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Attachment Styles and Narcissism: Understanding the Complex Connection


Emotionally distant woman
Attachment Styles and Narcissism

Attachment styles and narcissism are two psychological concepts that offer insights into our patterns of relating to others and our sense of self.


Attachment styles (secure, anxious, and avoidant) reflect how we form and maintain relationships, while narcissism encompasses a personality trait characterised by an excessive need for admiration, a sense of entitlement, and a lack of empathy. In this article, we delve deeper into the relationship between attachment styles and narcissism, examining how certain attachment styles may exhibit narcissistic behaviour.


Attachment Styles: An Overview


Attachment theory proposes that our early experiences with caregivers shape our attachment styles, influencing how we interact with others in later relationships. Let's revisit the three primary attachment styles:

  1. Secure Attachment: Individuals with a secure attachment style feel comfortable with intimacy and have a positive view of themselves and others. They engage in healthy relationship dynamics, value communication, and demonstrate empathy.

  2. Anxious Attachment: Those with an anxious attachment style crave closeness and reassurance but often experience fear of rejection. They may exhibit clingy behaviour, have heightened sensitivity to perceived threats, and seek constant validation.

  3. Avoidant Attachment: Individuals with an avoidant attachment style prioritise independence and self-preservation. They may struggle with emotional intimacy and vulnerability, exhibit a fear of engulfment, and tend to keep emotional distance from others.

The Intersection of Attachment Styles and Narcissism


Although attachment styles themselves are not inherently narcissistic, certain behaviours associated with each attachment style can overlap with narcissistic tendencies. So, let's explore how the different attachment styles may manifest narcissistic behaviour:


Anxious Attachment and Narcissistic Behaviour


Individuals with an anxious attachment style may display narcissistic behaviour as a defense mechanism against their deep-seated insecurities and fear of abandonment.


These behaviours can include:

  • Excessive Need for Validation: Anxiously attached individuals may seek constant reassurance and validation from others, relying on external sources to define their self-worth.

  • Emotional Manipulation: To maintain a sense of control and avoid abandonment, anxious individuals may resort to manipulative tactics such as guilt-tripping, emotional blackmail, or playing the victim.

  • Attention-Seeking Behaviour: Anxious individuals may engage in attention-seeking behaviours to alleviate their fears of being overlooked or forgotten, striving for constant recognition and admiration.

Avoidant Attachment and Narcissistic Behaviour


Individuals with an avoidant attachment style may exhibit narcissistic tendencies due to their inclination toward self-preservation and emotional detachment.


These behaviours can include:

  • Emotional Detachment: Avoidantly attached individuals may struggle with emotional intimacy, often distancing themselves from others as a defense mechanism to protect against potential rejection or vulnerability.

  • Disregard for Others' Feelings: Due to their focus on self-preservation, avoidantly attached individuals may show a lack of empathy or consideration for the emotions and needs of others, prioritising their own emotional well-being above all else.

  • Need for Control: Avoidant individuals may seek control in relationships to maintain their independence and avoid becoming too reliant on others. They may exhibit controlling behaviours to establish a sense of power and dominance.


Secure Attachment as a Buffer Against Narcissistic Behaviour


  • Individuals with a secure attachment style are less likely to exhibit narcissistic behaviour.

  • Their positive self-image, ability to regulate emotions, and capacity for forming healthy relationships reduce the need for excessive validation or emotional detachment.

  • Securely attached individuals are more likely to display empathy, genuine care for others, and a balanced sense of self-esteem.


To conclude, Attachment styles and narcissism share a complex relationship, with certain behaviours associated with anxious and avoidant attachment styles overlapping with narcissistic tendencies.


It is crucial to recognise that attachment styles are not synonymous with narcissism but can serve as a backdrop for the manifestation of narcissistic behaviour.


By understanding these connections, individuals can gain self-awareness, work towards personal growth, and develop healthier relationship dynamics. Seeking professional support and engaging in self-reflection can be valuable in addressing any narcissistic tendencies and fostering more authentic and fulfilling connections with others.


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