The author who popularized attachment theory says he'd be more empathetic to avoidant attachment styles if he wrote his book today

The author who popularized attachment theory says he'd be more empathetic to avoidant attachment styles if he wrote his book today
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  • The book "Attached," which explains attachment theory in layman's terms, has regained popularity on social media.
  • The book's co-author says he would offer more support to people with avoidant attachment, meaning they fear intimacy or find it suffocating, if he rewrote it.

Attachment theory, or the idea that relationships with our caregivers as children impact our future connections, has found new life online, with an increasing amount of social media content surrounding the psychological concept.

Dr. Amir Levine, a co-author of the book that popularized attachment theory, told the New York Times he'd tweak the book, which has sold 102,300 copies in 2021, to better explain the most misunderstood attachment style, avoidant attachment.

"Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment, and How It Can Help You Find - and Keep - Love," by Levine and co-author psychologist Rachel Heller, was published in December 2010 after Levine saw a research study that linked adults' romantic relationship behaviors to their behaviors as children interacting with their parents. In the book, Levine and Heller outline this theory and the three main attachment styles: anxious, avoidant, and secure.


In the years since it was published, "Attached" and attachment theory has become the subject of many videos and posts on Instagram and TikTok. There's a seemingly never-ending stream of content geared towards explaining how each style may manifest and why they happen in the first place. Photographer Sarah Bahbah created a viral visual series inspired by what she learned from "Attached."

Now that "Attached" has been reintroduced into mainstream popularity, Levine says he would've written more about how others can understand avoidants, who are overwhelmed and shy away when they reach their threshold of emotional intimacy. They're also the second-most common attachment style, according to self-reported data. 56% of people identify as secure, 23% as avoidant, and 20% as anxious.

Avoidants are often overlooked because society values hyper-independence

According to New York City-based therapist Rachel Wright, avoidant attachment is more misunderstood than anxious attachment because of society's focus on independence.


While anxious attachment may manifest as appeasing a loved one or staying quiet about your needs due to fear of abandonment, avoidant attachment is more complex to explain, Wright told Insider.

People with avoidant attachment styles aren't afraid of being abandoned; they're afraid of being too vulnerable and feeling smothered, according to Wright. This behavior could stem from having a helicopter parent who was overly involved in their life growing up, she said.

"They're protecting themselves by not becoming 'too intimate' or feeling suffocated, and tend to present as very independent people," Wright said.


Boiling that concept down to a TikTok video is much harder than the straightforward "Anxious attachment stems from fear of abandonment" explanation seen on social media, said Wright.

Since our society values independence, avoidantly attached folks may be praised for their guarded nature, even if they find it personally draining, according to Wright. Others who are avoidant may have no interest in developing closer relationships, she said, and that's OK too.

Anxiously attached people can focus on self-validation to help their avoidant loved ones

The key is understanding where your attachment style comes from and the triggers that cause you to act in an anxious or avoidant way, said Wright.


This way, you can notice them and find healthier ways to self-soothe.

According to Wright, this method can help people with anxious attachment who struggle with a lack of validation from a lover, friend, or family member who has avoidant attachment.

"Understanding they have a fear of abandonment, they need to figure out how they can feel secure without this constant validation that their avoidant partner is unable to give, because in their mind that's suffocating," Wright said.


She said couples therapy can help with this process, since it allows partners to understand each others' needs.