What Is Dismissive-Avoidant Attachment?

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What Is Dismissive-Avoidant Attachment?

Dismissive-Avoidant Attachment

Dismissive-avoidant attachment is a term for when someone tries to avoid emotional connection, attachment, and closeness to other people.

A person with dismissive avoidant attachment usually doesn't pursue romantic relationships, and may actively avoid them. A dismissive attachment style is the opposite of an anxious attachment style.

The History of Attachment Theory

Attachment styles are based on attachment theory, which is an idea that breaks down the different ways that people connect with others into an assortment of attachment styles. It was invented by British psychologist John Bowlby, who believed that how we connect with others is based on our formative years in childhood.

Attachment theory is broken down into three distinct types of attachment:

  1. Secure: This attachment style is often considered the most functional for adult relationships. People who are securely attached to others are able to form close bonds and give their trust. They seek support from others, and share their feelings with them.
  2. Anxious: Those who have an anxious attachment style experience anxiety about their relationships with others. Anxious-attached people get very invested in their relationships, possibly to the point of codependence. This anxiety tends to worsen in stressful situations.
  3. Avoidant: People who have an avoidant attachment style try to not get close with others. They often avoid intimacy, and may have problems seeing themselves in a positive light, and seeing others that way.

From there, attachment theory can be broken down further into numerous substyles, such as anxious-insecure.

Dismissive avoidant attachment, which is commonly known as avoidant-dismissive insecure attachment style, is an attachment model in which a person tries not to rely on others or have others rely on them.

Let's look at how else you can tell someone has this attachment style.

Characteristics of Dismissive-Avoidant Attachment

People who are dismissive-avoidant are generally very self-sufficient, says Silvi Saxena, MBA, MSW, LSW, CCTP, OSW-C. She tells Verywell that dismissive-avoidant behaviors can include "independence to an extreme, not asking for help, setting a lot of boundaries, withdrawing from their partner when getting too close."

People who are dismissive-avoidant are often secretive and rigid, not allowing their own plans to be influenced by others and, often, not even disclosing those plans at all.

When someone tries to get close to a person with a dismissive-avoidant attachment style, they may step back completely from the relationship or friendship. They may be seen as cold, distant, and closed off.

In terms of relationships, those with dismissive-avoidant attachment are often more prone to short and shallow romantic partnerships, in which the connection is casual and is usually over quickly.

Short and casual relationships help the dismissive-avoidant person avoid any feelings of closeness on others, and don't offer others the opportunity to feel close to them.

The Cause of Dismissive Avoidant Attachment

Because attachment theory is based on how we interacted with parents and caregivers in our youth, it makes sense that the causes of this attachment style can be traced back to young age.

It's believed that dismissive-avoidant attachment occurs because a baby or small child doesn't get the attention or care they need from their parents or caregivers. In turn, the infant or child learns that expressing their needs doesn't guarantee that they will be taken care of.

When a child's needs aren't properly met by their caregivers, they may develop the sense that other people can't properly care for them. That can make someone, even a small child, feel like they have to be self-reliant in order to get what they need in life.

Impact of Dismissive Avoidant Attachment

Being independent, and teaching your children how to be independent, is important for survival. That said, though, having an avoidant-dismissive attachment style is not ideal for a person, and it may strongly impact both the avoider and those in their life.

If you or someone you know has an avoidant-dismissive attachment style, people's needs may go unmet.

You May Not Get Your Needs Met

For the avoider, Saxena tells Verywell Mind that being avoidant and dismissive can lead to not having your needs met.

She says that "generally, as humans, we want to have a connection to others and we all need to be taken care of at some point in life."

But because people with that attachment style have so much trouble reaching out to others, she says that dismissive avoidance "can make it hard to admit you need help and support, and [this can] leave you suffering in silence."

Your Loved Ones May Feel Neglected

Partners, friends, and family members of someone with a dismissive-avoidant attachment style also may not have their needs met in the relationship.

In regards to romantic relationships, Saxena says that a person "may feel neglected or disconnected from their partner often, which can feel really lonely in a relationship." She says that the avoider may feel safe in their behavior, which is how everyone wants to feel, but the person on the other side definitely may not.

In general, people feel safer when they feel connected to others. This isn't necessarily the case for someone with dismissive avoidant attachment; they might feel safer the more distance they create.

As you can imagine, creating distance between oneself and others can, in turn, make others feel less safe. This can create negative feelings about the relationship.

How to Build a Healthier Attachment Style

If you have an avoidant dismissive attachment style, you might be perfectly happy in your independence. However, at some point, you may want a more serious romantic relationship, or you may want to have a deeper connection to your family members.

When these desires come to light, someone with dismissive avoidant attachment might not know how to begin. Here's what you can do if you find that you want stronger connections with others.

Prioritize Honest Communication With Loved Ones

You can move forward in life without creating any changes, which is one option, of course.

In fact, Saxena says it's possible to have close relationships without changing yourself if this attachment style feels comfortable and good for you, but that it "requires a lot of work and communication to ensure expectations are being communicated and understood."

Reach Out to a Therapist

Another, and possibly more long-term viable, option is to seek counseling. You can utilize a therapist who specializes in relationships or one who is knowledgeable about attachment theory. Or you can simply speak to any therapist you feel comfortable with because all should have a basic understanding of attachment theory.

Before beginning therapy, it's helpful to think through your goals and to be settled in the fact that change is often uncomfortable.

Using a model such as the six stages of behavioral change can help you understand that shifting your attachment style will be a slow progression, but that you will be able to experience results.

A Word From Verywell

If you have a dismissive-avoidant attachment style, that doesn't mean you're flawed in any way. Rather, it means that your needs weren't met properly in childhood, which caused you to become very self-reliant.

Know that if you want to change your attachment style, you absolutely can, and deeper relationships and connections can be in your future.

4 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Ariane Resnick, CNC
Ariane Resnick, CNC is a mental health writer, certified nutritionist, and wellness author who advocates for accessibility and inclusivity.