What to Know Anxious Attachment and Tips to Cope

Anxious Attachment and Tips to Cope

Anxious attachment is one of four attachment styles that develop in childhood and continue into adulthood. These attachment styles can be secure (a person feels confident in relationships) or insecure (a person has fear and uncertainty in relationships).

Also known as ambivalent attachment or anxious-preoccupied attachment, anxious attachment can result from an inconsistent relationship with a parent or caregiver.

Adults who are anxiously attached may be considered needy or clingy in their relationships and lack healthy self-esteem.1

Through approaches such as therapy, it’s possible to change attachment styles or learn to have healthy relationships despite attachment anxiety.

What’s Your Attachment Style?

There are four main attachment styles. The following are some of the ways they may manifest in relationships:1

  • Secure attachment: Able to set appropriate boundaries; has trust and feels secure in close relationships; thrives in relationships but does well on their own as well
  • Anxious attachment: Tends to be needy, anxious, and uncertain, and lacks self-esteem; wants to be in relationships but worries that other people don’t enjoy being with them
  • Avoidant-dismissive attachment: Avoids closeness and relationships, seeking independence instead; doesn’t want to rely on others or have others rely on them
  • Disorganized attachment: Fearful; feel they don’t deserve love

History of Attachment Theory

British psychiatrist John Bowlby developed the foundations of attachment theory from 1969 to 1982.2

Attachment theory suggests that early life experiences, particularly how safe and secure you felt as a young child, determine your attachment style as an adult. These events shape your ability to develop trust, boundaries, self-esteem, feelings of security, and other factors at play in relationships.3

Developmental psychologist Mary Ainsworth built upon Bowlby’s theory with her “strange situation” test to determine the nature and styles of attachment behavior. The assessment consists of a mother leaving her infant alone with a stranger for a few minutes. The infant’s response is observed and coded when they’re reunited with their mother.2

Exploration of adult attachment began in the mid-1980s by researchers such as Mary Main, Phil Shaver, and Mario Mikulincer.

Attachment theory’s principles are currently supported by hundreds of studies on bonding between child and parent and between adult partners.4

How Closely Linked Are Childhood and Adult Attachment Styles?

While it’s generally accepted that early attachment experiences influence attachment style in adult romantic relationships, the degree to which they are related is less clear-cut. Studies vary in their findings on the source and degree of overlap between the two.5

Characteristics of Anxious Attachment

Anxious attachment is an insecure attachment. Insecure attachment can take one of three forms: ambivalent, avoidant, or disorganized.1

It’s believed that anxious attachment in childhood is a result of inconsistent caregiving. More specifically, the children are loved but their needs are met unpredictably. A parent or primary caregiver may respond immediately and attentively to a child sometimes but not at other times.6

This inconsistency can be a result of factors such as parental substance use, depression, stress, anxiety, and fatigue.

Children raised without consistency can view attention as valuable but unreliable. This prompts anxiety and can cause a child to perform attention-seeking behaviors, both positive and negative.

Adults with anxious attachment often need constant reassurance in relationships, which can come off as being needy or clingy.1

One study showed that anxious attachment can affect trust in a relationship. Further, those who are anxiously attached are more likely to become jealous, snoop through a partner’s belongings, and even become psychologically abusive when they feel distrust.7

Recognizing the Signs in Yourself

Some indications that you might be experiencing anxious attachment include:

  • Worrying a lot about being rejected or being abandoned by your partner
  • Frequently trying to please and gain approval from your partner
  • Fearing infidelity and abandonment
  • Wanting closeness and intimacy in a relationship, but worrying if you can trust or rely on your partner1
  • Overly fixating on the relationship and your partner to the point it consumes much of your life
  • Constantly needing attention and reassurance (can be viewed as needy or clingy)
  • Having difficulty setting and respecting boundaries
  • Feeling threatened, panicked, angry, jealous, or worried your partner no longer wants you when you spend time apart or don’t hear from your partner during what most would consider a reasonable amount of time; may use manipulation to get your partner to stay close to you
  • Tying self-worth in with relationships
  • Overreacting to things you see as a threat to the relationship

Recognizing the Signs in Someone Else

A partner who is anxiously attached may exhibit similar behaviors as those listed above, but you can’t know for sure how they are feeling unless they tell you.

Signs of Anxious Attachment in a Partner

  • Regularly seeks your attention, approval, and reassurance
  • Wants to be around you and in touch with you as much as possible
  • Worries you will cheat on them or leave them
  • Feels threatened, jealous, or angry and overreacts when they feel something is threatening the relationship

Strategies for Coping

While anxious attachment can be challenging in a relationship, having a loving, healthy relationship is possible. There are ways to address and get beyond attachment problems in your relationship, including:8

Short Term

  • Research: Learn about attachment styles, which ones best apply to you and, if applicable, your partner.
  • Keep a journal: Keep track of your thoughts and feelings in a journal. This is a helpful exercise for getting out your emotions, and it may help you recognize some patterns in your thoughts and behaviors. It may be worthwhile to bring your journal to therapy sessions where you can unpack its contents with your mental health professional.
  • Choose a partner who has a secure attachment: The chances of success in a relationship for someone with anxious attachment are higher if they are paired with someone who is securely attached.
  • Practice mindfulness: Regularly engaging in mindfulness exercises can help you learn to manage your emotions and your anxiety.
Report: Depression, mental health in children worsened during pandemic

Depression, mental health in children worsened during pandemic

Anxiety and depression are increasing among children, and it’s not just the pandemic causing the uptick.

According to the State of the World’s Children report published by UNICEF, more than 40% of children ages 10-19 across the globe suffer from a mental health illness. In the United States, depression among 12- to 17-year-olds has increased from 8.5% to 13.2% in the past 12 months.

The White House also reported earlier this month that emergency department visits among children with moderate to severe anxiety and depression increased in 2020. During that year, there was a 24% increase in emergency room visits for mental health reasons in children ages 5 to 11 and a more than 30% increase among 12- to 17-year-olds. Suicide, alarmingly, remains the second leading cause of death among people ages 10 to 24.

The problem has increased so much that school districts have taken advantage of House Bill 323, which provides funding to place licensed mental health therapists directly inside the schools.

“These issues have risen significantly since the onset of COVID-19. I believe these numbers are higher since many kids likely do not get diagnosed if they are not taken to a professional,” said Whitney Hebbert, clinical director of Meadowbrook Counseling of Utah and clinical director of Utah Ketamine Therapies in Provo. “In addition to the pandemic, life is much faster paced today and very competitive. This puts a lot of pressure on children to excel and be successful.”

Hebbert said many children are involved in numerous activities and don’t get enough time to just be a kid. She said another contributor to increasing anxiety and depression is the high use of electronics.

“Kids can learn so much online and can understand more at a younger age, but that doesn’t mean they can handle more in life or the big feelings they have,” she said. “Many adults tend to expect more from children when they appear to be smarter or more capable. That can also add more stress to kids.”

Hebbert added that screen time means kids are playing less outside and with parents, siblings and friends. That can have an effect on their mental and emotional health if they are not getting the social engagement they need to thrive.

Natalie Sergent, a licensed psychologist with Intermountain Primary Children’s Medical Center, said by the time she sees children for a mental illness, they are having pretty bad symptoms. She also said she has seen an increase with the pandemic, but agrees there are other combinations as well.

“A big driver is kids are now exposed to a lot more adult topics and issues than in the past,” Sergent said. “Social media and internet kids are learning about news due to online presence. They’re just exposed more and more to real world stuff.”

Not only are more children suffering from anxiety and depression, they’re suffering from other mental illnesses like obsessive compulsive disorder and bipolar disorder.

“OCD is a commonly seen disorder and it can vary widely,” Sergent said. “Some people will count and check things over and over. Other people will worry excessively and ask for reassurance.”

Other OCD symptoms include fear of contamination, a need for order and symmetry, religious obsessions, lucky and unlucky numbers, fear of harming oneself or relatives, and sexual or aggressive thoughts, Hebbert said.

10 Evidence-backed Tips to Teach Kids Focus and Concentration

10 Evidence-backed Tips to Teach Kids Focus and Concentration

Teaching kids to listen, focus, follow instructions, keep rules in mind and practice self-control

Adele Diamond, a well-known Professor whose studies have focused on self-regulation, argues that children should be taught to:

1. Develop self-control, i.e., they should learn to do what is appropriate rather than what they want to do.

2. Develop the working memory, i.e., they should be helped to hold information in memory while mentally incorporating new information.

3. Develop cognitive flexibility, i.e., they should learn to think outside the box.

Diamond believes that teaching self-regulation skills can help improve children’s concentration and focus. These skills can help your child learn to follow instructions and persist even when they encounter enormous challenges. Other studies have found that self-regulated children are able to listen, pay attention, think, then act.

Everything you need to know to help your child focus and concentrate better

“My child won’t concentrate on anything” is a rather common parenting complaint. While a child’s inability to focus is usually a common cause of concern, all children are easily distracted and generally have shorter attention spans than adults. They are more curious and more easily distracted when they feel little interest for the tasks and activities they are asked to do.

Children’s concentration tends to improve as they grow older and develop their self-control skills. That said, some children struggle more with focusing and resisting distractions. The problem with children’s lack of attention is that it contributes to their learning and to their day to day lives.

So first let’s look at what may be behind your child’s inability to pay attention.

Some of the common causes of children’s lack of focus and concentration

1) Anxiety may be the reason your child can’t concentrate

Anxiety is a common but often ignored cause of inattention among children described as “unfocused”, and this actually makes perfect sense. It is not uncommon for anxiety to “block” your child, meaning that listening to and following instructions may be more complicated for such a child. Your child’s separation anxiety or worry about doing something wrong at school or even embarrassing or humiliating themselves may mean that they are more likely to have difficulty paying attention.

2) Insufficient sleep has an impact on your child’s ability to concentrate

It is a well-known fact that poor sleeping habits have a negative impact on children’s focus and concentration. If you think that your child’s lack of sleep may be behind their inability to focus, ensure that they are getting the appropriate number of hours of sleep every night or taking a mid-day rest if they need to.

Approaching children in a way that encourages them to open up

Approaching children in a way that encourages them to open up

According to recent research, the prevalence of anxiety and sadness in children increased during the pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on the lives of children, who are acutely aware of the changes. As a result, children became introverted, refusing to open up to anyone to express their feelings.

Hence it is critical that schools have well-defined strategies to ensure the social and emotional health of their students. This is especially relevant during this transition phase, wherein children are shifting from online learning to physical school.

Balance between academic rigor and emotional needs

Educational institutions need to accept the fact that these past 18 months have not been easy for any learner, and it has impacted their academic progress. The reality is that in this current scenario, every child will have an academic gap. In senior grades, they are transitioning from online to offline learning.

Although they are glad to return to school, we have to be prepared for challenges. The stress of academics cannot be increased at an accelerated pace, to make up for the academic gap.

We have to assess, where the child is right now and then set the pace for academic progress in a positive and realistic manner. This is applicable, even for children from the primary department, who have undergone 18 months of schooling online and are still, continuing with the same. These children are not only in front of the screen from 8:30 to 3:30; but also have additional homework after school hours. Now after 18 months, the novelty of online school will wear off and they will find it difficult to motivate themselves to fulfil their academic tasks.

For these children, we not only, need to have a blended approach of online & offline activities but also the larger vision, that we aspire to create happy, confident and emotionally happy children. The less stressed the children are, the better will be their academic progress. Hence fine-tuning the pace of academic progress, to a level that does not stress the children out is the need of the hour.

“Mentoring” as a strategy

Schools must create a safe environment for students to express their feelings and experiences about situations, which is essential for developing healthy emotional well-being and individual growth. Children coming back after a long hiatus will face challenges and hence, Mentoring Programs can ensure a smooth transition. A mentor is a grown-up friend for the child — a bond between teachers & students that goes beyond academics. This relationship is a socio-emotional gateway for children. Children can be themselves, express themselves emotionally or any other issue that they are going through. Here the key point to understand is that the role of the teacher should not be misinterpreted. The teacher is an individual in a position of authority who guides the child in every aspect of their learning. Hence, as much as possible, teachers, who assume the roles of mentors to students should be ones who are not in a teacher-student relationship with them.

Holistic and socio-emotional development

Schools must develop programmes that are entirely focused on the student’s well-being and social development, which is critical during a global pandemic. Programmes that go beyond academics and educational transactions focus on forming bonds between students and teachers for the sole purpose of communication. Students spend a majority of their time focused on educational activities, exams, and assignments, leaving little time for conversations that are critical to their mental well-being and growth. Furthermore, schools must focus on a student’s socio-emotional development because it aids in their educational development. Emotions can help or hinder children’s academic engagement, dedication, and school achievement because social and emotional processes influence how and what we learn. Teachers are the primary emotional leaders of their students, and their ability to detect, comprehend, and regulate their own emotions is the foundation for fostering emotional balance in their groups.

How to help ease your child's fears and anxiety about returning to class

How to help ease your child’s fears and anxiety about returning to class

“Asking your kid things like, ‘What was the most challenging part of your day, what was the best part of your day, what do you need help with tomorrow,” Sell said. “It gives them opportunities and prompts them to express what’s going on inside of them.”

Dr. Sell says children who are anxious about school tend to procrastinate, may begin fighting with parents over doing homework and often have problems sleeping.

To begin helping them, it’s important for both parents and teachers to recognize more of those typical warning signs, such as a disengaged child.

“Someone who might be tying their shoes too long and might not want to participate in reading or math,” Sell said. “Or a chatty person because those are all types of disengagement.”

Some of these things may sound familiar because we tend to do the same, but we have to remember that a child isn’t yet equipped to handle the same problems as adults.

“We allow ourselves maybe the freedom and opportunity to call into work if we don’t want to go,” Dr. Sell says. “But our kids, when they don’t want to go we say, ‘You have to go.’ We’re pushing them to do something they don’t want to do, which is OK, but if it’s bigger than that, then we have a problem.”

Here are Dr. Sell’s top six tips to help keep the stress at bay so you and your child can have a successful school year:

Tip #1: Keep a consistent sleep-wake schedule even on the weekends

Well before the start of the school year, you should be transitioning away from staying up late and sleeping in. A child and teen’s body relies on adequate sleep to maintain alertness and the ability to retain new information. Many times parents allow their children to change their sleep habits on the weekend which negatively impacts their sleep for the following week. Stay consistent with their schedule and with your own.

[….truncated so you get the most important tips :)]

Tip #4: Take the heat off of grades

Parents, did you know that your child’s grades in elementary, middle and even high school do not define the potential of the person they will become. Too often I hear parents pushing their kids to get A’s and take advanced placement courses when they really aren’t necessary. Don’t pay your kids for grades, instead pay attention to your kids. Have evening talks about the best parts of the day, the challenges they are having and what they are looking forward to instead of only worrying about grades.

“Look at things like resiliency.” Dr. Sell says, “How is your kid bouncing back from a poor grade on a test? How are they doing how are they emotionally doing, how can they do better to prepare. that type of thing.”

Tip #5: Don’t overcommit

Kids need breaks too. If you have them signed up for every single after school activity, you are likely just introducing stress on the entire family. Instead pick one or two things to participate in for the entire year. That will reduce your kids stress load as well, and reduce your own.

Tip #6: Don’t be a hypocrite

Yes, you are the adult, but you are also setting the example for your kids. If you expect them to put their electronics down, eat differently before bed and have a set bedtime and wake time, you do the same. Instead of arguing about why you can do it differently, do it with them. Ultimately it will help your sleep too.

Remember, kids feed off of your emotional energy, so If we’re stressed, they’ll be stressed; and Dr. Sell says the best way to help them is to stay calm ourselves.

“We are way better at maintaining these things for our kids then we are for ourselves, but if we’re all happy and healthy, chances of that emotional problem keeping in is going to be less.”

Ways to replace screen time for children

Ways to replace screen time for children

Today, many parents are struggling to curtail screen time and find alternate ways to engage their children. For many, the struggle is being able to coax their children to disengage from the screen.

Now that online schooling has brought screens into the home, the magnet of online games and recreation seems to be consuming the hours of most children.

Ironically, for parents the screen is an easy tool at their disposal that offers them moments of respite, but the addiction to screens by young children is not what most had bargained for. Most parents and caretakers are aware that children shouldn’t be given easy access to technology at such a young age. Yet, we are all guilty of doing so because we need to multitask, we are tired, and because children simply love it. It’s surprising to see that two-year-olds today can operate a smartphone probably better than I can.

Yet, despite how easy it might be to hand that gadget to your child, I’ll state the obvious – screen time for children isn’t right at all. Research from the Indian Academy of Pediatrics points out that children below the age of two years should not be exposed to any type of screen with the exception of occasional video calls with relatives. For children between the age of two and five years, screen time should not exceed one hour, though the lesser, the better. For ages higher than five, screen time should never come at the cost of any other activity crucial for development such as physical activity, sleep, school work, eating etc.

Further, increased time on phones and tablets also means less time spent with others. This comes at the cost of slowing down and hindering the development of language skills, social and interpersonal skills that develop the much needed ability to feel compassion and empathy.

Sadly, it can also cause isolation at a young age, leading to issues like increased anxiety and even depression in the future.

Hence, despite the fact that we might be proud of our child quickly grasping their command over technology or learning rhymes through YouTube, screen time for kids, beyond school, must be minimised and discouraged.

Prior to the technological age, children enjoyed childhood in the true sense of the word. A childhood that had them use their imagination to create games, find friends to play with and be in touch with the outdoors – all tools necessary to sculpt children into wholesome, confident and social beings with a real sense of their world.

While we have identified the problem, I would like to focus on some possible alternatives to engage our children.

Start with […]