Attachment Styles Defined


  • Okay with Self and Other
  • Says, “I’m okay.”
  • Validated by Self and Other
  • Question relationships only when hurting
  • About 50% of general population
  • About 61% of therapists

Anxious (aka ‘Preoccupied’ or ‘Relationship Addict’):

  • Okay with Other, anxious when alone
  • Says, “Not enough! I need you!”
  • Externally validated and wants more togetherness, connection to Other
  • Rose-colored glasses – rarely question relationships, take what is offered
  • Familiar with depending on others, can easily fall into victim role
  • About 20% of general population
  • About 10% of therapists

Avoidant (aka ‘Dismissive’ or ‘Relationship Avoider’):

  • Okay with Self, anxious with Other
  • Says, “Too much! I need space!”
  • Self-validated and wants more alone time, connection to Self
  • Dark glasses – often questions relationships, seeks ideal relationship
  • Familiar with giving up Self, can easily fall into rescuer/caretaker
  • About 25% of general population
  • About 7% of therapists

Mixed or Alternating (aka ‘Disorganized’ or ‘Fearful-Avoidant’):

  • Neither Self nor Other is a consistent resource.
  • Says, “Too much! Not enough! Come close! Go away!”
  • Not validated
  • May dive into relationships, then panic and pull out or push away
  • About 5% of general population
  • About 22% of therapists

(General population stats: Levine & Heller. Therapist population: Gunsberg & Hershberg.)


Gunsberg, L., & Hershberg, S. G. (n.d.). Psychoanalytic theory, research, and clinical practice: Reading Joseph D. Lichtenberg (pp. 240-241).

Levine, A., & Heller, R. (2010). Attached: The new science of adult attachment and how it can help you find- and keep -love. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher.

Anxious (“Relationship Addict”) Avoidant (“Relationship Avoider”)
Dependent Self Sufficient and Counter-Dependent
Amplify Emotion Diminish/Avoid Emotion
Feels Easily Abandoned Feels Easily Controlled/Oppressed
External Focus, Lacking Internal Internal Focus, Lacking External
You’re supposed to help me!” You’re supposed to help yourself!”
Draw Attention to Survive Avoid Attention to Survive
Drawn to stable/calm partner Drawn to expressive partner
More likely to feel alone and cheat More likely to seek something ‘better’
Love Addict” (Dependent) Sex Addict” (Self-Sufficient)
Often Takes the ‘Talker’ Role Often Takes the ‘Listener’ Role
Low Discernment Choosing Partners Hyper-Discerning and Ambivalent
Chaser” “Pursuer” Chased” “Distancer”
Not Enough” Too Much”
Come Here” Go Away”
Our relationship is innately good.” Our relationship has innate problems.”
Requires Other, Limited Trust in Self Accustomed to giving up Self for Others
Healing Requires Self Focus Healing Requires Other Focus

Often, our attachment styles do not become activated until the relationship has reached a certain ‘temperature’ of commitment and dependence. The pairing of opposites can feel natural and intoxicating at the beginning of a relationship. Also, when the relationship ends, the avoidant side begins to feel emotion again, which can draw both back into relationship.

While these extreme attachment styles trigger one another during the routine status-quo of life, the dependency can switch when outside the norm, especially outside of the home, on vacation, or in company of others.


Diamond, D., Blatt, S. J., & Lichtenberg, J. D. (2007). Attachment & sexuality. New York: Analytic Press.

Karen, R. (1998). Becoming attached: First relationships and how they shape our capacity to love. New York: Oxford University Press.

Kinnison, J. (2014). Type: Dismissive-Avoidant. Retrieved June 20, 2016, from

Levine, A., & Heller, R. (2010). Attached: The new science of adult attachment and how it can help you find- and keep -love. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher.

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