Causes and contexts of fearful avoidant attachment

Fearful avoidant attachment is an important yet complex area of study that has been the subject of decades-worth of research. It is a type of insecure attachment that tend to arise when people feel both a need for closeness and connection as well as a simultaneous feeling of discomfort at being close to another person.

The causes and contexts of fearful avoidant attachment can vary greatly, but they usually involve some kind of barrier preventing people from developing secure and healthy relationships with others.

Through further study, it’s hoped that we can learn more about how to identify this type of attachment in different scenarios, along with providing better support for those struggling with it.

8 Fearful-Avoidant Attachment Causes

Fearful avoidant attachment is a form of insecure attachment that affects both adult and child relationships. It is a complex issue that can arise from multiple causes, contexts, and environments.

Understanding the different causes of fearful avoidant attachment can help us to better understand this type of insecurity and identify ways in which we can provide support for people struggling with it. Here are 8 of the most common sources of fearful-avoidant attachment.

1. Fear of Intimacy

Fearful-avoidant attachment is often characterized by a fear of intimacy, which leads to distance in relationships and creates a barrier to forming meaningful connections with others. This fear can stem from feelings of low self-worth, insecurity, or even past traumas that have left the person feeling unsafe in close relationships. 

Here are a few other causes:

  • Difficulty with trust and vulnerability
  • Avoidance of emotional closeness
  • Fear of getting hurt or being rejected
  • Anxiety around entering into new relationships
  • Difficulty communicating effectively in intimate situations
  • Unwillingness to be emotionally available to those around them

2. Negative Attitudes Toward Self and Others

People who experience fearful-avoidant attachment may think negatively about themselves as well as others. This could manifest itself through distrust towards their partner or believing that they are not capable of connecting meaningfully with someone else. 

Here are a few other causes:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Negative self-talk
  • Difficulty expressing emotions in healthy ways
  • Cynicism towards others and relationships
  • Suspicion of the motives of those around them
  • A belief that they are unworthy of being loved or accepted by others

3. Difficulty With Trust

A lack of trust in relationships is another common symptom of fearful-avoidant attachment, as people may worry that their partner will eventually leave them or hurt them in some way. As a result, they often struggle to open up and be vulnerable with others, leading to an emotional distance within the relationship. 

Here are a few other causes:

  • Anxiety over being betrayed or abandoned
  • Difficulty showing affection and forming meaningful bonds
  • Avoidance of difficult conversations and issues
  • A tendency to blame others for their own problems
  • Feeling like they need to protect themselves from getting hurt
  • Unwillingness to take risks in relationships

4. Need for Control

People who have fearful-avoidant attachments tend to have a need for control over their relationships and interactions with others. This need for control can lead to fear of losing autonomy in the relationship or feeling like they must do something perfectly every time so that their partner won’t leave them. 

Here are a few other causes:

  • A need to be in control of all aspects of the relationship
  • Fear of losing autonomy or being abandoned
  • Perfectionism in order to avoid making mistakes
  • Difficulty with compromise and negotiation
  • Unwillingness to take risks or step out of their comfort zone
  • An overly critical attitude towards their partner and themselves

5. Fear of Rejection

Many people who suffer from fearful-avoidant attachment are afraid of being rejected by their partner or peers, which can make it hard for them to form meaningful bonds with other people. They also fail to maintain healthy relationships with loved ones due to an underlying belief that any connection will eventually end in pain or disappointment if it goes too deep. 

Here are a few other causes:

  • Fear of being unloved or unwanted
  • Difficulty expressing themselves in intimate situations
  • Tendency to avoid conversations that might reveal too much about them
  • Refusal to rely on other people for support and care
  • The belief that relationships inevitably end in pain or disappointment
  • Low self-confidence when it comes to initiating or sustaining relationships

6. Reliance on Fantasy Relationships

To cope with this fear of rejection, individuals may become overly reliant on fantasy relationships. They detach emotionally from real-life partners and acquaintances due to an inability to handle intense emotions associated with intimate bonds such as love, trust, and vulnerability. 

Here are a few other causes:

  • Unhealthy attachment to fictional characters or stories
  • Preference for solitude over social interaction
  • Preoccupation with fantasy rather than reality
  • Need for escapism from the world and its difficulties
  • An overly idealistic view of relationships that can never be achieved in real life
  • Inability to maintain emotional intimacy with real-life partners or friends

7. Poor Communication Skills

People who have fearful-avoidant attachments also tend to possess poor communication skills because they are unable to express themselves openly without fear of ridicule or judgment from others. As a result, they often bottle up their emotions and become disconnected from reality resulting in further isolation from meaningful relationships outside themselves. 

Here are a few other causes:

  • Difficulty expressing feelings or needs openly
  • Fear of being judged or ridiculed by others
  • Inability to express emotions accurately and effectively
  • Reluctance to share personal thoughts or experiences with other people
  • A tendency to avoid difficult conversations and issues
  • Struggles with active listening and understanding the perspectives of others

8. Avoidance Tendencies

Finally, those who suffer from fearful-avoidant attachment may also display avoidance tendencies such as steering clear of commitments, preferring superficial exchanges over deep conversations, constantly covering up feelings rather than expressing them authentically out loud, or refusing help when it’s offered even if necessary for personal growth. All these actions contribute to further isolation and disconnection from potential sources of comfort and security such as family members or romantic partners.

Here are a few other causes:

  • Fear of getting too close to other people
  • Preference for superficial exchanges over meaningful conversations •
  • Refusal to accept help from others even when it’s necessary •
  • Attempts to distance themselves from potential sources of comfort and security •
  • A need to keep up walls between themselves and everyone else

A Resentful Rejected Man

8 Causes of Fearful-Avoidant Attachment in Childhood

Children who experience fearful-avoidant attachment may struggle in forming healthy relationships as adults. This type of attachment is rooted in a childhood that was marked by insecurity, fear, and distrust.

To better understand why someone might be experiencing this type of attachment in adulthood, it’s important to explore the various causes of fearful-avoidant attachment during childhood. Here are some common causes:

1. Unresponsive or Rejecting Parenting

When parents are emotionally distant, unresponsive, or neglectful, it can lead to a fearfully-avoidant attachment in childhood. This could be displayed through a lack of physical or verbal affection, failure to provide basic needs such as food and shelter, or ignoring their child’s attempts to receive attention. 

Here are a few other features:

  • Lack of physical or verbal affection
  • Failure to provide basic needs such as food and shelter
  • Ignoring a child’s attempts to get attention
  • Unmet emotional needs due to lack of parental involvement
  • Difficulty trusting adults due to inconsistent parenting styles.

2. Repeated Traumatic Experiences

If a child is exposed to trauma in their early childhood—such as physical or emotional abuse—they may be more likely to develop a fearful-avoidant attachment. Furthermore, this often leads to feelings of shame, guilt, and distress that can further hinder secure attachments in the future. 

Here are a few other features:

  • Exposure to physical or emotional abuse
  • The feeling of shame, guilt, and distress
  • Difficulty forming secure attachments in the future
  • Fear of abandonment due to traumatic experiences
  • Inability to regulate emotions due to lack of safety and security.

3. Dysfunctional Family Dynamics

Families with high levels of conflict and unresolved issues can create an unstable environment for the development of healthy attachments between children and parents. Instead of seeking out comfort from their caregivers, the child may become suspicious and distrustful due to the unpredictability of home life. 

Here are a few other features:

  • High levels of conflict within the family
  • Unresolved issues between parents and children
  • Suspicion and distrust due to unpredictable home life
  • Lack of comfort from caregivers
  • Difficulty forming secure attachments.

4. Parental Mental Health Issues

If one or both parents are suffering from mental illness, this can make it difficult for them to provide a secure environment for their children’s healthy attachment development. The parent may be less responsive due to depression or anxiety; they may also struggle with providing consistent care due to frequent changes in mood or behavior. 

Here are a few other features:

  • Difficulty providing a secure environment due to mental illness
  • Less responsive parenting due to depression or anxiety
  • Inconsistent care due to frequent changes in mood or behavior
  • Difficulty understanding and responding to a child’s emotional needs
  • Fear of abandonment due to parent’s mental health struggles.

5. Poor Caregiver-Child Interactions

If caregivers frequently show signs of anger, frustration, or irritation when interacting with their children then it can lead them to feel scared and rejected by their parents. Furthermore, if the caregiver displays inadequate communication skills then this could cause the child to internalize negative beliefs about themselves leading them to become fearful and avoidant towards close relationships later on in life.

Here are a few other features:

  • Frequent signs of anger, frustration, or irritation
  • Inadequate communication skills from the caregiver
  • Internalization of negative beliefs about themselves
  • Fearful and avoidant attitude towards close relationships in later life
  • Difficulty forming secure attachments.

6. Premature Birth

premature babies are more likely than full-term infants to experience difficulties with attachment because they have had less time in the womb for optimal brain development. Additionally, some preterm infants may have experienced medical interventions during childbirth which could have caused them pain (e.g., umbilical cord clamping) leading them to associate people with further discomfort instead of comfort during infancy.

Here are a few other features:

  • Less time in the womb for optimal brain development
  • Experiencing medical interventions during childbirth
  • Potential pain associated with people due to medical interventions
  • Difficulty forming secure attachments
  • Fear of abandonment due to lack of comfort and security.

7. Separation From a Primary Caregiver

If a child is separated from its main source of caregiving then it could lead them to become anxious and insecure about forming close relationships in the future. He experiences this due to feeling abandoned by those they depend on most heavily for love and support.

Here are a few other features:

  • Anxiety and insecurity about forming close relationships
  • Fear of abandonment due to feeling abandoned by the caregiver
  • Difficulty forming secure attachments
  • Feel scared and rejected by their primary caregivers.

8. Institutionalization/Foster Care

Living in institutional settings such as orphanages or foster homes often leads children to feel overwhelmed by unfamiliar environments. It makes it harder for them to form close connections with new caregivers who don’t understand their unique needs and circumstances.

Here are a few other features:

  • Feel overwhelmed by unfamiliar environments
  • Difficulty forming secure attachments
  • Inability to form close connections with new caregivers
  • Fear of abandonment due to lack of understanding from new caregivers.

8 Causes of Fearful-Avoidant Attachment at Work

While fearful-avoidant attachment is typically a form of attachment developed during childhood, its effects can still be seen in adulthood. Fearful-avoidant attachment often leads to difficulty forming close relationships, feelings of insecurity, and fear of rejection — all of which can manifest in the workplace.

Here are 8 common causes that might lead to fearful-avoidant attachment in the workplace:

1. Lack of Trust in Management

Fearful-avoidant attachment can occur when employees struggle to trust their supervisors or leadership team. This may be due to a history or pattern of poor communication, lack of attention to detail, or a lack of understanding about work-related issues.

Here are a few other features:

  • Difficulty forming close relationships with supervisors
  • Feelings of insecurity and fear of rejection from management
  • Poor communication from management leads to confusion
  • Unclear expectations from management.

2. Unclear Job Roles and Expectations

Employees struggling with a fearful-avoidant attachment may have difficulty understanding their job roles and the expectations placed upon them. This confusion can lead to feelings of uncertainty and insecurity, making it difficult for them to perform effectively at work. 

Here are a few other features:

  • Feeling overwhelmed and uncertain in the workplace
  • Difficulty performing tasks due to lack of clarity
  • Fear of making mistakes or not meeting expectations
  • Inability to form close relationships with colleagues.

3. Negative Past Experiences

Employees may develop fearful-avoidant attachment if they have experienced negative events in the workplace such as bullying, harassment, discrimination, or inequality. These experiences can cause employees to feel scared and unable to connect with their colleagues and managers. 

Here are a few other features:

  • Anxiety and fear of facing similar experiences again
  • Difficulty feeling comfortable in the workplace environment
  • Insecurity when interacting with colleagues or managers
  • Fear of rejection due to previous negative experiences.

4. Poor Relationships Between Coworkers

Fearful-avoidant attachment can arise when there is tension between coworkers or a lack of collaboration among teams within an organization. This type of environment creates mistrust, fear, and insecurity which can make it difficult for employees to collaborate effectively on tasks. 

Here are a few other features:

5. High Levels of Stress

Stressful situations in the workplace can create feelings of anxiety and fear which can lead to fearful-avoidant attachment patterns among employees. Feeling overwhelmed by workloads or expectations from supervisors can lead to avoidance behaviors that prevent employees from seeking help from their colleagues and managers when they need it. 

Here are a few other features:

  • Anxiety when confronted with stressful situations
  • Difficulty communicating and engaging in relationships with coworkers
  • Fear of failure due to increased pressure from workload
  • Isolation in the workplace as a result of stress.

6. Limited Career Progression Opportunities

When employees are unable to progress in their careers, this often leads to feelings of frustration which in turn leads them toward becoming more detached from the workplace environment around them. It leads to a fearful-avoidant attachment style emerging amongst some individuals. 

Here are a few other features:

  • Frustration and disappointment due to lack of career progression
  • Fear of failure in seeking more senior positions
  • Insecurity surrounding the ability to perform at higher levels
  • Feeling isolated due to lack of opportunities.

7. Poor Social Support Networks at Work

Social support networks provide an important source of security for workers however when these are lacking it is easy for individuals to become disconnected from the workplace environment leading to fearful attachments developing amongst some staff members. Therefore it is important for organizations to ensure that adequate resources are available in this area so as not to leave any employee feeling isolated or unsupported within their team dynamics or wider organizational structure. 

Here are a few other features:

  • Fear of being judged or rejected by colleagues
  • Anxiety when reaching out for help or support
  • Difficulty connecting with others in the workplace environment
  • Feeling isolated and unable to rely on peers.

8. Cultural Barriers

Different cultures often have different approaches when it comes to how people interact with each other. Therefore sometimes cultural differences can play a role in creating feelings of fear amongst certain individuals leading to them becoming more avoidant when engaging in conversations with other staff members.

This type of behavior should not be taken lightly but rather managed appropriately by HR departments. It can provide training sessions tailored specifically towards tackling any workplace conflicts resulting from cultural misunderstandings which could otherwise foster an atmosphere of distrust within teams and organizations as a whole.

Here are a few other features:

  • Fear of being judged based on cultural differences
  • Insecurity in dealing with unfamiliar communication styles
  • Anxiety when engaging in conversations with diverse colleagues
  • Difficulty forming meaningful relationships with those from different cultures.

A Man With his Boss

8 Links Between Fearful-Avoidant Attachment and Narcissism

The connection between fearful-avoidant attachment and narcissism is becoming increasingly pronounced in today’s society. Individuals with a fearful-avoidant attachment style are characterized by their intense fear of rejection, while those exhibiting narcissistic traits often seek attention and admiration from others.

This relationship can cause difficulties in both personal and professional relationships as well as lead to further mental health issues. Here are 8 ways in which fearful-avoidant attachment and narcissism are linked.

  1. Shallow sense of self-Importance: Fearful-avoidant attachment is associated with high levels of narcissism, as individuals attempt to protect themselves from feeling vulnerable and exposed by erecting an artificial sense of self-importance.
  2. Emotional distance: People with fearful-avoidant attachments tend to be emotionally distant and may appear aloof or uninterested in interacting with others, as they strive to avoid being hurt. This pattern of behavior can manifest itself in many forms, such as arrogance and a lack of empathy for others.
  3. Fear of intimacy: Individuals with a fearful-avoidant attachment style may also have difficulty developing healthy relationships due to their fear of closeness and intimacy. They may even go so far as to sabotage their own relationships in order to avoid being rejected or hurt.
  4. Sensitive to criticism: Fearful-avoidant individuals are often very sensitive to criticism and feedback, as they constantly strive for perfectionism in order to receive the admiration and approval they crave from others. This need for external validation can be one of the hallmarks of narcissism.
  5. Manipulation: Since fearful avoidants don’t believe that anyone will accept them or care about them unconditionally, they tend to act out in order to gain attention and maintain control over their own environment. This type of behavior is often characterized by manipulation, exploitation, and grandiose expectations of others—all common traits among narcissists.
  6. Narcissistic Tactics: Some research has suggested that people with a fearful-avoidant attachment style tend to use narcissistic defenses such as idealization, devaluation, splitting, and other tactics in order to manage uncomfortable emotions caused by their fear of vulnerability or rejection.
  7. Artificial Charm: Fearful avoidants may also engage in “superficial charm” in order to gain admiration from important figures around them, which is another trait commonly found among narcissists. By impressing these people with grandiose claims about oneself or one’s achievements, the individual seeks recognition without exposing themselves too deeply or getting too close emotionally.
  8. Childhood abuse: Finally, individuals who have been victims of neglect or abuse during childhood are more likely to develop both fearful-avoidant attachment styles and narcissistic tendencies later on in life due to the lack of secure attachment experienced during their formative years.

8 Links Between Fearful-Avoidant Attachment and BPD

The link between fearful-avoidant attachment and borderline personality disorder (BPD) is increasingly being recognized in today’s society. People with a fearful-avoidant attachment style often struggle to form healthy relationships, while those exhibiting traits of BPD have difficulty regulating their emotions, leading to issues with interpersonal relationships.

This connection can lead to further mental health issues that can be difficult to manage. Here are 8 ways in which fearful-avoidant attachment and BPD are linked.

  1. Symptoms of BPD: Fearful-avoidant attachment can lead to symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) in people who have experienced this type of relationship with their primary caregivers. Due to their childhood experiences, those with a fearful-avoidant attachment style experience strong feelings of guilt and shame, which can shape the way they interact with others in adulthood.
  2. Hypersensitive to criticism: People with a fearful-avoidant attachment style are often hypersensitive to criticism and judgment from other people, leading to high levels of anxiety around relationships. This hypersensitivity is often a hallmark symptom of BPD, as individuals may overreact to seemingly small issues due to their heightened emotional reactivity.
  3. Unable To Form Relations: Those with an avoidant attachment style may struggle to maintain close relationships due to feelings of fear or insecurity when forming intimate connections with others. As a result, these individuals may engage in self-destructive behaviors that prevent them from forming meaningful relationships and further isolate themselves from potential connections.
  4. Intense Mood Swings: Individuals with BPD may be prone to intense mood swings due to their intense fear or avoidance of rejection or abandonment by significant others; these sudden shifts in emotion are one of the hallmarks of this disorder and can be exacerbated by a fearful-avoidant attachment style.
  5. Emotionally volatile: People who have experienced a fearful-avoidant attachment early on in life tend to be more emotionally volatile than those without this style of parenting history; this volatility can lead them into explosive conflicts with their loved ones that have the potential for long-term damage if not addressed promptly and properly.
  6. Unrealistic Thinking: Those who have had an avoidant parent-child relationship may be prone to unrealistic thinking about themselves and the people around them; this distorted view can manifest itself as an overly negative opinion about oneself or overly idealistic views about other people, both common symptoms seen among individuals struggling with BPD.
  7. Social Struggle: Those who experienced an avoidant mother or father in childhood often struggle socially due to their inability or unwillingness to form lasting social bonds; this impaired social functioning is another symptom commonly seen among those suffering from BPD, who tend toward isolation rather than meaningful interaction with peers or family members alike.
  8. Identity Crises: Fearful-avoidants also may struggle with identity issues due to their lack of secure connection as children; this difficulty in creating a sense of self can lead them into chaotic interpersonal relationships that attempt to fill the void left by their absent parents – another common behavior exhibited by individuals living with a borderline personality disorder.

An Isolated Man


Ultimately, fearful-avoidant attachment can have a huge impact on an individual’s life. It can affect how they form and maintain relationships as well as their ability to trust and be receptive to love from others.

For those who recognize the presence of fearful avoidant attachment in their lives, understanding why it exists is the first step towards breaking its harmful cycle.

With patience, perseverance, and support from friends and family, individuals can learn to develop healthier relationships that prioritize connection, trust, empathy, and unconditional love.

Frequently Asked Questions

What triggers avoidant attachment?

Avoidant attachment is typically triggered by a history of insecure or inconsistent parenting in childhood, during which the parent was detached or unresponsive to the child’s emotional needs.

Other factors that can contribute to this type of attachment style include trauma, abuse, neglect, and significant changes in caregiving figures throughout childhood.

What are fearful Avoidants afraid of?

Fearful avoidants are typically afraid of forming close relationships and intimate bonds due to feelings of fear, insecurity, and vulnerability. They may also be afraid of being judged or rejected by those they care about, leading them to distance themselves from potential connections.

Additionally, fearful avoidants often fear the loss of independence that comes with intimacy, as well as the potential for pain and abandonment that comes with it.

How common is fearful-avoidant?

Fearful-avoidant attachment is relatively common, and it is estimated that around 10-20% of people have this type of attachment style. Fearful avoidants may be more likely to be found among those with a history of inconsistent or neglectful parenting in childhood.

Additionally, individuals with a fearful-avoidant attachment style are at an increased risk for developing conditions such as depression, anxiety, and borderline personality disorder.

Do fearful Avoidants get lonely?

Yes, fearful avoidants can experience loneliness. Despite fears of intimacy or rejection, they still have a need for connection and relationships with others. As a result, their fear of connection can cause them to feel lonely and isolated, which can lead to further feelings of sadness or depression.

If left unaddressed, this loneliness can be extremely damaging to an individual’s mental health and well-being. judgmental.

How do fearful Avoidants behave?

1. Fearful avoidants often struggle to form close and meaningful connections with others; they may feel a sense of insecurity or fear when it comes to being vulnerable in relationships.

2. They may also be hesitant to trust others and will often withdraw from potential connections out of fear of rejection, abandonment, or pain.

3. Additionally, they may be emotionally distant or aloof towards others, struggling to maintain interpersonal relationships.

4. Fearful avoidants will often seek out chaotic relationships where their need for independence is not threatened.

5. Finally, they may also display behaviors such as extreme criticism of themselves and those around them, self-destructive behavior, and emotional turbulence.

Are fearful Avoidants attracted to anxiety?

Yes, fearful avoidants can be attracted to anxiety. Specifically, they may be drawn to individuals who are overly anxious or preoccupied with the fear of abandonment.

People who are overly anxious tend to exhibit behaviors that feel familiar and comfortable to those with a fearful-avoidant attachment style, which may be why they find them attractive. However, this type of relationship is typically unhealthy and can feed into the avoidant’s fear of intimacy.

Therefore, it is important for those with a fearful-avoidant attachment style to recognize this pattern of behavior and seek out relationships that prioritize connection, trust, empathy, and unconditional love.

Are fearful Avoidants abusive?

No, fearful avoidants are not typically abusive. However, if their fear of intimacy and vulnerability is not addressed in a healthy manner, it can lead to problematic and even destructive behaviors such as avoidance tactics or emotional manipulation.

Additionally, fearful avoidants may struggle with communication and expressing their needs in relationships, which can also lead to unhealthy patterns of behavior.


Adabel Lee and Benjamin L. Hankin (September 10, 2009). Insecure Attachment, Dysfunctional Attitudes, and Low Self-Esteem Predicting Prospective Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety During Adolescence.

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