A young teen boy deals sits with his parents who are not taking care of his needs

Is Your Attachment Style Dismissive?

Est. reading time: X min.

The dismissive-preoccupied attachment style is an attachment style characterized by high self-worth but a low view of others, and a tendency to shun relationships. In this blog post, we discuss common traits of individuals with this attachment style and review how individuals can move from an insecure to secure attachment style.

Clinically Reviewed By:
Don Gasparini Ph.D., M.A., CASAC

Jaime is an 8th grader who keeps to himself. Despite being a smart and confident teen who excels in school, his parents sometimes worry about Jaime's social life because he

  • Doesn't have many friends
  • Talks about how much people "always" let him down
  • Thinks his friends and family members are unreliable
  • Avoids opening up and refuses to cry
  • Spends a lot of time alone by choice

While it is impossible to accurately diagnose or describe an individual with limited knowledge of their full medical and psychosocial history, the above sample character description captures many of the common traits seen in individuals with a dismissive-avoidant attachment style, which is one of four main attachment styles used to describe how some people frame and understand their relationships. Oftentimes, an attachment style is a subconscious way of relating to others. This is why it’s important to explore and perhaps shift our attachment styles to create healthier and more fulfilling relationships–and therefore improved mental health. 

What are attachment styles? 

Attachment styles are the types of behavior individuals showcase in and around relationships with others. Attachment styles can describe all kinds of relationships –  friendships, romantic relationships, relationships between parents and their children, and more.  

Knowing what your attachment style is can help you better understand why you feel certain emotions regarding relationships. These feelings may include fear and disgust, anxiety and vulnerability, security and confidence, or others. 

Keep in mind that it is always possible to move from an unhealthy, or insecure, attachment style to a more secure one through the help of therapy or other types of support. Additionally, it is entirely possible to have more than one attachment style.  

The basis of the four attachment styles rests on how individuals view themselves and how individuals view others. 

What does this mean? 

Ask yourself the following two questions: 

  • Do you believe you are worthy of love and support? 
  • Do you think other people are trustworthy, available, and accepting? 

Based on your answers to the two questions above, the table below, describing four attachment styles,  can shed light on your own attachment style. 

A graphic of the model of adult attachment

The focus of this blog post is the attachment style in the bottom left corner titled “dismissing.” Individuals who fall into this attachment style would generally answer “yes” to the first question above and “no” to the second question above. 

What is a dismissive-avoidant attachment style?

Individuals with a dismissive-avoidant attachment style have a positive view of themselves and believe they are worthy of love, attention, and other positive interactions. However, they hold a negative view of others and believe others are not trustworthy or reliable. Individuals with this attachment style can therefore be dismissive of relationships. They may protect themselves against pain by maintaining their sense of independence so that they are not vulnerable to disappointment. Instead of seeing relationships as a tool for support or help, individuals with this attachment style may see leaning on others as a weakness to be avoided. Sometimes, people who seem “commitment-phobic” or unwilling to “settle down” might be dealing with a dismissive-avoidant attachment style. 

Dismissive-avoidant traits

In a research article introducing the four-category model of attachment styles, researchers studied students in an introductory psychology course and asked them to fill out questionnaires. These questionnaires asked questions about demographics, friendships, self-esteem, self-acceptance, sociability, relationships, and interpersonal problems. 

{{mid-page-cta="/dev-resources/staging"}}

From information gathered in the study, we know that individuals with a dismissive-avoidant attachment style are more likely to do the following: 

Be self-confident 

Individuals have a high sense of self. On one hand, this is a positive personality trait as it leads to resilience and self-sufficiency. However, ego and pride may get in the way of these individuals leaning on others or asking for help, support, or guidance from others. 

Rarely show emotions

The dismissive-avoidant attachment style lends itself to individuals who rarely cry or show emotions. They are less warm and take on the role of a caregiver less frequently. Young people with a dismissive-avoidant attachment style may themselves turn into dismissive-avoidant parents, thus continuing the cycle across generations

Have infrequent relationships

People with this attachment style have fewer intimate relationships with friends, romantic partners, or even family members. They have less of a capacity to rely on others as compared with some of the other attachment styles, seeing the need for intimacy and relationships as a weakness. A lack of intimacy in relationships can have a seriously negative impact on mental health. 

What might cause someone to be dismissive or avoidant of relationships? 

Charlie Health clinicians explain that the way we learn to attach to others is through the type of care we receive early in childhood. As a result, the following parental behaviors may lead to a child with an anxious-preoccupied attachment style. 

Unreliable care

Parents who do not consistently provide care and are not consistently responsive to their child’s needs. This can include their emotional needs or their physical needs such as clean and safe housing, food, clothing, or healthcare. Emotional needs encompass everything from feeling loved to feeling seen, heard, and understood. 

Rejection

Children who experience or feel rejected in early childhood may develop early feelings that those around them will disappoint or abandon them. Rejection can include early childhood abandonment, inconsistent parenting, or being harshly criticized from a young age. 

Barriers to healthy parenting

seeing, hearing, and understandingFor a number of reasons (poverty, health concerns, addiction), barriers to healthy parenting may lead to children who are vulnerable and have had to care for themselves. They may feel that relying on others is a weakness because they have been let down in the past. 

It is also possible for an individual without any of the above experiences to develop a dismissive-avoidant attachment style. Through therapy, these individuals can work to understand the reasoning behind their desire to shun or avoid relationships and move to a healthier and more secure attachment style. 

A young adult male with a dismissive attachment style stares off into space

Moving from an insecure to a secure attachment style 

Individuals with a dismissive-avoidant attachment style may avoid relationships or feel too vulnerable to start them at all. They may push others away or be afraid to commit to romantic partnerships. Therapy can be a good way to explore why these feelings exist and open yourself up to healthy supportive connections or relationships. 

Some ways in which therapy can help include: 

  • Understanding what past experiences may have lead you to feel distrustful or want to avoid close relationships 
  • Identify what you need or want ideally in relationships 
  • Focus on opening up your life to include others in a stepwise way 
  • Learning when to ask others for help or support 
  • Learning how to share what is important to you with trust in others 
  • Focus on communication skills 
  • Reset boundaries that you may have traditionally set too rigidly in the past 

Comprehensive intensive mental health support at Charlie Health

At Charlie Health, we’re here to help. Charlie Health's virtual IOP specializes in helping clients ages 12-28  work through conditions like anxiety, depression, trauma, self harm, behavioral issues and more. Through a combination of personalized groups, individual therapy, and family therapy, young people struggling with their mental health are connected with expert mental health professionals and peers they can relate to. Forming a safe, supportive community is one of the best ways to chip away at a dismissive-avoidant attachment style and to grow healthier relationships. 

Get started today.

Thank you! Your submission has been sent!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Girl smiling talking to her mother

We're building care plans as unique as you.

About us