How To Cope With An Insecure Attachment Type

Medically reviewed by April Justice, LICSW
Updated June 2, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Content Warning: Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that could be triggering to the reader. Please see our Get Help Now page for more immediate resources.

The intimate relationships you establish in adulthood may have roots in early life patterns with your primary caregivers. Linked back to the earliest connections from infancy and childhood, your attachments to other adults may mimic the way your parents met your needs or didn't. 

Insecure attachment styles can form when these early caregiver connections aren't healthy or and don’t make you feel secure. Like weights in a hiker's backpack, these unhealthy attachments may seem like a weight that stops you from finding healthy connections, forming close relationships, and enjoying intimate connections with romantic partners. 

You can't go back to relive your childhood or change the parenting style of your guardians, but there are often ways to move forward and find a more secure attachment with others. The process may start with knowledge, coping mechanisms, and learning what healthy relationships look like. You're not alone, and coping with an avoidant, insecure attachment style is possible. 

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Wondering how your attachment style can affect your relationship?

What is an insecure attachment? 

In attachment theory, individuals with an avoidant attachment style tend to exhibit emotional distance and independence in relationships, contrasting with those displaying an anxious attachment (or insecure attachment style) who often seek reassurance and closeness. Secure attachment styles, characterized by trust and comfort with intimacy, are associated with healthier relationship dynamics and emotional control.

An insecure attachment can be defined as a bond formed between a parent or caregiver and their child that lacks consistency and trust. Parents who are unreliable and display inconsistent behavior when meeting their child's needs for safety and security might raise children who grow into adults with insecure attachment styles or behavioral patterns.

For example, a mother who is unavailable to meet their child's needs, avoids discussing feelings openly, or is rejecting and cold creates a bond that may lead the child to avoid emotional intimacy as an adult. A child whose mother was inconsistent, providing security and emotional support sometimes but not other times, might mature into an adult who experiences extreme anxiety or switches between distance and attachment. These behaviors can significantly differ from how secure children act with their parents and in future meaningful relationships. However, it isn't the child's fault that this insecure attachment has formed.

What are the differences between secure and insecure attachment styles? 

When you compare people with secure attachments to their caregivers with those who have insecure attachments, the behaviors can look much different. Securely attached adults can function in happy, healthy relationships. They often seek intimacy, are open and willing partners, and can trust and be trusted by others in their social and romantic relationships. Securely attached individuals can still experience challenges and conflict in secure relationships. However, because of their outlook, strong relationship role models, boundaries, and healthy self-esteem, they may work through these challenges and cut ties when needed. 

Secure attachment develops when caregivers consistently meet the emotional and physical needs of their children, fostering a sense of safety and trust.

Those with insecure attachment patterns often experience different behaviors. Some may become highly attached and overly dependent and struggle to function individually. Others may avoid relationships altogether due to an intense fear of relationship problems and low self-esteem. Some may carry out their parents' patterns with their partners, acting disorganizedly and avoiding social support. 

Insecure attachment may develop as a result of sexual abuse,* a parent guilt-tripping their child, or parents using other manipulative tactics against their children. 

*If you or someone you love is experiencing abuse, contact the Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Free support is available 24/7.

What are the three insecure attachment styles? 

There are four main attachment styles, including secure attachment style, anxious preoccupied attachment style, dismissive-avoidant attachment style, and fearful-avoidant attachment style (also known as disorganized attachment style). These attachment styles can influence how individuals manage conflict and interact with others in their adult lives. 

These attachment styles are divided into subcategories to better define how they impact individuals. Examples of these subcategories might include the following:

  1. Anxious attachment style

  2. Anxious-avoidant attachment style

  3. Anxious-ambivalent attachment style 

  4. Disorganized attachment (a cycle of anxious and avoidant tendencies) 

Those with an avoidant attachment style may be emotionally distant and struggle to connect emotionally, as they learned during childhood that their emotional needs would not be met. Those with an anxious attachment style are often anxious and insecure, craving love but fearing that they may never secure the emotional connection they desperately desire. Those with insecure attachment may experience difficulties forming and maintaining healthy, trusting relationships and social support due to underlying fears of rejection, abandonment, or intimacy. This can lead to patterns of clinginess, emotional distance, or ambivalence in interpersonal interactions.

Adults who develop a disorganized attachment style during childhood often experience mental health challenges because of the trauma, inconsistency, and fear they may have experienced in their early years. Although they crave security, their behavior may be chaotic and go back and forth from anxiety to avoidance, depending on their partner's behaviors. 

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Coping mechanisms for insecure attachment styles

Because the three insecure attachment styles differ in presentation, there isn't a "one-size-fits-all" solution for coping with insecure attachment. However, adult attachment issues don't have to last a lifetime. Studies have found that attachment styles can be changed with research, willingness, and understanding, often alongside a mental health professional. Consider using the following coping mechanisms if you have an insecure attachment style. 

Talk to someone 

Understanding that you have an insecure attachment is often a starting point. Knowing how to move to a more secure attachment can be more challenging. While you can depend on friends or family members to talk through your struggles with an insecure attachment, meeting with a professional who understands what you're experiencing may be helpful. 

Therapists are trained in specific areas, like attachment styles, and therefore are equipped to help you cope with and understand an attachment style. Depending on your schedule and what is comfortable, you can meet with a therapist in person or online. Your provider can help you explore the events and factors that may have contributed to your insecure attachment style and give you tools to take control of your life.  

Increase your knowledge about attachment styles 

The more you know about attachment styles, the more you may understand how yours affects your life and relationships. You can start by reading different reputable publications on attachment styles, perhaps beginning with the original attachment theorists Bowlby and Ainsworth and then working your way down to current discoveries. Understanding your past can allow you to take control of your future.

If you're in a romantic relationship, assess your partner's attachment style and see how this style might affect your relationship's dynamics. Some couples find this process to be an eye-opening endeavor. Below is a fictional example of a couple learning more about attachment styles together: 

James and Jenna have been dating for a year. James grew up in a loving home with a mother who could meet his emotional and survival needs. He experienced no trauma as a child and mainly had healthy relationships before he fell in love with Jenna. Conversely, Jenna was raised by a single mother who was sometimes loving and sometimes distracted and cold. Jenna's childhood was imperfect and left her craving attention and emotional intimacy.

Because Jenna's sense of attachment was insecure as a child, Jenna tends to cling to James and exhibit signs of jealousy. Although James has never betrayed Jenna's trust, she struggles to believe that he loves her and genuinely wants to be with her. By understanding Jenna's insecure attachment style and how it developed differently from his secure way of viewing the world, James can support his partner in healing. By learning more about secure styles, Jenna begins to recognize how unhealthy her actions are and what a loving partnership should look like. James and Jenna go to couples therapy to discuss this challenge and learn to connect. 

Practice self-love

Finding what you love about yourself and believing in your abilities can be one of the most effective ways to cope with insecure attachment. Though it might not be easy, increasing feelings of self-worth can help you become your caretaker. Loving yourself can lead to earned security, which refers to a secure attachment developed through consistent effort and self-awareness. 

Take care of yourself

People with insecure attachment, especially anxious styles, tend to focus outwardly instead of inwardly. While it can be beneficial to focus on your relationships with others, challenges occur when these connections take priority over self-care. One way to cope with insecurities and increase self-worth is to give yourself the love you desired from your parents as a child and your partner as an adult. Consider investing your time into making yourself happy in ways that benefit you and don't harm others or your environment. 

Practice self-gratitude 

Some adults learned the importance of gratitude as children. They may learn to say "Thank you" and "Please," give appreciation gifts, and thank those who improve their lives. However, some may struggle to say "Thank you" to themselves, as the concept may be unfamiliar. To be grateful to yourself, note your positive traits and all that you have to offer. Instead of focusing on your behavioral difficulties or the unkind labels you give yourself, focus on your strength and resilience and how you bring light to the world. 

Set boundaries with others

While increasing self-esteem is often an individual process, it can be crucial to set boundaries with others. If you often people-please and say "yes" when you mean "no," boundaries may benefit you. Your therapist can aid in this process, but the first steps can be taken on your own. Practice saying "No" in the mirror and to friends in roleplay scenarios. You can start by saying "No" to more "minor" challenges, such as saying "No" to a glass of water at a friend's house. 

Be honest with yourself and others

As you move through the process of learning to love and care for yourself, there can be a tendency to be dishonest. Admitting whether you avoid intimacy or carry out unhealthy patterns from childhood may be difficult, but you may be unable to change what you don't acknowledge. By accepting yourself and your mistakes, you can earn a secure attachment style that didn't develop naturally but came about with perseverance. 

Practice mindfulness

Another method that may be helpful when coping with an insecure attachment type is practicing mindfulness. This technique can assist with many mental health challenges, including anxiety, depression, stress, and personality disorder symptoms. 

Mindfulness can make you more aware of what is happening around you and keep you present in the moment. Instead of worrying about what your partner might say, do, or think, for example, you can engage in the present moment. By embracing this strategy and the other coping mechanisms listed, you may be able to cope with your insecure attachment type while working toward earned secure attachment.

Getty/Vadym Pastukh
Wondering how your attachment style can affect your relationship?

Support options 

Developing a more secure attachment style is possible with tools and support. If you're struggling with an insecure attachment style and aren't sure how to move forward, it could be beneficial to speak with a professional. In addition, if you face barriers to in-person treatment, alternative options, such as online therapy platforms, are available. 

Online therapy platforms like BetterHelp are often more cost-effective than traditional therapy. Since you can connect with your therapist via phone, video chat, or in-app messaging, finding support may be more convenient. For those in relationships, online therapy platforms like ReGain allow couples to receive support at similar rates to individual therapy. 

Those with insecure attachments may struggle to move on after a romantic breakup. Researchers have studied the efficacy of online therapy in helping these individuals move forward healthily. One helpful report found that online therapy could reduce attachment anxiety and avoidant tendencies in individuals in close intimate relationships, with results similar to those of in-person studies. 


Insecure attachment styles stem from adverse early childhood experiences. Whether you're living with an avoidant, anxious, or disorganized attachment style, there are ways to move forward and take responsibility for the behaviors you want to cut out of your life. You can slowly build security by learning more about your attachment style and understanding how it could affect your life. 

Establishing a secure attachment style can be challenging, particularly if you've experienced trauma or other negative experiences in the past. However, by connecting with a licensed therapist, you can receive personalized guidance as you navigate this process. You're not alone, and support is available.

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