Afraid Of Getting Close? Why People Fear Intimacy

Updated September 14, 2023by Regain Editorial Team

Fear of intimacy is a common challenge for people of all ages. It can come from several sources and can make it challenging to build meaningful relationships. If you struggle with a fear of intimacy or find it hard to get close to people, you are not alone. This article will tell you all about some of the common causes of the fear of intimacy, signs to recognize in a partner or friend, and what you can do to overcome your difficulties with intimacy.

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Fear Of Intimacy Is More Common Than You Might Think

Where Does A Fear Of Intimacy Come From?

To start, it’s important to note that intimacy looks different for everyone. There are many kinds of intimacy – including familial, friendly, emotional, romantic, and sexual – and everyone experiences each of them in their own way. So, we can’t say that the fear of intimacy is rooted in a single cause.

However, to help you better understand your feelings, here are a few potential reasons people experience a fear of intimacy.

Fear Of Abandonment

A deep-rooted fear of loss or abandonment is one of the most common reasons why people fear intimacy. Love and intimacy are associated with the risk of loss, which can be hard for someone who has experienced loss or abandonment in the past.

The fear of abandonment can stem from many sources. A significant loss or abandonment in childhood could lead to a subconscious fear of being abandoned as an adult. To overcome a fear of intimacy, it might help talk through the sources of your anxiety about loss or abandonment with a trusted friend or counselor.

Past Trauma

Trauma in a person’s past or childhood can often lead to a fear of intimacy in adulthood.

The loss of a loved one, especially at a young age, might trigger a fear of intimacy — again, because of that deep-rooted fear of being abandoned or losing someone again. Sexual assault and abuse in childhood can also lead to a serious fear of sexual intimacy over time. The fear of being controlled or manipulated by a partner is common in survivors of abuse.

Healing from past trauma is never easy. It takes time and often professional help. Overcoming a fear of intimacy can be an essential step in recovery as it allows survivors to build meaningful, supportive, and intimate relationships in the future.

Fear Of Rejection

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A fear of intimacy can also stem from a fear of rejection. This is common in people afflicted by social anxiety — if you have social anxiety, you might be highly sensitive to criticism and rejection. That sensitivity can lead to a fear of intimacy.

Rejection can hurt, as can loss and abandonment. However, people who avoid intimacy to prevent the sting of rejection often find that same pain in other sources. Building intimacy is essential, and intimate relationships can help to boost self-confidence and reduce social anxiety. So, overcoming the fear of intimacy can help you to overcome the fear of rejection in time.

Fear Of Intimacy Signs

Do you think a partner, friend, or loved one is struggling with a fear of intimacy? If so, it may benefit the two of you to seek counseling together.

Below are some common fear of intimacy signs to give you an idea of what to watch for in a partner who might be struggling with a fear of intimacy.

  1. Trust Issues

Intimacy issues can often manifest as trust issues in a relationship. Someone who is socially anxious, worried about losing their partner or being abandoned, or afraid of intimacy might struggle to trust their partner.

Signs of trust issues can include episodes of anger, setting strict “rules” in a relationship, difficulty letting people into the relationship (new friends, family, etc.), and frequent accusations of disloyalty. While these actions might be a manifestation of a fear of intimacy, they can still be very hard on a relationship and cause stress. Professional therapy is an effective way to work through trust issues and overcome intimacy problems.

  1. Fear Of Sex

A fear of intimacy doesn’t necessarily mean fear of sex. Sex and intimacy are not the same — while intimacy can be sexual, many kinds of intimate relationships do not involve sexual feelings. For example, different types of intimacy include emotional intimacy, intellectual intimacy, platonic intimacy, and more.

That said, if someone is afraid of getting sexually close, it could stem from a fear of intimacy. For many people, sexual connections may open the door to the fear of rejection and abandonment or trigger past trauma memories.

Overcoming a fear of sex is never something that should be pushed or enforced by a partner. Building trust, closeness, and intimacy in a relationship may help someone work through a fear of sexual intimacy, but it always takes time. Again, professional counseling can be of help.

  1. Over-Reliance On Sex

Fear of intimacy can also look like an over-reliance on sexual relationships. Someone who fears emotional intimacy might emphasize the sexual aspect of the relationship, as it can feel like safer ground than emotional closeness.

The lines between a sexual and a romantic relationship are not always clear, and it can be confusing, especially for someone who has a fear of intimacy. Don’t be afraid to talk openly with your partner about how you each view your relationship and what you expect from each other. One of the best ways to work through a fear of intimacy in the early stages is with honest communication.

Fear Of Intimacy Scale

Curious about the level of intimacy in your relationship? You might have heard of the fear of intimacy scale.

The fear of intimacy scale is a 35-question test designed by professional psychologists to test the fear of intimacy in a relationship and show people the scale or “level” of their fear of intimacy. It has helped researchers come to a better understanding of the causes and symptoms of the fear of intimacy, as well as helping patients address their own intimacy problems.

You can find the test online if you are curious about taking it. However, it’s important to remember that this scale was developed in the early ’90s and doesn’t account for modern relationships' dimensions. You should also remember that, while self-administered tests can help you to understand your feelings, it is impossible to diagnose yourself from a mental health standpoint.

If you want to professionally address your fear of intimacy, consider talking with a licensed therapist, either online or in person.

Why We Need Intimacy

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Fear Of Intimacy Is More Common Than You Might Think

So, why is it so important to overcome our fears and establish intimate connections?

Research suggests that intimacy is beneficial to your mental and physical health. Intimacy doesn’t just feel good — it’s good for you. Strong, healthy, intimate relationships and friendships can help to boost self-confidence, provide support and stability through difficult times, and improve your overall wellbeing. People who fear intimacy ultimately may have a harder time building personal and professional relationships.

Considering all that, a fear of intimacy isn’t something to be taken lightly. We all need intimate connections in our life, in one form or another and intimacy issues can be harmful in the long run.

But fear of intimacy does not mean that you will never be able to overcome your anxieties or that you will never be able to build intimate relationships — not at all! So many of us feel like we push people away or can’t get close. It’s common, and it’s possible to overcome those fears. Addressing a fear of intimacy in yourself and recognizing the signs in others are notable steps toward growth and improved emotional well-being.

Takeaway

If you are worried that you push people away, feel like you can’t get close to people, or are anxious about relationships and making new connections, you are not alone. These feelings are experienced by people of all ages, all around the world. They can be challenging, but they can be overcome with time.

There is never any shame in getting help or talking to a professional about your fear of intimacy. Consider getting in touch with a licensed therapist — they can help you understand the source of your fears and get started on the road to overcoming them. Online therapy has the added perks of being accessible anywhere you have a reliable internet connection, including your home. Additionally, you will be matched with a therapist who best suits your needs and preferences, but you can switch therapists at any time if desired or needed. 

Additionally, online therapy has been found to be overall just as effective as in-person therapy for a variety of mental health conditions and concerns. The National Center for Health Research analyzed dozens of recent studies on internet-based mental health therapy, and found it to be advantageous for those with depression, anxiety, trauma, PTSD, and more.

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