What Is Your Attachment Style?

WebMD Blog:

What Is Your Attachment Style?

By Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD



We each have a specific way that we relate to other people (and ourselves) – an attachment style. Understanding your attachment style can be a great help in overcoming emotional struggles. It allows you to look beyond just the content of a problem – such as what you fear or how to communicate better in a relationship – and consider how your way of relating to people might be playing a role.

From birth, people see themselves through the eyes of their caregivers and begin a lifelong adventure in relationships. Although each new relationship brings opportunity for change and growth, the early years set the foundation for how they think of themselves and others.

People’s way of relating can be classified into four basic attachment styles.

Secure: These people relate positively to themselves and others. They see themselves as good, lovable people. With the expectation that significant others in their lives will be sensitive to them, they turn to those connections for comfort and support during emotionally difficult times. Generally speaking, securely attached people are happy in themselves and in their relationships.

Anxious-Preoccupied: Although people with a preoccupied style of attachment believe others can be supportive, their doubts about their own worthiness lead them to worry a lot about being rejected. They are frequently preoccupied with worry about what others think of them, and they have a very strong need for closeness. Given their fears of rejection, they can be clingy and frequently look for validation and approval.

Dismissive-Avoidant: People with this style of attachment see others as emotionally unavailable, so they are highly self-sufficient. They tend to think positively about themselves and minimize their emotions when they face challenges. In their relationships, they tend to maintain emotional distance, often hiding or suppressing their feelings

Fearful-Avoidant: These people have no one to turn to when they are distressed. They feel unable to help themselves because they view themselves as too flawed to manage their struggles. Although they want to feel accepted and loved, they also experience others as unresponsive or uncaring.  Their lives often feel like a series of unsuccessful attempts to help themselves or reach out to others for caring.

It’s important to understand that each style is just a general description and the degree to which you fit a particular description will depend on where you fall on the dimensions of anxiety and avoidance. Also, although you have a particular attachment style, it can change over time – with experience – and can be different in different areas of your life or in different relationships.

When you think about your attachment style, it can often help you to better understand what motivates your actions. You are more likely to see what underlies your thoughts and feelings about yourself and others. Then you can choose to work on developing a more secure style of relating and creating a happier life.


The opinions expressed in WebMD Second Opinion are solely those of the User, who may or may not have medical or scientific training. These opinions do not represent the opinions of WebMD Second Opinion are not reviewed by a WebMD physician or any member of the WebMD editorial staff for accuracy, balance, objectivity, or any other reason except for compliance with our Terms and Conditions. Some of these opinions may contain information about treatments or uses of drug products that have not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. WebMD does not endorse any specific product, service or treatment.

Do not consider Second Opinion as medical advice. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider because of something you have read on WebMD. You should always speak with your doctor before you start, stop, or change any prescribed part of your care plan or treatment. WebMD understands that reading individual, real-life experiences can be a helpful resource, but it is never a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a qualified health care provider. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or dial 911 immediately.