re unfamiliar with attachment theory (and attachment styles), then you may not recognize when attachment insecurities are interfering with your mental health and, subsequently, romantic and social lives. Never fear, though, as we at The Attachment Project are here to help you decipher how your attachment traits may be impacting your well-being and quality of life. In the following article, we cover 6 signs that your attachment style is affecting your peace of mind:
Oftentimes, when something is bothering us, it can seem like we view the entire world through a negative lens. This effect may be particularly true for people with insecure attachment styles, as according to research, they are more likely to perceive unfamiliar faces as unfriendly or untrustworthy due to their early experiences.
Avoidant attachers tend to have a more pessimistic view of others than they do of themselves. So, when this attitude is applied to their relationships, they may allocate all the blame to their partners’ actions rather than recognize the role that they themselves play in the dynamic. What’s more, someone with the avoidant attachment style may display narcissistic behaviors such as an inflated sense of importance or a notable lack of empathy towards others. Understandably, attitudes such as these can be tough in a relationship, as they can aggravate the problems that the couple may be experiencing.
Furthermore, research on attachment has shown that mothers who experienced trauma are more likely to interact with their children with greater irritability, criticism, and generally less patience. These actions create somewhat of a vicious cycle, as we often carry our past with us and project our trauma and attitudes onto those we love the most. This cycle somewhat explains why we may act negatively towards our loved ones when we actually don’t harbor resentment towards them – our actions come from an unsettled peace of mind as a result of unresolved past issues. If you would like to know more about the transgenerational cycle of attachment, check out our article.
Those of us with insecure attachment styles don’t just view others through a negative lens – we often apply the same outlook to ourselves. This negative self-perception is especially true for people with an anxious attachment style, as they’re prone to seeing themselves in a negative light in comparison to how they view others.
Anxious attachers typically have an extreme need for external approval, so they frequently believe that others don’t appreciate them.
This belief can be difficult to manage as the anxious attacher may think that they’re incapable of being “good enough” in a relationship and that their partners couldn’t possibly love them for who they are. Attitudes such as this are also tough on the partners of anxious attachers, as they may feel like they’re not doing enough to help their anxious partners feel safe and valued.
Similarly, anxious attachers may excessively worry about whether their partner will support them in times of need. Clearly, this level of worry can become overwhelming, as no matter how supportive and available the partner of an anxious attacher acts, they might struggle to alleviate insecurities that stem from an attachment style.
Even though avoidant attachers have a more positive view of themselves than others, they are still more likely to view themselves negatively during experiences of inner conflict. So, when an avoidant attacher’s peace of mind is disturbed, they often paradoxically display some narcissistic traits but still feel less worthy than others.
In contrast to people with insecure attachment styles, secure attachers tend to be self-compassionate, possess a sense of belonging, and understand their level of importance in others’ lives. Therefore, when experiencing relationship conflict and concurrent disturbances to their sense of well-being, secure attachers tend to cope in healthier, more adaptive ways – so, in effect, they’re restoring their peace of mind.
During times of insecurity or distress, it’s common to display patterns of pessimism, sadness, and anxiety which further imbalance our state of mind. However, people with an insecure attachment style are especially prone to experiencing these emotions as they’re more susceptible to attachment-related distress, such as an enhanced fear of loss, separation anxiety, excessive care-seeking, and withdrawal.
Anxious attachers are especially prone to pessimistic outlooks, as they tend to focus on “worst-case” scenarios – which could enhance feelings of anxiety and depression.
People with the anxious and disorganized attachment styles are more likely to experience their emotions with greater intensity than those with a secure attachment style. Yet, while anxious attachers generally express their feelings – sometimes excessively – disorganized attachers don’t do so to quite the same degree.
So, if an anxious attacher’s attachment insecurities are triggered, they tend to act on their emotions. Yet, depending on where a disorganized attacher falls on the dimensions of avoidant or anxious attachment, they may bottle their feelings up despite experiencing them intensely.
Secure attachers access and express their emotions with relative ease – meaning that they are skilled at resolving issues with partners because they openly communicate how they feel. In contrast, people with insecure attachment styles are more susceptible to feelings of depression during times of conflict or distress in their relationships, but, interestingly, avoidant attachers are especially at risk of these feelings becoming severe.
This effect may be to do with how avoidant attachers experience their emotions. When anxious and disorganized attachers’ attachment insecurities are triggered, they tend to experience their emotions with intensity and thus, may better understand how to express how they feel. Comparatively, avoidant attachers may undergo a sense of “numbness” in regards to their emotions and how to express them – but this doesn’t mean that these emotions don’t exist.
Relational distress can make us feel lonely – whether from actual social isolation or a perceived lack of support and belonging. Unfortunately, feelings of loneliness often lead to stronger symptoms of depression – so it’s important to acknowledge these emotions and their causes.
Avoidant attachers may be especially prone to experiences of actual social isolation, as they typically feel uncomfortable with intimacy, suppress their emotions, and compulsively withdraw from others. Actions like these inevitably lead to feeling a lack of support during times of need and no sense of belonging in social groups.
Anxious attachers are also inclined to feel lonely, but not from actual social isolation. Instead, when an anxious attacher’s insecurities are triggered, they perceive that others aren’t there for them during times of need. Anxious attachers are also excessively fearful of abandonment, and may vocalize these fears within their support systems – sometimes to excess, which may actually push people away.
Disorganized attachers are also likely to experience loneliness. The triggers for this attachment style come from innate fears of abandonment and intimacy. So, when their attachment traits are activated, disorganized attachers often withdraw from their loved ones and shun attempts at support. Yet, they may also strongly fear that the people they love will abandon them, so they feel every modicum of isolation even though they may have pushed for it.
One of the tell-tale signs of a conflicted peace of mind is when we stop taking care of ourselves. Consider the secure attachment style for a moment: because people with this style were shown that they were valued as children, they grew up with healthy levels of self-esteem and self-worth. Resultingly, during times of stress or inner conflict, secure attachers maintain certain standards of self-care.
For example, a secure attacher usually employs healthy coping strategies such as exercise, turning to people that they trust for support, and continuing healthy eating patterns. In contrast, people with insecure attachment styles may struggle to cope with their feelings of inner turmoil and engage in more maladaptive strategies for managing their emotions. These strategies may include substance misuse, bottling up emotions, isolation, outbursts, and neglecting their diet and exercise regimes.
This sign has clear connections to the previous one on struggling to take good care of ourselves. This is because, when we’re feeling low, we’re more likely to engage in unhealthy patterns of behavior such as taking substances – especially if we have an insecure attachment style. Essentially, the more socially connected we feel, the less likely we are to engage in substance use – especially during times of conflict.
For example, insecure attachers are more likely to use substances such as nicotine and alcohol to alleviate distress and anxiety than secure attachers – likely due in part to the accessibility of such substances. However, this finding is especially true for adolescents with an insecure attachment style and may dissipate with age.
What’s more, avoidant attachers are especially likely to resort to substance use during times of loneliness. Perhaps the substance works as a form of substitution for social support, as avoidant attachers tend to withdraw from others during times of emotional turmoil.
Interestingly, although insecure attachers are more likely to use substances to cope with distress, secure attachers may turn to alcohol more frequently than people with any other attachment style. However, this finding was reported in a young sample of students who may have been using alcohol as a form of socializing in a group setting. But, yet, it does demonstrate that even secure attachers may turn to substances to cope with moments of insecurity too.
It can feel overwhelming to try and restore a sense of inner balance and peace of mind when it can be so easily shaken by subconscious childhood insecurities. Although this article outlines the warning signs of when attachment styles could be impacting our peace of mind, heightened awareness is only the beginning of the journey.
Research suggests that understanding why we think and act the way we do and how we take care of ourselves are essential to restoring peace of mind. Therefore, to better understand ourselves, we must invest in personal development work and be open to exploring our inner world. Developing an awareness of our inner selves, including our attachment styles, can be a powerful tool for self-development as it can help us understand how to target the roots of our issues. But be sure to be kind to yourself during this process, as developing self-awareness is often the toughest part of self-development.
And – above all – always remember that a mental health professional is often the best investment that you can make for yourself and your peace of mind.