A person with a fearful avoidant attachment style may fear closeness and appear to seek independence. At the same time, however, they rely heavily on the support of others.
It is an insecure attachment style where a person wants to trust others but is afraid to.
People with this personality trait want close relationships just like we all do, but find it difficult or impossible to trust others and be vulnerable the way a healthy relationship requires.
That makes it really difficult to be in a relationship with someone like this.
However, knowing how the psychology behind this attachment style works can help you understand where the person is coming from.
Keep an eye out for these traits, which can tip you off that someone you know has a fearful-avoidant attachment style.
1) Controlling behaviour
First, let me say that controlling behaviour is a serious red flag in any relationship.
There are lots of reasons why a partner might be controlling, including Narcissistic Personality Disorder, or NPD.
No matter the reason, someone trying to control you in a relationship is almost always bad news.
On the other hand, for people with a fearful-avoidant attachment style, controlling behaviour is a way to protect themselves from being hurt.
You see, people with this personality trait often believe themselves unworthy of love.
This can stem from deep childhood trauma, and is often a result of parents who had the same attachment style themselves.
The result is that fearful-avoidant people try to control others they find themselves in relationships with. They are terrified that you will leave them, and so they will try to control your behavior to make sure that never happens.
Methods of control include:
- Telling you what to wear
- Telling you who you can spend time with socially
- Trying to control what you do in your free time
- Trying to isolate you from your support network
- Insisting that you spend all your free time with them
- Demanding that you abandon hobbies and interests
- Insisting that you merge your finances, living arrangements, or other important aspects of your life to make you dependent on them
This controlling behavior is toxic.
And although in the case of people with fearful-avoidant attachment issues, it may be somewhat understandable, that doesn’t make it okay.
2) Lack of trust
Because they think themselves unworthy of love, fearful-avoidant types don’t trust that you love them.
No matter how many times you say it, no matter how you try to show it, this type of person will never really believe that you love them.
This can be frustrating, but it can also be far more destructive than that.
You see, this lack of trust can manifest itself as inappropriate behaviour.
A fearful-avoidant person may go through your emails, texts, and other private information, looking for evidence to confirm their fears.
As mentioned above, they may also try to control where you go and who you see.
In romantic relationships, fearful-avoidant types will often accuse you of cheating on them, even when you have given them no reason to be suspicious.
Lack of trust can be the kiss of death to any relationship.
In one of the sad ironies of this toxic attachment style, a lack of trust often ends up killing the relationship, just the way the fearful-avoidant person always feared.
3) Anxiety about something going wrong
Even if they do trust you, a fearful-avoidant person tends to be extremely negative, always waiting for something to go wrong.
It’s another trait that can make them exhausting to be around.
Fearful-avoidant people always assume the worst.
Even if the relationship you have with them is a relatively stable and happy one, they will always be waiting for some new problem to come along and derail the relationship.
In the back of their minds, there is always a little negative voice telling them that even if things are good, everything is about to fall apart.
They may display classic signs of anxiety about the future, such as:
- difficulty concentrating
- jumpiness or fidgeting
- sleep problems
- loss of appetite
- difficulty concentrating
Now, there are lots of conditions that can cause anxiety, so these signs by themselves are not enough to prove someone has a fearful-avoidant attachment style.
But along with some other traits on this list, it’s a good indication that the person you know combines fearful-avoidant attachment with anxiety.
4) Difficulty regulating their emotions
Regulating your emotions is a key part of being an emotionally healthy adult.
We can’t always control what we feel.
But we can control our actions.
Being able to regulate your emotions and prevent them from affecting others around you is a skill we all need to learn in life.
However, it’s a lot more difficult for people with a fearful-avoidant attachment style. And as a result, they may display a lack of emotional control that can be disturbing.
When angry, they may lash out at you and other people close to them.
On the other hand, when they are sad, it may be impossible to cheer them up, as they focus on negativity and ruminate on everything that could possibly go wrong.
People with poor emotional control often engage in destructive behaviours.
They may break off relationships prematurely since they are already convinced that the worst will happen anyway.
They may yell at other people and lose their temper easily. They may try to escape the intensity of their emotions through substance abuse.
By now, you’ve probably noticed that for people with fearful-avoidant attachment styles, their fears can often be a self-fulfilling prophecy.
This is one more example of that phenomenon.
Their lack of emotional regulation makes them difficult to be around, so their worst fears about relationships ending often come true because of their own behaviour.
5) Emotional withdrawal
It’s true that people with a fearful-avoidant attachment style struggle to regulate their emotions.
On the other hand, they may also withdraw emotionally.
That’s because their feelings are often too intense for them to handle.
Instead of engaging with their emotions and talking issues through, they may withdraw and try not to show any feelings at all.
6) Has a negative view of themselves and others
By now, you probably see that a lot of fearful-avoidant behaviour comes from a lack of self-esteem and self-love.
So it probably won’t surprise you to hear that people with this attachment style often have a negative view of themselves.
This negative view goes beyond themselves and affects others, too.
Fearful-avoidant personalities mistrust everyone and always assume people are operating from the worst possible motivations.
This negative view means they don’t trust people, and it can make it extremely hard for them to form long-lasting friendships and romantic relationships.
7) Difficulty showing affection
To a fearful-avoidant person, opening up emotionally is an intolerable risk.
As a result, they will often avoid showing affection because they feel it gives other people too much power over them.
This is bad in a friendship, but it can be so much more damaging in a romantic partnership or family relationship.
We all need to feel loved and appreciated, but fearful-avoidant people are too afraid of being let down by others to show how they really feel.
8) Trying to please everyone
Along with all these negative traits, people with a fearful-avoidant attachment style often tend to be people pleasers.
Their intense need to be liked and fear of rejection means they will often bend over backwards and change their entire personality, trying to get people to like them.
While this may sound harmless compared to some of the other behaviours on this list, in the long run, it can be extremely harmful, especially to the person doing it.
People-pleasing can lead to someone doing things they don’t want to do and living a fake life because they think it will make those around them happy.
Ultimately, it’s just another way that people with a fearful-avoidant attachment style sabotage their own happiness.
Fearful-avoidant attachment style
Do you know someone who displays behaviors on this list?
If so, it’s probably because they have a fearful-avoidant attachment style.
It’s important to remember that this is a personality type that often comes from trauma, and so it may not be their fault.
At the same time, we are all ultimately responsible for how we deal with our own issues.