Everything you need to know about dismissive-avoidant attachment style


Attachment is a strong emotional bond formed between a child and a parent, especially with the mother. It is an essential component of relationships as it governs how individuals communicate their love and affection to one another. Various research indicates that attachment patterns established in fact affect a wide range of childhood and adult behaviors, including aggression, self esteem, and relationship choices. 

The concept of attachment was first introduced by psychiatrist and psychoanalyst John Bowlby, who proposed that a child’s early relationships with caregivers affect their development and mold their future social and emotional functioning. 

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What do attachment theorists say about different attachment styles?

The attachment theory explains that the nature and quality of the interactions between a child and caregiver can lead to different types of attachment. There are four main attachment styles: secure attachment, anxious-preoccupied attachment, dismissive-avoidant attachment, and disorganized attachment.

Secure attachment style

Individuals form a successful, secure connection if their primary caregiver made them feel safe and understood them when they were a baby and if caregivers were able to respond to their cries and correctly assess their evolving physical and emotional needs. As an adult, that typically translates into having a capacity for healthy conflict management, responsiveness to intimacy, and navigating the ups and downs of love relationships.

People with secure attachment styles have more positive self-concepts and believe that most other people are good-natured and well-intentioned. They see their personal relationships as trustworthy and satisfying.

Anxious-preoccupied attachment

According to attachment theory, inconsistent parenting leads to the development of an anxious attachment style. While growing up, if a child’s needs were either not met consistently by their parents or they were not met at all, then there are chances of developing anxious attachment patterns.

Anxious attachers frequently experience anxiety, and low self-esteem. They yearn for emotional closeness and can be concerned that others won’t want to be around them. Anxious attachers can also come across as needy.

Disorganised Attachment

Disorganised attachment is the outcome of extreme fear, childhood trauma, neglect, or abuse. Whilst growing up, the parent frequently served as both a comforter and a source of terror, causing the child to frequently feel confused and disoriented in their relationships. The parent also might have neglected or traumatized the child because of their unpredictable, disorderly behavior.  

As adults, those with disorganised attachment are likely to show inconsistent, contradictory, or confused behaviour. Adults who exhibit this type of insecure attachment style frequently believe they are unworthy of love or intimacy in a relationship.

Dismissive-avoidant attachment style

An avoidant-dismissive attachment style usually results from a parent who was absent or unresponsive. One might have grown up with stern, emotionally distant, or absent parents. While growing up the parents might have left the child to fend for themselves, or their basic needs were not met consistently. The child is compelled to emotionally detach themselves or to comfort themselves in the absence of a parent being available. This lays the groundwork for later life’s avoidance of intimacy, and desire for independence.

People with dismissive-avoidant attachment styles fear intimacy and expect their relationships to fail. They avoid forming close relationships and keep their emotions at a distance in order to protect themselves.

Signs and characteristics of dismissive-avoidant attachment

Individuals with ‘avoidant’ attachment styles often believe that expressing their emotions and need for comfort will lead to conflict or rejection. This is one of the 3 insecure adult attachment styles.

Some signs and characteristics of dismissive-avoidant attachment adults

  • Tend to avoid emotional or physical intimacy: When it comes to emotional and physical closeness, dismissive attachers struggle.
  • Independence: People with dismissive attachment are more likely to put their own needs and wants above others, and they choose to be alone and self-sufficient rather than relying on others. They prefer to have absolutely no dependence on others.
  • Difficulty in trusting people: Avoidant attachment people find it hard to trust others, they feel other people always have a hidden agenda and take advantage of them. They feel threatened if anyone even tries to come closer to them.
  • Uncomfortable expressing feelings: People with a dismissive attachment style find it hard to express their emotions. They find it hard to understand or acknowledge others’ emotions. They tend to keep the conversation short and direct. These people have a hard time developing strong emotional bonds with others and prefer to keep their emotions to themselves.
  • Likes to spend time alone: Avoidant adults prefer to be on their own and feel they don’t need others in their life. They like to spend more time alone rather than interacting with others.
  • Commitment issues: A dismissive attacher fears closeness and vulnerability and is more prone to avoid making commitments in romantic relationships.
  • Tend to be dismissive of others: This sort of attachment style is characterized by excessive self-centeredness and a preference for one’s own comforts, as well as a disregard for the needs and interests of others.

Commonly asked questions about dismissive-avoidant attachment style

How does a person with a dismissive-avoidant attachment style act in relationships?

Dismissive-avoidant attachment can have a substantial effect on a person’s relationships. Avoidant individuals find it hard to commit to a relationship and can struggle with both social and personal relationships. Studies have shown that this attachment style impacts the quality of romantic relationships. Adults with avoidant attachment struggle to resolve relationship struggles as they’re reluctant to talk about issues or express their emotions or feelings openly. This may result in persistent conflict and unresolved relationship concerns.

Avoidant adults can come across as intolerant, closed off and aloof. They value independence and can get uncomfortable when a relationship becomes too close.

  • They may accuse their partners of being overly dependent. 
  • They tend to minimize the value of close relationships, and wouldn’t like to rely on others for support. 
  • They may be unwilling to put the time and effort into the relationship.
  • To reclaim their sense of freedom, they may minimize or reject their partner’s sentiments, conceal information from them, or even end a relationship.
  • They tend to shy away from overt acts of intimacy and closeness. 
  • A person with a dismissive-avoidant attachment style may show love by letting you get closer to them than anyone else. They make efforts to spend time with you, they come back to you after disappearing for a while. They might slowly start to express their emotions and open up. 
  • Dismissive-avoidant people can find emotional intimacy and vulnerability unsettling. A lack of close relationships may result from this, which could be detrimental to one’s social and emotional wellbeing. 
  • Research also shows that avoidant people experience less intimacy than secure people.

How can I manage a relationship with a partner who has a dismissive avoidant attachment style?

One can wonder if avoidant attachers can ever fall in love. Of course, just like any other individuals, dismissive attachers want to form relationships, and they have feelings and a need to connect like any other human beings, but they can be scared to connect emotionally.

Being in a relationship with someone who has an avoidant attachment style can be difficult, as they find it difficult to build strong emotional bonds and can struggle with intimacy and commitment.

  • Avoidant individuals need space, they have normalized being independent, alone, and distant. Do not take this personally, they’re not avoiding you intentionally. It is important to respect their space and allow them that space. 
  • Communicate your needs and expectations, be honest and transparent about your wants and feelings. Open communication can help in building healthy relationships.
  • Be dependable and reliable. Dismissive attacher thinks others will disappoint them or let them down, it’s important to make them feel they can trust and depend on you. 
  • Seek support. Reach out to a couple’s counsellor, it can help you and your partner comprehend each other’s perspectives and experiences, in addition to strengthening closeness and better communication.

Is there professional help available for people struggling due to their dismissive avoidant attachment style?

Fortunately, we don’t have to stay confined to the attachments we learned as infants. There are several opportunities for personal development and change throughout life.

You can investigate and make sense of your prior experiences by working with a therapist, particularly one who specializes in attachment issues. They will help you identify your obstacles, address relationship struggles and suggest an action plan. They will work with you to heal attachment wounds.

Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) can help people recognize and alter unhelpful thought patterns and behaviors that support their avoidant attachment style. There are a few CBT exercises that are available in the Wysa app, that can be helpful in addressing unhelpful behaviours or thinking styles.

What are some tips to build a healthier attachment style?

  • Build supportive relationships. Forming relationships with people who are supportive, secure and healthy can help you achieve a more secure attachment type. Look out for people who are trustworthy, compassionate and understanding.
  • ​​Seek therapy: Addressing and resolving attachment difficulties and developing more wholesome patterns of interpersonal interaction can be accomplished by working with a qualified mental health professional.
  • Get to know about your emotions and healthier ways to express them. There are many tools in the Wysa app that can help you learn ways to manage emotions.
  • Work on your communication skills, learn ways to communicate your needs and feelings.

Our attachment styles can influence our relationships and have a long-term impact on how we behave, however, they are not fixed and can change over time, with efforts and the right support and help. By opening up to others, cultivating healthy habits over time, and finding the right support you can overcome your attachment issues. It takes time to build a healthier attachment, give yourself that time. Be compassionate and kind to yourself.

Photo by Alex Green 

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