Common Intimacy Issues And How To Overcome Them

Updated June 14, 2024by Regain Editorial Team
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Romantic relationships involve physical and emotional interaction as well as intimacy, but what is intimacy, exactly? For some people, intimacy feels very natural. For other people, it can trigger thoughts and behaviors that make intimate behaviors feel distressing and uncomfortable. There are intimacy disorders that cause issues in close relationships, as well as many intimacy issues that are not rooted in phobias or related to disorders.

Some intimacy problems surface when a couple becomes sexually active; in this case, it is called "fear of sexual intimacy." Other problems may surface when a couple experiences emotional closeness. Some couples begin to experience intimacy issues as they mature, which can be due to health problems or emotional and mental health concerns.

Regardless of the severity of the problem, there is help. Sometimes, learning about common intimacy issues can help individuals and couples work through their problems. For example, you may find that a medical exam reveals health problems that are disturbing your sex life. Or, you may be in a season of depression or anxiety that negatively impacts your relationship. Anxiety and sex are often viewed as related problems for somemarried men. Finding a qualified therapist or couples counselor can help put intimacy problems into perspective and help you and your partner find the answers and make changes to better the relationship.

When others get close, do you feel compelled to withdraw?

Fear of intimacy

Fear of intimacy can be a social phobia. Intimacy issues may stem from an anxiety disorder that makes it difficult to form close, intimate relationships. Many people with a fear of intimacy resist close relationships, even in their own families. This disorder is related to adult attachment theory. There are many causes of this issue including childhood sexual abuse or similar traumas. For some people, the risk factors for a fear of intimacy include family problems such as experiencing enmeshed family dynamics or having a family that is overly critical or neglectful.

People who struggle with a fear of intimacy may have difficulty believing they are worthy of love and sex and avoid intimate connection with others out of fear of rejection. These symptoms can range from slight to severe and impede an individual's ability to form lasting intimate relationships.

Resolving a fear of intimacy requires more than an understanding of the disorder. This problem can make it difficult to form a relationship with a therapist, which may be essential for overcoming this issue. The first step is to find a therapist or psychologist. Talk therapy is one type of therapy that may be introduced. If the problem is more demanding, medications may be used to help calm the anxiety and make it easier to engage in talk therapy.

Social anxiety disorder

Social anxiety disorder can affect intimacy, as well. The same thoughts, behaviors, and emotions that are related to social anxiety disorder can also sabotage relationships. Avoidant behaviors are one symptom of social anxiety that can cause intimacy issues. Intimate interaction is something that requires trust. The invitation to trust can create a feeling of vulnerability that is reminiscent of the feelings and thoughts that accompany social anxiety disorder. People with social anxiety also experience low self-esteem, which may prevent them from taking brave steps toward creating more meaningful relationships and experiencing intimacy.

The best way to keep social anxiety disorder from affecting intimacy is to seek help for the anxiety problem. Those who live with social anxiety are more likely to experience fear of intimacy too. It is important to utilize coping strategies such as working through negative thoughts and emotions as they surface. Avoidance is one of the main behaviors that stem from anxious thoughts about rejection or fear of vulnerability.

The best way to manage these anxious thoughts and emotions is to work to recognize them for what they are; they are based on fear not reality. Sabotaging behaviors often come from fear, and it is crucial to learn how to stop sabotaging relationships. A good therapist can help by talking through negative thoughts and emotions as they surface.

Connecting with a qualified therapist can be a vital step in overcoming social anxiety disorder and other intimacy issues. Individual and couples counseling are both forms of therapy that may help. Researchers at the Mayo Clinic found that most people with social anxiety disorder found improvement through psychotherapy and talk therapy. Whether you find a local counselor or an online counselor, this may be the right approach for you or your partner.

Intimacy avoidance

Intimacy avoidance is a behavior that makes it difficult to create or maintain a healthy intimate relationship. Some of the main reasons an individual develops avoidance behaviors include childhood trauma, abuse, and neglect.

Adults with avoidance,, social anxiety disorder, or fear of intimacy almost always engage in intimacy avoidance when relationships become serious They manifest fear of getting close to someone. Symptoms of intimacy avoidance can be as simple as working late to avoid intimacy with a partner or as severe as avoiding intimate relationships altogether. Coping effectively with intimacy avoidance anxiety begins with recognizing the symptoms and finding help.

Intimacy avoidance defaults to isolation. It is important to find a therapist and work with them to learn about the symptoms and work toward changing the behavior itself. There are many therapies designed to address avoidance behaviors, and they are very successful. Finding the right therapist is the first step to facing intimacy avoidance and finding happiness.

Negative body image and intimacy

A negative body image may indicate a disorder called body dysmorphic disorder. This can accompany or exist alongside anxiety disorders. Whether it is a full-fledged condition or simply personal insecurity, a negative body image can undermine intimate relationships. Body image is a personal perception of one's own body and it affects how an individual perceives their sexual attractiveness.

A positive body image is something most of us would love to have, but the modern ideals of attractiveness are not easy to achieve, nor are they realistic. Ultra-thin models are only one part of the modern portrayal of sex appeal. Digital enhancement makes changes that no real person can accomplish. Comparing our bodies to an unattainable standard can damage much more than the ability to feel comfortable in our skin. Digital manipulation can distort definitions of normalcy and trigger eating disorders and other mental health issues.

It can be difficult to enjoy intimacy with a negative body image. This may manifest in infrequent sex and unsatisfying sexual encounters. Intimate relationships can deteriorate or never take off at all if a negative body image interferes. Keeping an intimate partner at a distance or ignoring their sexual advances can destroy a relationship. Instead, try to have an intimate conversation and talk about your thoughts and innermost feelings. Talking about how negative body image interferes with intimacy allows both partners to understand avoidance behaviors and find ways to overcome the problem.

Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is a treatable condition. Talk therapy is one successful method used for people who struggle with BDD. Numerous therapists specialize in treatment methods for this kind of condition.

Sexual performance anxiety

Sexual performance anxiety constitutes one source of intimacy issues. Some health problems impact sexual performance, including:

  • Diabetes
  • Heart issues
  • Vascular issues
  • Neurological disorders
  • Chronic diseases
  • Kidney or liver failure
  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Substance use
  • Alcoholism

Ignoring health problems and performance problems can generate more stress and anxiety over the issue, which can lead to more performance-related issues.

At the first sign of performance problems, discuss it with your partner and make an appointment with your healthcare provider. Ignoring the problem and letting it spiral out of control can take a toll on intimate relationships. Sometimes partners blame themselves for the performance problem and this just adds another issue that must be resolved. Talking with your partner can help you figure out what’s going on and alleviate your partner’s fears that it is their fault.

There are many things a doctor can do to help alleviate performance problems that are due to health-related issues. First, get an exam, and find out where the real problem lies. There is no reason to stress and worry over performance problems; finding and addressing the underlying health issues can make a significant difference.

Sexual communication issues

When others get close, do you feel compelled to withdraw?

Many people are uncomfortable talking about sex with partners. Experts say that both new and long-term relationships experience sexual communication issues. Sexual communication issues are can be a source of intimacy issues. Even if talking about sexual likes and dislikes is not a problem for one partner, the other partner may not be as comfortable.

Sexual communication can be more than a verbal exchange. You may use body language to express sexual desires. Body language is used every day to communicate with others without using words. Changing position, kissing, guiding, and caressing can also be used to communicate without words.

One great option is to invite a nonbiased professional into the conversation. A counselor is a mental health professional who is trained to help you communicate. When you encounter barriers you just can't overcome alone, it's time to get help. A Regain counselor can help you as an individual or the two of you as a couple work through intimacy issues. Also, you find more information through their various social media accounts on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

The benefits of online therapy

Have you considered trying online therapy as an avenue for exploring intimacy issues? Online therapists typically utilize the same treatment approaches – like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) – when working with online participants. Through online therapy platforms like Regain, you can schedule appointments at times that are compatible with your schedule and even include your partner in the session. There is no need to attend a therapist’s office; instead, you and your partner can meet with a therapist from your home, either person’s place, or from separate locations. 

Online therapy has shown effectiveness in treating a range of disorders that may contribute to intimacy problems, including anxiety, depression, and phobias. In fact, a recent study using internet-based CBT found that the approach was just as effective as in-person treatment in helping patients overcome the aforementioned mental health conditions, in addition to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), panic disorder, and chronic pain.

In reading the reviews below, you can hear directly form satisfied Regain participants regarding their successful experiences with online therapy.

Counselor reviews

"Rhonda has been very helpful and consistent over the past few months as I worked through issues related to fear of intimacy. Her observations have shed light on aspects of myself that I took for granted, which I realize now are actually are holding me back and are in my power to change. I would gladly work with Rhonda again, and recommend her without hesitation."

"Emily is a very effective counselor in our very first call she drilled down and uncovered some of our intimacy issues and gave us a game plan to help resolve them. She's timely, easy to talk to, listens but also gives advice (which I've found uncommon with some professionals). We'd use her again and recommend her in a heart beat."


There is no shame in struggling with intimacy issues. Many aspects of your past and present contribute to feeling the desire to be alone or to guard yourself from intimacy. This can lead to a lack of affection and intimacy in a relationship. If you or your partner is struggling in this way, reach out. Talking with a licensed counselor is the first step to recovering from intimacy-related issues

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