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Monday, April 4, 2022

How An Anxious Attachment Style Can Affect Your Sex Life - Part 2

In Part 1 of this series on attachment styles and sex, I described the anxious attachment style and how it can affect your sex life.  In this article, I'm providing a clinical vignette as an illustration. 

How an Anxious Attachment Style Can Affect Your Sex Life

What is an Anxious Attachment Style?
Attachment styles develop early in childhood (see my article: How Early Attachment Bonds Affect Adult Relationships).

An anxious attachment style is one of three insecure attachment styles: anxious, avoidant and disorganized (see my article: What is Your Attachment Style?).

Unless you work in therapy to overcome the issues that caused you to develop an insecure attachment style, your attachment style will continue to impact you in your adult relationships, especially in romantic relationships (see my article: How Your Attachment Style Affects Your Relationship).

As I mentioned in Part 1, if you have an anxious attachment style, some or all of the following characteristics might apply to you. You might:
  • Use sex to get approval
  • Fall in love easily
  • Mistrust romantic partners
  • Feel anxiously insecure
  • Worry about what others think about you
  • Become preoccupied or even obsessive about your romantic partner
  • Have a very strong desire to be physically close to your partner due to your insecurity
  • Tend to feel dissatisfied with your partner and you can be difficult to please
  • Feel misunderstood by your partner
  • Feel unappreciated by your partner
  • Be clingy
  • Be dependent
  • Demand a lot of attention and care
  • Have a strong fear of rejection
  • Be extremely jealous if your partner doesn't spend as much time with you as you would like
  • Engage in mate guarding (see my article: Irrational Jealousy and Mate Guarding)
  • Be overly worried about your appearance and might need a lot of reassurance that you're attractive
Clinical Vignette
The following clinical vignette is a composite of many different cases with all identifying information removed to protect confidentiality:

Two months after her breakup with Steve, Sara took her best friend's advice and started therapy (see my article: How to Recommend Psychotherapy to a Friend).

Sara, who was in her late 30s, attended therapy a few times before, but she left prematurely after a few sessions each time (before completing the work) whenever she got into a new relationship (see my article: When Clients Leave Therapy Prematurely).  

During her initial consultation, Sara told her new therapist that she would make a commitment to complete the work this time.  She recognized, in hindsight, how she engaged in the same destructive behavior in each relationship, including her last one with Steve, and she didn't want to keep repeating the same behavior.

She told her therapist that she had read books and articles written for the general public about attachment styles, and she recognized that she had an anxious attachment style since childhood.  

Sara grew up with a lot of uncertainty and chaos with a mother who was an active alcoholic and a father who was a gambler, so she understood the origin of her problems.  She just didn't know what to do to change it.

Sara described her behavior with Steve as being clingy, dependent and irrationally jealous when she had no reason to be.  She knew that Steve tried to be patient with her, but when they argued, she would become especially anxious because she feared he would leave her.  

At those times, she would use sex to lure him back--even when she didn't want to have sex.  She would also pretend to have an orgasm even when he didn't take the time to get her sexually aroused (see my articles: What is Good Sex?What is the Orgasm Gap? and Rethinking Foreplay as Just a Prelude to Sexual Intercourse).

After six months, Steve told her that her emotional insecurities were a turn-off to him, and he broke up with her. When her usual strategy of trying to lure him back with sex didn't work, she knew it was over.

Although Sara was looking for a "quick fix" to her problems, her therapist told her that trying to change an anxious/insecure attachment style would involve a lot of work in therapy, including working through her traumatic childhood and learning new ways of relating in her romantic relationships (see my article: How Trauma Affects Intimate Relationships).

For the next several months, her therapist used EMDR therapy to help Sara overcome her childhood trauma.  Sara was able to grieve her losses and she understood why she developed an anxious/insecure attachment style.

During that time, she also began dating again.  At first, she continued to worry about what her dates thought of her.  She was overly worried about her appearance and needing a lot of reassurance from the men she dated, which was off putting to the men she dated and ended things by the second date.

But as Sara completed EMDR therapy, she felt herself letting go of the past. She remembered how awful and chaotic her childhood had been, but she no longer felt affected by it (see my article: EMDR Therapy Helps to Achieve Emotional Breakthroughs).

Working Through Trauma in Therapy

After a year, Sara felt more confident when she was dating.  She no longer felt anxious and insecure, and she finally felt free of her childhood history of trauma.

Getting Help in Therapy
To get to the root of your anxious attachment style, you could benefit from working with a trauma therapist who has the expertise to help you overcome your childhood trauma where your attachment style first developed.

EMDR therapy as well as other trauma therapies, like Somatic Experiencing, AEDPclinical hypnosis and Ego States work are all therapies that can help you to overcome trauma.

Rather than continuing to engage in the same destructive behavior patterns based on your anxious attachment style, seek help so you can live a more fulfilling life.

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT and Somatic Experiencing therapist (see my article: What is a Trauma Therapist?).

I work with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during regular business hours or email me.