Secure Attachments in Relationships Means Good Mental Health

laughing women with linked arms, what is my attachment styleSecure attachments to other humans are vital.

It’s Mental Health Awareness Month, and I want to bring to light how humans fare better with safe, secure attachments to people (i.e., we don’t do well in isolation—no man is an island!).

Relationships are the foundation of good mental health. There, I said it.

Our relationships (also called “attachments“) with those around us can often be a determining factor between mental wellness and emotional pain and turmoil. 

Three Types of Attachment

People with secure, healthy relationships (attachments) generally fare better mentally and emotionally.

Conversely, those who struggle with insecure attachments often struggle with relationships and don’t have much support through life’s challenges. Additionally, they may struggle to form trusting relationships with others. The disconnection from others can diminish mental health and wellness.

Three major types of attachments can help us understand our specific relationship style and hence, our mental wellness.

Secure Attachments

Think of a secure attachment as having positive model of self and a positive model of other people. Generally, a person with secure attachments is not afraid of asking for what they need, and they feel confident that they will get their needs met. A securely attached person isn’t afraid to seek out others when in need. 

A secure attachment style means you feel safe, loved, and connected to other people easily. When you feel confident with yourself and other people, you’re more likely to have healthy relationships than those with insecure styles.

Anxious-Preoccupied Attachment

An anxiously attached person often has a negative model of themselves but a positive model of others. They aren’t afraid to seek others out when in need, but they often get overly invested in their close relationships and depend on them for self-worth.

Is this ringing any bells regarding a current celebrity media situation?

People who tend toward anxious attachment are often clingy, need reassurance, and worry about abandonment. This can make them hyper-aware of their partner’s actions and prone to jealousy and controlling behavior.

Avoidant-Dismissing Attachment

An avoidant attachment style is someone who feels self-confident because they have a positive model of themselves, but they have a negative model of other people. They avoid closeness and intimacy because it feels too scary. They seem dismissive to people around them.

In this style, a person distances themselves from others and gets bored when someone tries to get close. They can also dismiss their partner’s feelings or needs, leading to relationship arguments.

Avoidant people evade intimacy in relationships because they fear rejection or being hurt by someone else. They tend to have low self-esteem and may not believe they deserve any better than what they have now. They may also be more likely to cheat on their partner because they do not feel loved or supported by them enough. Avoidant people may even leave their relationship if things get too close or emotional because this makes them uncomfortable or anxious.

Again, this sounds familiar!

Attachment Styles & Good Mental Health

Securely attached people tend to experience less anxiety over time. As a result, they have fewer mental health issues than those who don’t feel as confident with themselves or in the company of others. In addition, they tend to have happy relationships because they can trust their partner’s commitment without worrying about losing them.

Insecure attachment styles develop poor coping strategies to feel close and loved. They have a hard time with emotional connection, yet they crave relational closeness like every human. 

Those with insecure attachment styles often exhibit loneliness (often mistaken for depression). Additionally, people with insecure attachment patterns can often be diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and/or bipolar disorder. Additionally, anxiety is often associated with insecure attachment patterns because these people often feel unsure of the status of their relationships or feel like they aren’t getting the love they want.

Earned Secure

Attachment patterns are not cut and dry, and there are environmental factors to consider when thinking of attachment style. Also, current research shows attachment style on a spectrum, which means you may be in the style, but just barely. Or you may be a lot insecure. The range of insecure attachment is often demonstrated through diagnosable criteria.

Consequently, it’s important to know your attachment style can change. (Whew!) For those who struggle in relationships and test in an insecure pattern, you can work to change how you trust and get support in relationships, and increase your feelings of self-worth, which will change your style. This is called “earned secure.” Great news!

One thing I feel sure of is that we should all be aware of our attachment style. I encourage many of my clients to take an assessment that helps us create a baseline (here’s one I recommend: “What Is Your Attachment Style?”). For my clients, I like to know who and how they trust other people and how they fare in their relationships, overall.

Relationships are, after all, the cornerstone of good mental health.

Jennifer Slingerland Ryan knows a thing or two about kids and families. First, she knows they are joyous, exhilarating, loving and so darn fun. Second, she knows they suck your life dry and make you weep like a baby. By day she’s a psychotherapist; by night she’s a mom and wife. She claims to love therapizing couples, educating parents, reading dystopian fiction and sleeping in her free time (read: she never sleeps). Jennifer is a mom of twins, two 15 year olds. Her youngest is...a joy. Let's just stop there. Most days you can find her in her office seeing clients, doing laundry, loading or unloading the dishwasher, or catching up on the latest episode of Real Housewives of (Insert City Here), Walking Dead or This Is Us. She is a tree-hugging country girl from West Texas who reads, writes, and teaches about human development and families as a hobby and profession. You can read more from Jennifer at her therapy blog, ichoosechange.com

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