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Anxious Vs Avoidant Attachment: The 13 Key Differences To Know

Steffo Shambo

Updated on Apr 11, 2024
anxious vs avoidant attachment

Have you ever caught yourself clinging to your significant other like a koala to a tree?

Or maybe you’re the opposite, darting away from emotional closeness faster than Usain Bolt on the track.

If any of that rings a bell, welcome to the funhouse of insecure attachment styles.

In this guide, we’ll explore the anxious vs avoidant attachment styles. We’ll look at the key differences between these. This includes how relationships can work out when you belong in either attachment theory category.

Hate the troublesome tendencies? By the end of this guide, you’ll know where these tendencies come from and how to swap them out for something healthier and more romantic.

Anxious Vs Avoidant Attachment Styles: What’s The Difference?

Those with an anxious attachment style are overly reliant on people.

However, those who are avoidant are the exact opposite. People who have an avoidant attachment style feel a strong need for independence.

Based on the attachment theory, there are patterns that shape an individual’s perspective. This involves their understanding, expectations, and behaviors within adult relationships. As a result, it can lead to either an insecure or secure attachment style.

Now, don’t get it twisted. Anxious and avoidant attachment styles are both considered insecure.

If anxiety were a candy, you could describe it as sour. And if avoidant were a candy, you could describe it as bitter. They manifest differently in relationships, like two sides of a coin.

Let’s get to the foundation of the anxious and avoidant attachments, shall we?

The anxious attachment style

Picture a man with anxious attachments as someone who can’t venture off on his own without his teddy bear.

Okay, that’s quite exaggerated. But that pretty much sums up anxious attachment.

Anxiety disorders are a growing concern for many adults. According to one report by KFF, 32.3% of all adults have shown symptoms of anxiety.

32 percent of all adults have shown symptoms of anxiety

People with an insecure attachment under the anxious category usually have a hard time letting go. Why? Because they have a strong desire for closeness and emotional intimacy. The reason is that they have a strong fear of abandonment and rejection.

Every interaction feels like walking on a tightrope between constant love or validation and being terrified that they’re not worthy of it.

The avoidant attachment style

Picture a cat in human form – they like their space and will hiss at anyone who tries to get too close.

Again, that’s quite an exaggerated example.

Still, people with avoidant attachments tend to let go of the people around them. This is because they prefer to have emotional distance. Why? Because they want to prove that they’re able to do things on their own without the need for support from others.

Folks who prefer to handle things completely on their own and avoid showing vulnerability do so for a few reasons:

  • Fear of commitment
  • Afraid of intimacy
  • Terrified of rejection

The consequence? An avoidant person will struggle to form meaningful connections with others.

Although there’s a difference between the avoidant and anxious attachment styles, they’re both still similar to one another.

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13 Key Differences Between The Anxious And Avoidant Attachment Style

There are 13 key points to look out for. These distinguish the differences between the insecure attachment styles. Some of these key points include the following:

  • Sexual intimacy
  • Relationship communication
  • Building trust
  • Relationship conflict
  • Expressing emotions
  • Self-perception

And the list goes on.

the anxious and avoidant attachment styles manifest differently

1. Sexual intimacy

Anxious people crave more than just physical pleasure. They want an emotional connection. It’s a craving as intense as how bears crave honey. With that in mind, it’s not a surprise that they’ll seek reassurance and connection through sex.

On the opposite end, avoidant individuals are afraid of closeness.

Anxious people crave emotional connection. An avoidant person fears that emotional connection. That’s why they may keep a safe distance and avoid getting too close to building upon the spiritual intimacy.

2. Relationship communication

Granted, communication gets tricky when dealing with an insecure attachment style.

An anxious person may communicate openly yet hesitantly. They may partake in deep conversations since what they ultimately want is comfort. Their fear in being left alone can make them emotionally demanding.

In contrast, avoidant people will dodge deep conversations altogether like a plague. Instead, they’ll keep a distance.

Both are different in their own ways. Yet, either of these attachment styles can pile up misunderstandings and a whole lot of frustration.

3. Building trust

Trust issues everywhere! Someone that’s anxious will be stressed about things outside of their control, which leads to endless worrying. This almost often ends up leading to people pleasing.

Moreover, it’s not uncommon for those with an anxious attachment to be concerned about how things could suddenly turn for the worse.

Now, someone who’s avoidant will have a deep-rooted fear of never being able to care for themselves.

Avoidants don’t want to have to rely on others because they may see themselves as a burden for doing so. This causes them to lower their trust in others and pour all their trust into themselves.

4. Relationship conflict

Conflict is a natural part of life. It’s no different when it comes to relationships. How conflict is handled varies across each attachment style. Those who have a secure attachment style will naturally resolve conflict in the most effective way.

The same can’t really be said for those who have insecure attachment styles.  

  • Those who are anxious are huge worriers. Therefore, they’re more sensitive when dealing with conflict. They’ll treat it almost like a detective trying to solve a complicated murder case, even though the issue may be minor.
  • Avoidants are most likely going to withdraw or avoid confrontation altogether. They’re like a turtle who retreats back into its shell when they realize the troubles of the outside world.

Both of these can lead to a push-pull dynamic. One partner will always try to fix the problem, while the other tries to avoid them.

5. Expressing emotions

This is another strikingly differentiating factor. 

An anxious person will wear their hearts on their sleeves. This means they’re not afraid to express their thoughts, feelings, and concerns openly.

However, an avoidant person will have a poker face. This means they may downplay or suppress their emotions. All so that they don’t reveal how they feel. They’ll hide their feelings and remain on the surface, avoiding the heart of the matter.

6. Self-perception

insecure attachment styles can lead to self sabotaging

Self-perception significantly affects our happiness, mood, and relationships.

Those with a secure attachment style will have a positive, healthy self-perception. In contrast, those with an anxious or avoidant attachment will have negative views:

  • Anxious individuals will hold the perspective that they aren’t worthy enough. This is why they constantly seek validation.
  • Avoidants will hold a depersonalized point of view. This means that they separate their own thoughts and feelings from themselves.

In some cases, avoidants could have a positive self-image. Except, they don’t place a lot of trust in others. Moreover, they may put less emphasis on their emotional value. So, they decide to close themselves off emotionally.

7. Social life

insecure attachment styles can unintentionally push people away

People who have a secure attachment style will have a positive outlook on social life. They’ll often get along well with others and can form close relationships.

Now, those with an anxious attachment may prioritize relationships over all other aspects of life. They want to feel close and emotionally valued to those that matter to them.

On the flip side, avoidants value social freedom and often isolate themselves. Still, they desire a meaningful relationship. However, they fear allowing themselves to open up.

8. Relationship happiness

Romantic relationships can be quite a rollercoaster for anxious and avoidant people.

An avoidant’s weakness is emotional intimacy. And the foundation of any healthy relationship is having a strong emotional connection. This is why avoidants struggle with relationships overall.

However, they’ll show their love by deliberately making plans and choosing to spend time with you. They may not directly tell you how much you mean to them, but you can tell through their actions.

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Anxious individuals may openly share how much their partners mean to them directly. After all, they have a serious fear of being alone and abandoned. 

So, an anxious partner will do what they can to make their partner happy. What makes an anxious attachment person happy is reassurance. They would love to have validation from those they care about.

9. Childhood experiences

Inconsistent caregiving and alienation. These can contribute to an anxious attachment. Conversely, emotional unavailability from caregivers and fear of being unable to get by alone can lead to an avoidant attachment.

You’re more likely to have a secure attachment style when you had a positive experience growing up. Those who had a rough upbringing because of things such as trauma and abuse will more likely develop an insecure attachment style.

traumatic experience can lead to an anxious or avoidant attachment

Children’s attachment styles are molded by their interactions with caregivers. For reference, one report published on APA PsycNet revealed that 14.7% of children had an avoidant attachment style.

Anxious individuals may have experienced inconsistent care and attention. Thus leading to a strong need for reassurance.

Avoidant individuals may have been exposed to emotionally distant caregiving. Therefore, this causes them to develop the sense that they can only really rely on themselves. Then again, the study mentioned earlier by APA PsycNet stated that:

“We found a temporal trend in which there was less avoidant attachment over time.”

11. Emotional dependence

Individuals with anxious and avoidant attachment styles will typically experience the following:

  • Alienation
  • Envy
  • Rejection

All of which affect their emotional dependability.

Anxious attachment styles will emotionally depend on others.

In contrast, avoidant attachment styles will emotionally rely on themselves. They’ll intentionally keep others at arm’s length.

12. Automatic responses

Have you ever wondered what some people’s coping mechanisms or automatic responses look like?

People with anxious attachments may be quick to own up to mistakes. This could even include mistakes that were outside of their control. They’ll hold themselves accountable for everything that may have upset their partners.

Avoidants aren’t quite the same. They may be afraid to own up and take full ownership of their actions. Instead, they’ll step away from everything if they can.

13. Level of commitment and effort

Avoidants will have a fear of building close relationships, even if it’s something that they desire. Sounds contradictory, right? Well, that’s why it’s unfortunate. It’s also why they may put less commitment and effort into maintaining the relationship.

Quite often, avoidants will find an excuse to escape any situation. They prefer not to face an intimate problem.

An anxious attachment, however, will have a stronger fear of losing what they have. This is why they may not take relationships one step at a time: they desire commitment.

Does An Anxious And Avoidant Couple Work?

Two people with different attachment styles can still have a successful relationship. Granted, it takes compassion, patience, and much effort. But an anxious and avoidant couple can work out.

The key lies in empathy and developing healthy ways to understand one another.

Both anxious and avoidants will have their own needs. As long as they make an effort to show up, it’s not an impossible love story.

anxious and avoidant partners can still work out

Being In A Relationship With A Partner Who Has An Anxious Attachment Style

Having an anxious attachment style partner can feel heavy. Although holding a positive relationship may be challenging, it’s certainly doable.

Here are a few tips:

  • Give words of encouragement to support their personal growth
  • Improve nonverbal communication as well as verbal communication
  • Make them feel heard by listening to what they say and offering reassurance
  • Be patient and reply with compassion
  • Concentrate on the positives to help shift their focus away from the negatives
  • Never undermine an anxious partner’s feelings
  • Help your partner focus on personal development and building something for themselves

Being In A Relationship With A Partner Who Has An Avoidant Attachment Style

A partner with avoidant attachment can also be draining to deal with.

No matter your effort, they may still show dismissive behavior. This includes a reluctance to engage in deep conversations. For couples, this includes relationship check-ins.

Similar to dealing with an anxious attachment style partner, it requires patience. Show understanding.

That said, here are a few tips:

  • Respect your partner’s boundaries and personal space
  • Acknowledge the contributions that your partner makes to the relationship
  • Show appreciation for any positive actions or gestures
  • Never gaslight or overly criticize your partner
  • Be her safe space by showing compassion and understanding

How To Overcome Anxious And Avoidant Tendencies

Here are the steps you can take to overcome anxious and avoidant tendencies:

  • Build trust and emotional security
  • Focus on your own personal goals
  • Develop emotional intelligence
  • Get professional support

Build trust and emotional security

Trust and emotional security are two key factors. This is what an avoidant and anxious partner tend to lack. Take things slowly and one step at a time. Never rush or lash out at your partner for their flaws.

Instead, take the time to understand their strengths and weaknesses. Be consistent in connecting with your partner, and make it clear that you care about them. Soon enough, they’ll respond to the effort you’re putting in.

The masculine and feminine energies attract. So once you activate your inner essence, the other will naturally respond.

Focus on your own personal goals

Focusing on your own goals could help you boost self-awareness and confidence. It also helps with reducing codependency in relationships.

A healthy relationship is not one where both partners rely on each other for their happiness. It’s when they can be happy by themselves and then share that happiness with a significant other.

personal development is a lifelong journey

Develop emotional intelligence

Put an extra effort to step into your partner’s shoes.

Understand that their thoughts may be clouded due to past experiences. Instead of critiquing them for it, validate their feelings. Reassure them that you’re going to be there for them. Sometimes, this is all they need to hear to be motivated to take action.

Get professional support

Sometimes, fixing a broken relationship may require professional help. The biggest sign is when everything seems impossible and hopeless.

If you’re aware of your partner’s attachment style and have taken action, but nothing is working, a professional will give you the guidance you need. A relationship professional can help you convert into a secure attachment style.

Therapy and counseling may provide valuable insights into your relationship dynamics. Better yet, a tantric sex coach could offer support from a unique point of view.

Are There Any Other Attachment Styles?

There are others besides the anxious and avoidant attachment style. This includes the disorganized and secure attachment style.

As the name suggests, the secure attachment style is ideal. This is where you can picture the “alpha” male characteristics. Men in this category are emotionally stable, can take the lead, and are surrounded by healthy relationships.

Disorganized attachment is where you’re totally inconsistent. Some also refer to this attachment style as the “fearful-avoidant.”

Men with disorganized attachment styles lack emotional balance. They’re on the extreme end of the spectrum—either really close or really distant from people. This also falls under the umbrella category of the insecure attachment style.

Conclusion

Whew, now we’re out of the safari surrounding the mysteries of the anxious vs avoidant attachment styles.

Think of the anxious-avoidant attachment style as a Jumanji of relationships. It’s thrilling and unpredictable. There are ups and downs. But once you understand the game’s rules, everything will become easier.

Now, the truth is that only some are ready to restore their own love story. The reason is that most people are afraid to confront the reality.

And that reality includes the anxious or avoidant styles from the attachment theory.

If you’re already aware of the demons holding back your relationship and want to overcome them, watch my free tantric relationship masterclass. This is your personal guide to crushing your relationship hurdles.

Remember, getting a clear roadmap is the fastest way to go from an insecure to a secure attachment style.

Either way, everything improves once you’re able to find your blind spots and take control. Only then will you begin to pave the way to building a more epic love story with your partner.

FAQs

What is the difference between anxious and avoidant attachment?

Anxiously attached people show clingy and jealous behavior. Hence, they become emotionally dependent on their partner. They seek reassurance.

People with an avoidant attachment style typically operate alone. They’ll intentionally distance themselves from others. This is usually because of trust issues. Plus, they’ll try to reassure themselves that they don’t need anyone.

It can be hard to tell for some people because they may show signs of an anxious-avoidant attachment style.

How can you tell if someone is anxious or avoidant?

You can tell someone is anxious or avoidant. How? By looking at where they are in the attachment theory spectrum.

If one is overly committed and seems to be forcing themselves, there’s a chance that they’re anxious. But it’s a sign they’re being avoidant if they’re overly reluctant to commit and often refuse to spend time socializing.

Humorously put, the difference between the two is clear: anxious people move fast, while avoidant people tend to move slowly.

What triggers an avoidant to pull away?

An avoidant person pulls away when they feel like they are no longer in control. They dislike the idea of being vulnerable or expressing their emotions openly.

When they’re forced into such a position, it can trigger them to pull away. This is why even if one has a secure attachment and good intentions, they may unintentionally push away someone that’s avoidant.

Are avoidants emotionally abusive?

Avoidants can be emotionally abusive. Their need to feel independent to protect themselves could sometimes come at the cost of others, even if that’s not their main intention.

It’s important to notice when your mental health is at risk and seek support when dealing with one of the insecure attachment styles. Don’t suffer in silence!

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Steffo Shambo

Steffo Shambo

Men's Tantric Relationship Coach

I am the founder of The Tantric Man Experience™, a pioneering transformational coaching program for men. With over 1500 hours of certified tantra training in India and Thailand and 7 years of experience helping hundreds of men worldwide save their marriages and reignite passion in their love lives.

I have over 8 million views on YouTube and have been featured on VICE and Newstalk Radio for my life’s work - helping men unleash their full masculine potential.

My holistic FLT method seamlessly integrates ancient tantric philosophy with my modern expertise in relationships, sexuality, dating, and men’s health.

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