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Attachment Styles and Loneliness

By: Kelly DSouza

There are only two words that come easily to my mind to explain why I hate the idea of making new friends, being in social situations with acquaintances and plan my absence at the office holiday party well in advance. “I’m shy.” I am that person who has close friends but also the person who is extremely difficult to get close to. I have spent most of my life believing I don’t like to talk to people outside of my close circle because I’m secure with the quality of companionship I have. Sometimes, I think it’s the gift that comes along with independence.

Do you feel the same when it comes to being around people you are not close to, or spend hours stressing about that one hour you’re going to spend with people who you don’t know too well? Do you spend more time thinking of excuses to avoid social interactions outside your social circle than with your social circle? You are locked up in the paradox of feeling safe in close relationships, yet doing everything it takes to avoid closeness. If being alone is your preference, rest assured that you’re not the only one.

Ainsworth et al, (1978) studied patterns of infant attachment. The research on adult attachment styles is based on infant attachment theory. Psychologists have researched how people relate to each other based on the perceptions of themselves. There are four adult attachment styles which follow derived from attachment patterns developed in early childhood. While each style has its own manifestations, it’s important to realize that behaviours in relationships/friendships are impacted by the attachment style but do not always lead to an “exact personality”.

  • Secure Attachment – Individuals with this pattern are satisfied and content with relationships, their relationships are characteristic by honesty, emotional closeness, and independence.

  • Dismissive avoidant – Individuals with this pattern usually prefer keeping their distance from others. They guard their independence and isolation to avoid hurtful scenarios within relationships.

  • Anxious Preoccupied – Individuals with this pattern crave love and affection and look up to others to fill their emptiness. They crave the presence of another person to “complete them” or to bring joy to their life. It is characteristic by insecurity, clinginess, demanding and jealous.

  • Fearful avoidant – Unlike dismissive avoidant, individuals with this pattern demonstrate ambivalence rather isolation. People with this attachment style feel overwhelmed by emotions. They are drawn to closeness in relationships and are fearful of getting close.

Secure attachment patterns are associated with well being and are less likely to report suffering from depression, anxiety and loneliness. (Hazan & Shaver, 1990). Understanding our attachment patterns, it’s roots and how it impacts our friendships, intimacy and work life can help us work towards a secure attachment pattern.

Talk to our Conscious Counselling team to learn more on attachment patterns and it’s impact on companionship.


Ainsworth, M. D. S, Blehar, M. C, Waters, E,  & Wall, S. (1978).  Pat-terns of attachment: A  psychological study of the strange situation. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Hazan, Cindy & Shaver, Phillip. (1990). Love and Work: An Attachment-Theoretical Perspective. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology - PSP. 59. 270-280. 10.1037/0022-3514.59.2.270.

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