Anxious Attachment Quiz: People pleasing vs codependency vs anxious attachment

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Are you wondering if you have anxious attachment? 

Here’s a quick, extremely informal and homemade way to assess if your relationship style might lean toward anxious attachment (aka, preoccupied attachment or ambivalent attachment).

This isn’t a formal assessment!  You’d need to sit down with a mental health professional to discuss these matters in depth to know for certain—or have them administer an AAI (Adult Attachment Interview).

A Very Not-Official Anxious Attachment Quiz

Review the following items, making a note of each one that describes you well:

I often end up in relationships where I seem more invested than the other person.

In romantic relationships, partners have described me as clingy, needy, or emotional.

When I have a conflict with someone, I’m often the first person to try and talk things through—even to the point of smoothing over my own valid concerns in order to keep the peace.

I worry about being abandoned in relationships.

I feel more comfortable harboring feelings of anger or resentment quietly, rather than have outright conflict with someone I love.

Sometimes I use guilt to try and get my partner to stay with me or empathize with me.

I secretly wonder if something is wrong with me, or if I’ll ever be truly loved in a relationship.

I am very good at detecting distress in others; sometimes I know they’re upset before they do.

I’ve had relationships end abruptly in the past.

I agree to do things I really don’t want to do in order to keep the peace in a relationship.

I often struggle with feelings of jealousy and insecurity regarding my partner’s past relationships & current friendships.

I enjoy daydreaming or imagining grand displays of devotion or conflict in romantic relationships—my own, and in fiction, too.

I worry a lot about what my partner thinks of me.

Sometimes I feel threatened about my partner’s other relationships or projects; when I see my partner taking pleasure in things outside of our relationship, I worry I’m not meeting an important need for them.

I tend to feel all my emotions very deeply.

I often ask my partner “What’s wrong?” –sometimes multiple times in one hour.

Sometimes my partner complains that even after they do what I want or apologize, I’m still not happy.

Even when things are going well in a relationship, I often feel like I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.

When I get upset, it can take me a long time to calm down—often, I have a hard time shaking things off.

A part of me really enjoys stories about angst and hardship in romantic love—there’s a thrill in on-again/off-again stories of romance.

My partner accuses me of looking for reasons to be upset.

I worry about being “too much” in a relationship.

I care a lot about my relationships and I enjoy showing my partner how much they mean to me when things are going well.

I tend to follow my partner’s lead in a relationship, taking on their interests, hobbies and friends while neglecting my own.

How to Score the Quiz

There isn’t a scoring system, this isn’t a research measure!

The more items you endorse, assuming that you have reasonably good insight into your own behavior in relationships, the more you might want to get curious about anxious attachment and how it may show up in your relationships.

What is anxious attachment?

Look at the list above.

What do you see in common across these items?

A person with low self-esteem who feels unworthy and unlovable and is vigilant about being abandoned.

This lack of confidence in the relationship’s stability is, ironically, often its downfall. 

But the person with anxious attachment doesn’t hold all of the blame, of course.

Often times, they end up with other folks who have relationship baggage that complements theirs in a rather destructive way—people who are “dismissively attached” – meaning that they come to the relationship reluctantly, tend to downplay their feelings and relational needs, and are quick to head for the exit if things get tough.

How are people-pleasing and anxious attachment related?

If you’ve been following my blog at all, you know I’m passionate about the topics of people pleasing, anxious attachment, and codependency.

Here, I talk a bit about my own take on the intersection between these different concepts.

People pleasing is a particular way of coping with anxious attachment.  In anxious attachment, you see the value of having attachments, but it feels like you have to chase them.

Relationships feel unstable, unpredictable—and you may act in ways that contribute to that story.  It depends in large part on what worked in your family growing up.

People-pleasing is one way that people cope with the unpredictability of insecure relationships.  People pleasers realize that if they make themselves indispensable or useful, they’ll be kept around.

People-pleasers are often prone to perfectionism, which is just another way of coping with insecurity in relationships.  If I am the best, then surely you will love me—that’s how the story goes.

Anxious attachment doesn’t always look this way.  People with anxious attachment can shift in the other direction, from being overly compliant to being extremely rebellious and contrarian.

 People can act in ways that seem desperate or manipulative, using guilt or scare tactics to try and compel their partners to stay.  These tactics are quite unpleasant and can cause relationships to end explosively.

Contrast this with a people pleaser, who is much more likely to stay on in a relationship well past its prime, working harder and harder to compensate for a partner who’s seemingly “out to lunch” to the point of burnout or having the partner suddenly abandon them out of disgust for their partner’s seeming complacency and lack of self-interest.

People pleasers do try to enact their own form of control over relationships– they just do it in a very indirect, passive sort of way that’s hard to identify because it’s so cloaked in niceness.

You can also see both sets of behaviors within the same person—compliant and defiant—alternating  depending on how upset they are and the circumstances they’re in.  Usually, people aren’t consciously choosing strategies based on circumstances.

How are codependency and people-pleasing related?

The word codependency comes from the AA/addiction/recovery world.

It was a term that described a pattern of behavior in relationships that had to do with poor boundaries and enmeshment. 

It was first used to describe partners of addicts—people who were turning themselves inside out to keep things functioning in the midst of the addict’s dysfunction. 

This maps on closely to people-pleasing and “overfunctioning”—but you can also see it in the reverse, of how one person in the family as the “identified patient” or “bad apple” can hold problems and disavowed pain for an entire household.

Regardless of what you call it—people pleasing, anxious attachment or codependency– these all describe the problem a childhood environment that alternated between warmth, neglect, and intrusive parenting.

People from these families have confused boundaries, seemingly overly competent in some areas (due to parentification and role-reversal early on) and immature in others (due to a lack of parental consistency, where healthy emotional growth could occur).

Looking for help with anxious attachment?

If you’re looking for therapy in Austin for anxious attachment, I might be able to help.  This is one of my areas of specialty.  You can send me a note to see about scheduling a free, half hour consultation if you’re ready to get started.

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