Understanding The Fearful Avoidant Attachment Style In Relationships

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01 March 2024

8 Mins

According to attachment theory, how we connect with others reflects how we were treated by our caregivers and other important people early in life. There are three main ways adults attach to others: secure, anxious, and avoidant. But there's also a fourth type called fearful-avoidant attachment, which is rare and not talked about much.

So, in this blog, we are going to talk about this fearful-avoidant attachment, its causes and symptoms, and how to cope with this condition.

What Is Fearful Avoidant Attachment?

Fearful avoidant attachment is an attachment style indicated by a mix of anxious and avoidant tendencies. In this, you desire close relationships but at the same time fear intimacy and vulnerability. Due to past experiences of rejection or trauma, it can be challenging to trust others and maintain emotional closeness.

In other words, sometimes you might feel like you want to be close to people in your relationships, but other times you might feel like you want to keep them at a distance. This can lead to emotional turmoil and make it hard to build strong connections with others. It can be challenging but with proper understanding and support, it's possible to work through these patterns and build healthier relationships

Fearful Avoidant Attachment Signs

The signs of fearful avoidant attachment can vary from person to person, so both children and adults with this attachment style may show only some of the symptoms outlined below. While some people may display more traits associated with avoidant attachment, others may display more indicators of fearful attachment.

Here are different signs you can find in kids and adults:

Signs in children

  • Hard time feeling comfort from caregivers
  • Gets very upset when away from primary caregivers
  • Acts unsure about how to feel about caregivers
  • Aggressive or disruptive behaviors
  • Difficulty making friends
  • A lack of confidence
  • A mix of clingy and distant behaviors

Signs in adults

  • Afraid of getting close to others but also wanting closeness
  • Having trust issues
  • Doing back and forth
  • Feels very anxious and emotional
  • Might ruin relationships because of intimacy fear
  • Scared of being left alone but also scared of being too close to someone

Understanding these signs early can help parents and caregivers support children better. With the help of experts, children can learn to feel secure in their relationships and emotions as they grow up.

Fearful Avoidant Attachment Causes

A fearful-avoidant attachment style develops because of different things that affect how you handle emotions and relationships. These include early experiences, your genes, and how you interact with people around you. These factors together shape how you connect with others and form relationships.

Here are different fearful avoidant triggers you should consider:

  • Inconsistent care from caregivers can lead to confusion and uncertainty about the reliability of caregivers
  • Bad experiences or abuse in childhood can create fear and mistrust in relationships
  • Not getting enough attention or feeling left alone by main caregivers can result in feelings of insecurity
  • Seeing unhealthy relationships around you, like your parents having fights and arguments
  • It might be something you are born with and may struggle to form secure attachments from an early age
  • Problems in forming early, close bonds with caregivers due to parental insensitivity, unresponsiveness, or parental stress

The reasons why people develop fearful avoidant attachment are quite complicated but understanding these reasons is important for helping people with fearful avoidant attachment. By knowing what is behind it, we can offer the right kind of help and support to those who need it.

Fearful Avoidant Attachment in Relationships

Fearful-avoidant attachment can significantly impact relationships by influencing how you interact, communicate, and form emotional bonds with your partners. Here are some ways in which this attachment style affects relationships:

  • Past experiences of betrayal or abandonment can make it hard to believe that their partners will be reliable and supportive
  • Afraid of getting too close to the partner emotionally, fearing vulnerability and hurt
  • Tendency to create emotional distance from the relationship as a way to protect from potential rejection or pain
  • High levels of anxiety and emotional turmoil while getting close
  • Difficulty forming and maintaining secure attachments

Fearful avoidant attachment makes it hard to trust each other, share feelings, communicate well, and have emotional stability. Both partners need to understand these challenges to handle the relationship better.

What Are People With Fearful Avoidant Attachment Style Afraid Of?

Someone with a fearful avoidant attachment style is often afraid of abandonment, rejection, loss of independence, vulnerability, and repeating past traumatic experiences in relationships. These fears stem from early experiences of inconsistent caregiving or trauma, leading to difficulties in trusting others and forming secure attachments.

Consequently, you may struggle to feel emotionally safe and secure in relationships, fearing that closeness may result in pain or disappointment. This fear makes it tough for them to open up and form strong connections with others.

What Do People With Fearful Avoidant Attachment Want?

People with fearful avoidant attachment want two things in relationships: closeness and independence. They want emotional support and reassurance from their partners to feel loved and valued.

At the same time, they also like having their own space and the freedom to be themselves. It's about finding a balance between being close to someone and keeping their independence intact.

How Do You Love Someone With Fearful Attachment?

Loving someone with a fearful attachment requires patience, empathy, and understanding. It involves creating a safe and nurturing environment where they feel accepted and understood. Respecting their boundaries and giving them space when needed is crucial, as is being consistent and reliable in your actions and words.

Communication should be open and honest, allowing them to express their fears and insecurities without judgment. Providing reassurance and support without smothering them allows them to gradually build trust and feel secure in the relationship.

How Do Those With Fearful Avoidant Attachment Handle Breakups?

Handling breakups with fearful avoidant attachment can be particularly challenging due to the intense emotional turmoil and conflicting emotions involved. You may experience a profound fear of abandonment and rejection, coupled with a desire for emotional distance and independence.

Coping strategies involve seeking support from friends, family, or therapists to process the intense emotions and gain perspective on the relationship. Engaging in self-reflection and self-care activities, such as journaling, exercise, or hobbies, can help you navigate the grieving process and begin to heal from the breakup. It's essential to be patient with yourself and allow yourself to feel and process your emotions fully, understanding that healing takes time and self-compassion.

How to Deal with Fearful-Avoidant Attachment People

If you developed a fearful attachment style during childhood, it could still impact your relationships and daily life today, especially if neither you nor your parents received intervention to address the attachment issues when you were younger. However, there are ways to cope with and overcome a fearful-avoidant attachment style, allowing you to cultivate healthy and fulfilling relationships.

Here are some approaches to consider:

1. Self-reflect your thoughts and feelings

Take time to understand your attachment style and how it influences your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in relationships. Reflect on past experiences that may have contributed to your attachment patterns.

2. Practice mindfulness and emotional techniques

Practice mindfulness techniques to become more aware of your thoughts and emotions in the present moment. Learn to recognize triggers that activate your fearful-avoidant responses and develop healthy coping mechanisms to regulate your emotions.

3. Improve communication skills

Improve your communication skills by learning to express your needs, fears, and boundaries clearly and assertively. Practice active listening to better understand your partner's perspective and foster empathy and understanding in your relationships.

4. Develop secure attachments

Cultivate relationships with supportive friends, family members, or partners who can provide a secure base and emotional support. Surrounding yourself with positive influences can help counteract feelings of insecurity and foster a sense of safety and belonging.

5. Set boundaries

Establish healthy boundaries in your relationships to protect your emotional well-being and autonomy. Learn to recognize when you need space or time alone and communicate your boundaries respectfully to your partner.

6. Challenge negative beliefs

Challenge negative beliefs and assumptions about yourself, relationships, and intimacy that may stem from past experiences. Replace self-defeating thoughts with more realistic and positive narratives that promote self-confidence and self-worth.

7. Practice patience and compassion

Be patient and compassionate with yourself as you work through challenges related to fearful-avoidant attachment. Understand that change takes time, and healing requires self-compassion, forgiveness, and acceptance of imperfection.

8. Seek therapy

Consider seeking therapy or counseling to explore your attachment style in-depth and develop strategies for managing fears and insecurities. A therapist can provide support, guidance, and tools to help you navigate relationships more effectively.

How Can Now&Me Help?

If you are struggling with fearful-avoidant attachment, Now&Me is a comfortable online space where you can share your feelings and emotions. You can talk to professionals for free and if you need more support, it's just Rs 30/-. You will also find helpful articles and guides that can give you ideas on dealing with loneliness and fear in relationships.

The best part? There is a community of caring people who get what you are going through, like a digital family where you can share, listen, and support each other. So, download the Now&Me app now and let the healing and connection start, making you feel less lonely.


  1. Attachment styles among young adults: A test of a four-category model. J Pers Soc Psychol. 1991. https://psycnet.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037%2F0022-3514.61.2.226

  2. Fearful Avoidant Attachment in Adults. Envision Wellness. https://www.envisionwellness.co/fearful-avoidant-attachment-in-adults/

Now&Me articles are written by experienced mental health contributors and are purely based on scientific research and evidence-based practices, which are thoroughly reviewed by experts, including therapists and psychologists with various specialties, to ensure accuracy and alignment with current industry standards.

However, it is important to note that the information provided is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Individual circumstances vary, and it is advisable to consult with a qualified mental health professional for personalized advice and guidance.


Fearful avoidants can have a paradoxical pattern of attachment, sometimes getting attached easily but also experiencing intense fear and discomfort with closeness in relationships.

In a relationship, a fearful avoidant needs understanding, patience, and space for autonomy while also feeling secure and supported.

People with fearful avoidant attachment may struggle between pushing their partners away due to fear of intimacy and seeking closeness to alleviate their anxiety.

Attachment disorders include reactive attachment disorder (RAD) and disinhibited social engagement disorder (DSED) in children, while adults may have attachment-related issues such as anxious attachment, avoidant attachment, or disorganized attachment.

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