Anxious and Avoidant Attachment: Two Halves of the Same Coin

Jason Henry
5 min readFeb 4, 2022
Photo by Josh Appel on Unsplash

In attachment theory, there are two distinct types of attachment: secure attachment and insecure attachment. Those of us who are securely attached are comfortable with intimacy and conflict with significant others. Conversely, those of us who are insecurely attached have issues with intimacy and conflict.

Insecure attachment has been broken down into categories with varying labels but for the sake of simplicity, the two categories we’ll be looking at are anxious attachment and avoidant attachment.

Based on what you’ve read so far, it’s fairly obvious that anxious and avoidant attachment are the two halves of the insecure attachment coin. This is correct, and the implications of this illustrate why people have a hard time figuring out which style they fall into.

And when we experience such a problem, the help we need may be inadequate or ineffective. We get confused and might even want to throw in the towel if the psychology behind attachment theory is confusing.

Rikki Cloos, author of the book, The Anxious Hearts Guide, shared a brilliant insight into why these two attachment styles are stunningly similar and (in my opinion) why people struggle to get into securely attached relationships despite all the work they do to improve their habits and mindset.

In both anxious and avoidant attachment, there is a conscious fear and an unconscious fear. This is true for many things in life but it is the specific emotions that feature in these two styles of insecure attachment that really illustrate the stark similarity and slight contrast between the two.

Anxious Attachment

For the anxiously attached, the conscious fear is abandonment and the unconscious fear is intimacy. If you are anxiously attached, you might be able to see exactly why this makes a lot of sense.

Anxious attachment is characterized by chasing avoidant or unavailable people. We want to avoid being abandoned, which is why we go above and beyond for the people we are attracted to. We crave intimacy and can suffer at the slightest sign of abandonment from the people we like, even when that wasn’t their intention.

Jason Henry

Former Edu. Psychologist | Current Writer | Constant Learner | “By your stumbling the world is perfected.”