Is ‘anxious attachment style’ hurting your relationship with money?


Written by:


I was $33,000 in debt by the time I turned 22.

This wasn’t the sympathetic, socially-justifiable student loan kind of debt.

This was $33,000 of credit card debt, accrued over a 9-month, blackout-style spending spree on clothing, farm-to-table dinners, bougie gym memberships, and Instagrammable getaways. The momentary thrill I enjoyed from all these purchases would evaporate with each new credit card statement. But I couldn’t stop.


SPONSORED: Find a Qualified Financial Advisor

1. Finding a qualified financial advisor doesn't have to be hard. SmartAsset's free tool matches you with up to 3 fiduciary financial advisors in your area in 5 minutes.

2. Each advisor has been vetted by SmartAsset and is held to a fiduciary standard to act in your best interests. If you're ready to be matched with local advisors that can help you achieve your financial goals get started now.





My spending habits made no sense to me.

My childhood was perforated with painful memories of my parents fighting about money. My dad had a monstrous mountain of credit card debt, and my mom was hell bent on instilling me with money management advice, so I wouldn’t follow in my father’s footsteps.

But here I was: Twenty-two years old. New to New York city. Begging American Express to raise my credit limit, in hope of using that card to pay down another.

A single question haunted my mind:

“How did I end up like this?”

Since you’ve landed on this page, you might be asking yourself the same question about your finances.

If you’ve been caught in a cycle of self-sabotaging spending, uncovering your attachment style may offer some insights on why, and a pathway to healing. It did for me.


What is an Attachment Style?

I started working with a couples counselor to make sense of my messy love life, but the insights I gained about my attachment style helped me transform my (even messier) relationship with money.

Attachment theory is a psychological framework for helping people understand their needs, expectations, and patterns in relationships –much of which are shaped by our childhood experiences.

There are four attachment styles: secure, anxious, avoidant, and disorganized.

Barthomolew's 2-dimensional model of attachment

Image Source: Bartholomew’s two-dimensional model of attachment.


While these attachment frameworks were designed to describe our behavior in high-stakes romantic relationships, studies from Tilburg University and University of Arizona have found that your attachment style can impact your finances as much as your love life.

In particular, those with an anxious attachment style are particularly susceptible to engaging in irresponsible financial behaviors. As someone with an anxious attachment style, I can personally attest to this.

What is Anxious Attachment?

People with an anxious attachment style tend to be deeply self-conscious, and depend on others to feel good about themselves.

At our best, anxiously attached people are highly perceptive, thoughtful, and caring. But when we’re stressed, we’re consumed by our insecurities, fear of abandonment, and will go to great lengths for validation.

These behaviors usually stem from a childhood where emotional support was inconsistent, leaving us with two take-aways: others cannot be trusted and we’re not good enough as we are.

How My Anxious Attachment Led to My Debt Crisis

In the same way I thought the right partner would absolve me of all my insecurities, I thought money would do the same.

But at 22, I didn’t have much money. I had an inconsistent gig as a freelancer, three credit cards, and a chip on my shoulder.

In retrospect, there were three ways my anxious attachment kicked in and seeped into my spending habits.

Compulsive Spending

I was haunted by a constant sense of inadequacy. I didn’t feel smart enough to be hired for a stable job. I didn’t feel fashionable or fit enough to be considered attractive . I didn’t feel spontaneous and interesting enough to be worthy of friendship.

I thought if I could buy the right things, my insecurities would diminish.  Credit cards enabled me to buy the status symbols I craved, fast. But none of those purchases boosted my self-confidence.

Instead, I found myself in an endless cycle of buying more stuff, reveling in an all-too-brief dopamine high, and then finding something more that was missing, and upping the ante.

Running from Reality

In relationships, anxiously attached people often minimize their own needs, in hope of holding onto a partner. I did the same with my finances: sacrificing my long-term stability for momentary relief.

Because my confidence depended on spending money I didn’t have, my credit card statements were astronomical. It got to the point where I couldn’t make the minimum payments. But I also wasn’t ready to part with my lavish lifestyle. So I took an “ignorance is bliss” approach, and just stopped checking and paying the balances all together.

This strategy preserved my self-esteem in the short term, but destroyed my inner-confidence and credit score in the long run.

Overworking and Risky Behavior

Eventually, my creditors closed my cards, and debt collectors started calling.

I needed to find additional ways to pay off my balances and bankroll my life. So I entered an era of workaholism: taking on every side gig I could find, working eighteen hour days, and getting into risky, get-rich-quick schemes.

I was doing my best to re-establish financial security and build-back my savings. But then there were moments where digging myself out of debt felt like such a lost cause that I’d relapse, and impulsively blow what little money I’d saved.

How to Heal Your Anxious Attachment

Psychologist Nicole LePera makes the point that “We don’t do compulsive behaviors because we lack willpower. We do them because it’s the only way we know how to self-soothe. Soothing is an instinctual behavior, not a moral one.”

Whether it’s in relationships, or with money, everybody has the power to move from an anxious attachment to a secure attachment. To do this, we have to learn new, more sustainable ways to self-soothe.

Below are four strategies I’ve used to finally wean off my anxious behaviors, get out of debt, and develop a more secure relationship with money:

Identify your worth

Because anxious behaviors are often triggered by low self-esteem, it’s imperative to find new sources of confidence outside of your money and possessions.

My therapist had me journal my own life story, paying attention to any skills, accomplishments, and empathy-building experiences that emerged. I kept a sticky note of those qualities on my bathroom mirror as a reminder of what I can contribute to the world. When feelings of self-doubt and insecurity came up, which they inevitably did, I’d pause and force myself to go back to that list.

This exercise also ties in well to the next step.

Insert space between your thoughts and actions

When we’re feeling triggered and unsure of ourselves, there’s an urgent desire to make that feeling go away. This can lead to those impulsive purchases I talked about earlier, which feel nice in the moment, but make our financial anxiety and trust worse in the long run.

One of the most important things an anxious attached person can do is learn to recognize and validate their feelings, without necessarily acting on them.

I start my day with 10 minutes of sitting still and noticing what’s floating around in my head. Some might call this meditation. I just call it sitting still and paying attention. I follow that with 10 minutes of journaling, just to get those thoughts out of my head.

If I’m having a self-critical thought, I look at my shortlist of strengths and remind myself of all the other things I am besides my insecurities.

If I’m having an urge to buy something, I ask myself, “What’s the worst case scenario if I don’t get this thing right now? What would my life look like without it?”

Debtors Anonymous is a free and non-judgemental space to learn these skills in community and find accountability partners.

Tell your friends

Speaking of accountability partners, another way to build your self-esteem is to be honest with close friends about your financial situation, and your desire to live more simply.

It can be humbling and scary, but I’ve found that talking with my friends about my need to cut back on expensive dinners, shopping, and trips has always been met with support.

Sometimes, that candor even opened the door for my friends to share that they were financially struggling as well, and we were able to support each other.

Get a clear picture of your finances

Against all my ego-protecting instincts, I forced myself to review my financial accounts and take an honest look at my expenses, income, debts, and assets.

This can be an anxiety inducing process, but there is peace to be found in clarity.

Once I knew what I was working with, I challenged myself to live below my means.  That sentence sounds more fun and adventurous than it felt in the moment. But facing your life head on is something you’ll be proud of in the long run – and it will, in fact, make for an epic story.

If you’re like me and your anxious impulses led you into debt or credit crises, I encourage you to connect with a credit counselor.

I’m biased, but I personally recommend booking a free call with our founder Michael (you can do that directly below), who can help you learn about debt settlement options, lower your monthly credit payments, and repair your credit score.

After a year of working with him, I no longer have debt collectors calling me everyday, am enjoying the benefits of a high credit score, and can finally say I have a secure attachment with money.

More debt tips

If you, like many Americans, are struggling financially, you can proactive steps now to pay off your debt quickly, such as increasing your cash flow or paying more than your monthly minimums on bills.

Additionally, a financial advisor can help you navigate your debt. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three financial advisors who serve your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. (Sponsored)

This article originally appeared on and was syndicated by

More from MediaFeed:

Like MediaFeed’s content? Be sure to follow us.

6 strategies for becoming debt free


It isn’t the $5 cups of coffee. Or the $50 a month for the gym.

It isn’t that new smartphone, or your shoe addiction, or even that pricey cable subscription. These are common things everyone likes to waggle their finger at when they talk about overspending. But it isn’t necessarily any one of those expenses that really gets people into debt.

It’s usually all of them. And then some.

According to the 2018 U.S. Financial Health Pulse survey by the Center for Financial Services Innovation, 46.5% of Americans said their spending equaled or exceeded their income in the past 12 months. 33.9% said they were unable to pay all their bills on time. And 29.5% said they had more debt than they could manage.

That’s a lot of people who are worried about money.

Though frivolous or impulsive spending can be part of the problem, the slide sometimes starts with the best of intentions — with the desire to get a college education, perhaps, or to own one’s own home.

According to Northwestern Mutual’s 2018 Planning and Progress Study, mortgages and student loans, along with credit cards, are among the leading sources of debt in the U.S.

And when the nonprofit organization Student Debt Crisis surveyed student loan borrowers in 2018, 86% said student debt is a major source of stress. Add in credit card payments, car payments, utility bills, groceries and gas, and all the other things — big and small — that take our money every single day, and it’s clear how debt can become a deep, dark hole.

Which is why it’s so important to have a plan to get back out.

If you’ve wanted to become debt-free for a while, but didn’t know how to get there, think of your plan as a rescue rope you can hold onto during the climb. Everyone’s situation is different, but here are some popular strategies you might consider on your journey to becoming debt-free.

Related: Are you bad with money? How to know & what to do 


Doucefleur / istockphoto


If you have a significant amount of debt to pay off, you’ll likely be looking to cut costs in a meaningful way. A budget can help with that. First, when you’re going through bills, it can help to determine your priorities, this information can assist you in making informed decisions about what can go and what should stay.

Later, it can create a feedback loop, as you (and your partner, spouse, or other family members) compare real-world spending to the numbers in the budget and consider whether to take corrective action to stay on track.

And over time, it also may be possible to uncover the behaviors that have been holding you back.

If the idea of bird-dogging every penny has been a barrier to budgeting, or if you’ve tried and failed in the past, it may help to keep the process simple. The 50/30/20 rule is a simplified budgeting strategy that’s gained traction because it limits the number of spending categories a budgeter must establish and then follow.

After determining net take-home pay (what’s left after paying taxes), it breaks down the spending money that’s left into three buckets: needs, wants, and savings:

•   50% of the money goes toward needs, including housing costs, utilities, groceries, transportation, medical expenses and any regular debt payments that have to be made (credit card bills, loans, etc.). From there, it’s up to whoever is drawing up the budget to determine what are the true necessities and what belongs in the wants bucket.
•   30% goes to those wants. That’s everything from grabbing takeout, to your Netflix subscription, to getting your car washed and detailed for date night. Logically, this is the portion of the budget that has the most potential for trimming, but emotionally, it might require some real effort to get everything to fit the allocated funds.
•   20% goes to savings. This money might go into an emergency fund, some sort of savings account for short- and long-term goals and/or an investment savings/retirement account. If you decide to pay extra toward your credit card or student loan debt, that expense also would go in this category.

The percentages are meant as a guideline, and they can be tweaked to fit individual needs. The key is to make a budget that’s strict but doable.




Yes, this is easier said than done, but before rolling your eyes and moving on, consider the possibilities.

Is it time for a pay raise? If a bump is overdue, it might be time to have a talk with the boss.

Is there side-gig potential? Do you always have nights or weekends off, and would your employer be OK with your taking on a part-time or occasional job for extra money? Maybe a friend does catering, landscaping, house-painting, or some other work and could use an extra hand from time to time.

Could a hobby become a money-maker? Crafty folks can sell their wares online or at craft fairs and flea markets. History buffs can give lectures or teach classes. Animal lovers can offer dog-walking or cat-sitting services. Where there’s a passion, there’s often a way to earn income.




If that raise comes through, or you earn a bonus at work, or you get a tax refund from Uncle Sam, instead of living it up while the money lasts, consider using it to pay down some debt.

A few hundred dollars might not feel like it’s making much of a dent, but every dollar you pay over the minimum can help reduce the interest you owe on a credit card or student loan.

To get some idea of how paying even a little extra toward a bill can help, check out the alert on your monthly credit card statement. The Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act of 2009 requires card issuers to warn consumers about how long it will take to pay off a balance if only the minimum is paid each month.


Farknot_Architect / istockphoto


One way to consolidate debt is with an unsecured personal loan. You may be able to consolidate all or some of your debts at better terms, such as a lower or fixed interest rate and possibly pay them off in less time than you expected.

This strategy could be useful for those who aren’t up for keeping tabs on several bills every month. A personal loan can consolidate multiple debts together into one manageable payment, which could help make it easier to keep tabs on what you’ve paid and what you still owe.

And because the interest rates offered for personal loans can sometimes be lower than the rates on credit cards, you could end up paying less in interest over the life of the loan than you would have if you just kept plugging away at those individual revolving credit card balances.

Typically, the better your financial and credit history, the better the loan terms are likely to be, so it can be a good idea to check your credit record and make sure the information listed on credit reports is accurate.

Then look for a lender who offers the best terms to fit your needs. Keep the length of the loan in mind, as well as the interest rate and other terms to help you on the road of becoming debt-free.


It could be difficult (okay, next to impossible) to stop using credit cards completely since they’re commonly used for things like booking or holding flights, making online purchases and more. But making a commitment to reduce credit card utilization could help you cut spending and reduce the amount of money that’s only going toward interest on those cards.

A credit card is a convenient way to pay — if you can keep your balance at zero. But if you can’t afford to erase the balance each month with a full payment, the interest can start piling up.

And though many credit cards make limited-time “no interest” offers, it’s good to review the terms in detail.

For instance, some cards may have terms where if consumers don’t pay off the entire balance by the end of the promotional period, they may be charged all of the interest accrued since the date of purchase.

To better the chances of staying in check, some options may be to consider recording all credit card purchases with a budgeting app or pen and paper and to try and face the costs in real-time, instead of weeks later when the bill arrives.


Seeing progress is inspiring for many people. Think about how good you feel when you lose a little weight from dieting or gain some muscle from working out. Even small wins can be motivating.

How does that apply to downsize your debt?

Two of the commonly recommended approaches to debt repayment are the Debt Snowball and Debt Avalanche methods. These strategies vary but primarily focus on paying extra toward just one balance at a time instead of trying to put a little extra money toward all your balances at once.

The Debt Snowball

The Debt Snowball method directs any excess free cash you might have to the debt with the smallest outstanding balance. Here’s how it can work:

•   Start by listing outstanding debts based on what you owe, from the smallest balance to the largest. (Disregard interest rates.)
•   Make the minimum payment on all other debts and pay as much as possible each month toward eliminating the smallest balance on your Debt Snowball list.
•   After you pay off the smallest debt, turn your attention to the next-lowest balance.
•   Keep going until you are debt-free.

The Debt Avalanche

The Debt Avalanche method targets the highest interest rates rather than the balance that’s owed on each bill. It’s more about math than motivation — you can save money as you eliminate each of those high-interest loans and credit cards, which should allow you to pay off all your bills sooner. Here’s how it can work:

•   Disregard minimum payment amounts and balances, and list balances in order starting with the highest interest rate.
•   Make the minimum payment on all other debts and pay as much as you can each month to get rid of the bill with the highest interest rate.
•   Move through the list one debt at a time until you pay off all the balances on your list.

Though the methods are different, both plans provide focus, and as each balance disappears, momentum grows. But a newer approach, the Debt Fireball method, may be a better fit for modern-day debt, which could include a large amount of low-interest student loan debt.

The Debt Fireball

The Fireball method takes a hybrid approach to the traditional Snowball and Avalanche strategies. It’s called the Fireball because it can help blaze through bad debt faster by making it a priority. Here’s how it can work:

•   Categorize all debts as either “good” or “bad.” “Good” debt is generally things that can increase your net worth such as student loans or mortgages. (Interest rates under 7% could be considered good debt—rates above 7% would likely fall into the “bad” category.)
•   List all those “bad” debts from smallest to largest based on each bill’s outstanding balance.
•   Make the minimum monthly payment on all other debts and funnel any extra cash available each month toward the smallest balance on the Fireball’s “bad” debt list.
•   Once that balance is paid in full, move on to the next smallest balance on that list. Keep blazing until all “bad” debt is repaid.
•   Pay off “good” debt on the normal schedule while investing for the future. Apply everything you were paying toward “bad” debt to investing in a financial goal.

The Fireball makes sense mathematically because it gets rid of expensive (or bad) debt first, but it also provides plenty of motivation because momentum can grow as you approach the finish. These two combined elements could provide an extra boost to your efforts.


The deeper the hole you’re in, the longer it may take to climb out. But having the right plan in place before you start could give you a better shot at sticking to a budget, minimizing your dependence on credit cards and methodically reducing your debt in a way that keeps you motivated and saves you money.

Learn more:

This article originally appeared on and was syndicated by

Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s
External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp (dba SoFi), a lender licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Financing Law, license # 6054612; NMLS # 1121636. For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see


fizkes / istockphoto


Featured Image Credit: