Catch yourself double texting? Here’s the psychology behind it.

double texting
Illustrator: Julia Hanke

Ah yes, the temptation (and anxiety) surrounding “double texting,” or the catchy term for the urge to send multiple messages before the other person responds. The urge is certainly understandable and can apply in various situations—from when you forgot to say something to wanting to clarify what you said. And who hasn’t wanted to double text after being “left on read” for days? 

While the circumstances behind double texting are pretty universal, there can also be deeper reasons behind the desire to double text. So is it a problem that poses the need to be more mindful? Here’s what experts say.

What is double texting, and what’s attachment style got to do with it?

People double text for a variety of reasons. “Some double text from a place of anxiety or insecurity, while others text from a place of security and calm,” explains dating and relationship expert Callisto Adams, Ph.D. 

Attachment style can also play a role in whether someone is prone to double texting. Depending on your attachment style—secure, anxious, avoidant, or disorganized–your tendency to double text will look different. (If you don’t know your attachment style, you can take this Psychology Today quiz.)

“We learn how to give and receive love from either parental figures, caregivers, and other important individuals during childhood and adolescence,” shares Lyndsey Luther, LPC, CRC, a relationship counselor and sex therapist. “What we learn during that time in our lives impacts our expectations in adult relationships, and does affect the way we communicate, which includes texting.”

For instance, people with an anxious attachment style typically received inconsistent, mixed signals regarding love growing up, so they may anxiously send double texts. “A lapse in time between text messages can sometimes trigger the thought of, ‘Are they not responding because they don’t like me anymore?’ when that may not be the case,” Luther explains. “Double texting or over-texting [then becomes] a way to receive validation and ensure that the other person is still there for them and that they haven’t done anything to upset them.”

Conversely, people with an avoidant attachment style learned to be independent in getting their needs met because their caregivers never helped. Double texts may turn them off. “Relationships are usually surface-level as they do not know how to be vulnerable with others,” Luther says, “and double texting could come off as ‘needy’ and not something [to which] the avoidant person is comfortable committing.”

Those with a disorganized attachment style are usually quicker to feel fear and change the signals they give. “This can look like seeking affection and then quickly shutting it down; wanting to have love, but ultimately believing that love is not permanent,” Luther says. “This can lead to a lack of personal boundaries, which could cause double texting, or even their partner feeling confused if texting and communication suddenly stops.”

As for those with a secure attachment style, they generally trust others and expect their needs will be met. “In texting, they understand that most texts are not urgent and have realistic expectations regarding response times,” Luther says.  

Since double texting can make people feel differently, communication is crucial. Talk with your partner about each of your individual attachment styles so that you can better understand each other’s intentions, inclinations, and struggles.

Is double texting actually a problem?

Is there a time when double texting is something to avoid, or a sign something is wrong with your relationship?

“Double texting is not always a bad thing,” Luther says. “Wanting to follow up with someone you are seeing romantically or sexually does not always pose a problem.” Adams agrees: “It mostly depends on the reasons behind double texting, and for how long [it has] been going on.”

Further, double texting can even be a sign of a healthy relationship. “If it comes from a place of calm and security, then it can be an indicator of the partners being comfortable with one another to text what comes in their minds,” Adams continues.

But if it’s a symptom of a larger issue, it’s likely time to address the deeper miscommunication. “If you are double texting because your partner rarely responds to what you say, doesn’t plan for quality time with you, and you genuinely start to believe they aren’t interested anymore, this could mean a deeper conversation is in order,” Luther says.

Double texting could just be a sign you and your partner have different texting styles and expectations. “It could simply come down to incompatibility,” Luther says. “If texting is a large part of how you communicate and you are trying to date someone who hates texting, try to find some middle ground.”

If you can’t come to a compromise, you’re allowed to move on if you want to. “It’s also okay to end a relationship if you and your partner have opposite opinions of how to communicate on a regular basis,” Luther adds. 

Adopting a mindful texting style

If you’re worried about your double texting habits—or what they say about you—consider your intentions first. Luther suggests evaluating whether anxiety and worry are the impetus behind the urge to double text, or whether you might just be impatient with someone who typically exhibits open and timely communication.

Then, consider your underlying emotions. “Sometimes, feeling anxious and worried can come from the fear that the other person doesn’t like you anymore, or maybe you feel ignored and unimportant,” Luther says. “If you feel any of that, evaluate why you feel this way. I promise it’s not only because of a lack of response in texting. And if there’s more to it, discuss this with your partner and express your needs.”

You can consider how the text may make your partner feel, too, and put yourself in their shoes. “Think of the text you’re about to send. Is it really necessary? And how would it make your partner feel?” advises Adams. 

With empathy, communication, and intentionality, relationships can be healthy—whether or not there’s double texting involved.

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