anxious-ambivalent adult attachment style

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Q: ‘m studying psychology at my university, so I know for sure what my problem is in relationships. I have an anxious-ambivalent adult attachment style. So far this has ruined a number of my relationships but not all of them. I know I’m anxious-ambivalent because thinking about the women in my life is the first and last thing I do in the day. If I have nothing better to think about, I’m thinking about my relationships. If I don’t have a relationship at the time, I’m mentally searching through my known relations looking for the next. I’m jealous, worry about being dumped, and take heartbreak hard.

My life feels on-track when I am in a relationship, but I rarely feel comfortable in it lasting. I felt comfortable in my last relationship, which ended about 3 weeks ago, and now I’m worried I’ll never learn to control my anxieties. You could say success in relationships is my life-goal.

So what strategies can I employ to overcome these issues? I’m open to almost everything except medication.

A: An occupational hazard of studying psychology is the tendency to see ourselves in the things we study. I’d need to know a whole lot more about you, of course, to offer a diagnosis. But I’d at least like to suggest that much of what you are feeling and thinking about is age-appropriate. This isn’t to minimize what you’re feeling. Figuring out relationships can be very, very hard.

Part of your training if you are thinking about being a psychologist is to get some experience as a client. It’s important to know yourself as best you can so that you can be effective as a therapist. And it’s important to experience what it means to be a client so that you can be empathetic with your own clients some day.

My best suggestion is that you locate a therapist and sign on for a few sessions to help you explore whether you are truly anxious-ambivalent. Regardless of the diagnosis, a therapist will offer you some support and will help you identify and practice the strategies you are looking for.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie




Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 3 Nov 2008

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2008). anxious-ambivalent adult attachment style. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 2, 2015, from

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