What Causes “The Ick” for Each Attachment Style

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What Causes “The Ick” for Each Attachment Style

When it comes to dating, the concept of “the ick”—a sudden feeling of repulsion towards someone you’re dating—can be puzzling and frustrating. Understanding how different attachment styles perceive and experience “the ick” can offer valuable insights into our romantic lives. But what causes “the ick” for each attachment style?

Attachment theory, originally developed by John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth, categorizes attachment styles into four main types: secure, anxious, avoidant, and disorganized. Each of these styles influences how individuals form and maintain romantic relationships, and consequently, how they experience “the ick.”

What causes “the ick” for each attachment style might be unique but the feeling is universal. With a better understanding of ourselves and where the “ick” might be coming from, we can make better decisions for who we date and who we keep in our lives. 

1. Secure Attachment Style


Individuals with a secure attachment style are comfortable pretty equally with both intimacy and independence. They tend to have healthy, balanced relationships and manage their emotions well. They are generally trusting, empathetic, and have positive views of themselves and their partners.

“The Ick” Triggers

For those with a secure attachment style, “the ick” is less likely to occur because they have less subconscious fears driving their behaviors and have more realistic expectations. However, certain behaviors can still trigger “the ick.”

Inconsistent Communication

  • Secure individuals value consistency and reliability. If a partner is erratic in their communication, it can cause discomfort. For example, if someone frequently cancels plans or fails to respond to messages promptly, it can be a red flag. This is what causes the ick for a secure individual.

Lack of Emotional Availability

  • Securely attached individuals expect a certain level of emotional availability. If a partner is emotionally distant or unresponsive, this can be off-putting. They value open and honest communication, and a lack of it can lead to “the ick.” They want to be able to directly connect with the individual in front of them.

Disrespectful Behavior

  • Disrespectful or rude behavior, whether towards them or others, can trigger “the ick.” They value mutual respect and kindness in their relationships, and any deviation from this can be a dealbreaker.

2. Anxious Attachment Style


People with an anxious attachment style often crave intimacy and validation but fear abandonment and rejection. They may come across as needy or overly dependent and typically have a heightened sensitivity to their partner’s actions and behaviors.

“The Ick” Triggers

What causes “the ick” for each attachment style? For those with an anxious attachment style, “the ick” can be triggered by behaviors that exacerbate their insecurities or demand their consistent emotional availability. Similar to avoidants, these individuals often pursue people just out of their reach in order to maintain their internal comfort zone of inconsistent reassurance.

Lack of Interaction

  • Anxiously attached people often seek reassurance in their relationships. If a partner is reluctant to provide this frequent interaction (ie. texting all day) or dismisses their need for it, it can trigger “the ick.” They have an expectation of constant communication.


  • Counterintuitively, highly anxious people can also be turned off by clinginess and are highly drawn to avoidant, independent people. This stems from their own experience of internal neglect (of themselves) which manifests as people pleasing — which in itself is a form of emotional unavailability.

3. Avoidant Attachment Style


Individuals with an avoidant attachment style value independence and often keep an emotional distance in relationships. They may struggle with intimacy and find it challenging to express their emotions, often feeling overwhelmed by closeness.

“The Ick” Triggers

For those with an avoidant attachment style, “the ick” is often triggered by behaviors that threaten their sense of independence and personal space which they equate to safety.

Overwhelming Clinginess

  • Avoidant individuals value their autonomy and can feel suffocated by a partner who is overly clingy or dependent. Constant demands for attention and emotional closeness can trigger “the ick” and lead them to label their paramour as weak or defective.


  • Personal space is crucial for avoidant individuals. A partner who frequently invades their personal space or is pushy can trigger “the ick.” They need time and space to process their emotions, make decisions and feel secure.

Excessive Emotional Expression

  • Avoidant individuals often struggle with emotional expression and may find it challenging to deal with a partner who is highly emotional. Excessive displays of emotion, especially negative ones, can be overwhelming and trigger “the ick.”

4. Disorganized Attachment Style


People with a disorganized attachment style often have a history of trauma or inconsistent caregiving. They may display a mix of anxious and avoidant behaviors and often struggle with trust and stability in relationships. Their behavior can appear unpredictable and erratic to those not privy to their specific emotional triggers.

“The Ick” Triggers

For those with a disorganized attachment style, “the ick” can be triggered by behaviors that evoke a sense of betrayal or by anything that makes them feel unsafe. Safety is the most important.


  • Disorganized individuals often crave stability but fear it simultaneously. A partner who is unpredictable or inconsistent can trigger “the ick.” They need a balance of predictability and excitement to feel secure.

Excessive Dependence

  • While they may fear abandonment, disorganized individuals can also be put off by excessive dependence. A partner who is overly reliant on them for emotional support can trigger feelings of overwhelm and “the ick.” These individuals are often attracted to assertive independent people.


  • Disorganized individuals often have wounds stemming from betrayal or enmeshment. Therefore managing their partner’s intense emotions can trigger the ick as well as any questions of loyalty. Situations that involve confusion over loyalty can cause “the ick” and make them go cold or want to withdraw.


  • Seemingly contradictory to needing stability, disorganized attachment individuals are actually very adverse to boredom as well. They typically have a high personality need for variety and enjoy intensity in their relationships. They need someone who brings an interesting freshness or an exciting sense of romance, but who is also highly dependable. If they perceive someone as boring they will most definitely get “the ick”.


This is what causes “the ick” for each attachment style. Understanding “the ick” through the lens of attachment styles provides valuable insights into why we might suddenly feel repulsed by someone we are dating. Each attachment style has its own unique triggers, shaped by past experiences and intrinsic needs. By recognizing these patterns, individuals can better navigate their relationships and address the underlying issues that contribute to “the ick.”

Practical Tips for Managing “The Ick”

  1. Self-Awareness: Understanding your attachment style can help you recognize why certain behaviors trigger “the ick.” This self-awareness allows you to address these triggers constructively.
  2. Open Communication: Discussing your feelings and triggers with your partner can foster understanding and empathy. Open communication helps in managing expectations and reducing misunderstandings.
  3. Setting Boundaries: Establishing and respecting personal boundaries is crucial, particularly for avoidant individuals. Clear boundaries help in maintaining a balance between intimacy and independence.
  4. Patience and Compassion: Building a healthy relationship takes time and effort. Being patient and compassionate with yourself and your partner can help in overcoming the challenges posed by different attachment styles.

By understanding and addressing the root causes of “the ick,” individuals can cultivate healthier and more fulfilling relationships. Whether it’s through self-reflection or open communication, navigating the complexities of attachment styles can lead to more meaningful and lasting connections. This is what causes “the ick” for each attachment style, but that doesn’t mean that it’s the final word. Marriages last many decades and it’s only normal to have to learn how to manage different feelings at different points in time.


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