Fearful-Avoidant Attachment: Definition & Treatment

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  • 0:01 Definition
  • 0:56 Signs
  • 1:46 Treatment
  • 2:49 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Yolanda Williams

Yolanda has taught college Psychology and Ethics, and has a doctorate of philosophy in counselor education and supervision.

Fearful-avoidant attachment is one of four types of adult attachment styles. Learn more about fearful-avoidant attachment in this lesson, including its characteristics and treatment options.


Fearful-avoidant attachment is an adult attachment style that is characterized by the urge to protect oneself and stay away from relationships, while at the same time having an urge to be in a relationship. The term, adult attachment style, refers to the bond between two adults in a romantic relationship.

A fearful-avoidant attachment style is characterized by the need to have relationships with others, but at the same time experiencing discomfort in close relationships and worrying about the potential for being hurt. Individuals with fearful-avoidant attachment have both a negative view of themselves and other people. For example, they may believe they do not deserve to be loved, or that other people should not be loved or trusted because of their potential to betray or reject them.

Because people with fearful-avoidant attachment have negative self-regard, they tend to look to others to make them feel good about themselves. This leads to a need for approval and a dependency on others.


Fearful-avoidant attachment style can be challenging to understand. Some of the behaviors and characteristics associated with the fearful-avoidant attachment style include:

  • Conflict avoidance
  • Dependency on the partner
  • Difficulty ending relationships
  • Difficulty trusting others
  • Fear of abandonment or rejection
  • Feelings of unworthiness
  • Guarded and reserved behaviors
  • Hesitancy in approaching relationships
  • Insecurity
  • Low self-confidence or self-esteem
  • Negative view of self and others
  • Passivity
  • Tendency to blame oneself for problems in a relationship
  • Tendency to put more effort into a relationship than the partner


Treatment for fearful-avoidant attachment for adults includes some form of therapy, such as individual or group sessions. In cases where the fearful-avoidant person has a significant other, the therapist may ask him or her to participate in couples counseling sessions. Forms of therapy that have been shown to be most helpful when working with individuals with fearful-avoidant attachment include:

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