Understanding The Fear Of Sexual Intimacy

Updated September 24, 2021

The fear of sexual intimacy is referred to as genophobia, or sometimes erotophobia. This phobia works more intensely than a fundamental aversion, creating a form of panic upon the intent of sexual intimacy. Intimacy avoidance is usually a reaction to childhood experiences such as abuse but can stem from numerous sources. The fear of intimacy can create adverse effects on relationships in a person’s life, regardless of their ambitions to hold a healthy connection with someone. For the sake of being able to experience intimate relationships in a more vulnerable way, overcoming the fear of sexual intimacy is a must-do. Take time to understand the function of such a phobia better to move forward from it.

Derivatives

Fear of Sexual Intimacy Can Indicate Something Deeper
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There are numerous reasons that a heightened fear of sexual intimacy could develop. Some primary causes are rape or molestation, body image, and cultural teachings. Medical issues and fear of performance can also play a role in genophobia. , it should be noted that sometimes it occurs with no direct cause besides a deeply rooted fear. This can be the most difficult of cases to resolve. Considering the derivative of the phobia someone is experiencing is the first step to understanding it.

Body Image

The perspective a person holds of themselves is very influential in how they feel about allowing vulnerability sexually. The body image a person has and their opinion can range from healthy/ordinary to extremely dysfunctional and toxic. If body image sits on the farther end of the spectrum, a person may experience genophobia out of personal fear of revealing themselves in such a way to another person due to their own opinions of themself. This stems from the fear of rejection and the fear of abandonment. Having a contorted body image can lead to a fear of sexual intimacy.

Sexual Trauma

When a person has sexual trauma, they experience a deeply rooted issue beyond the singular incident. Following the sexual assault of any sort, there is usually a severe psychological effect on the victim. Rape trauma syndrome is a common reaction, similar to that of post-traumatic stress disorder. RTS works through a three-stage process; acute trauma, reorganization, and then resolution. Unfortunately, a phobia can form during the reorganization phase of the healing process. The phobia of sexual intimacy, or better known as genophobia, is a common reaction during a victim’s healing.

A clear symptom of this connection in mind over matter is the fear of being touched. When the panic is related directly to the physical part of sexual intimacy- the act of sexual contact- it should be noted. Childhood sexual abuse is a common trigger for genophobia, creating discomfort for individuals later in building healthy sexual relationships.

Cultural Influence

Many religious groups look down on sexual actions before certain moments of a person’s life take place. Upholding these beliefs does not mean you have a phobia, but one can form during practices change. Extreme fear or guilt due to this change can induce a fear of sexual intimacy. This sort of lifestyle turmoil can lead to a heavy weighing irrational fear of sexuality and overall intimacy anxiety.

Fear For Health


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Being sexual with another person brings upon the risk of diseases, pain, and pregnancy. These risks can entice severe fear for those who are profoundly concerned about their health. Other phobias focused on health can help increase these anxieties. There are ways to prevent these health risks when performing sexual intercourse. Taking precautions such as utilizing STD testing, birth control, and condoms are all methods of safekeeping. Health fears can lead to xenophobia in those who have the predisposition to obtain that sort of mild fear.

If your fear is of the pain that might be involved, it is recommended by many sources to avoid perceiving sex like that which is found in pornography. Ideally, sex is not supposed to be painful or cause discomfort. This fear can stem from an irrational view of what experiencing sex is like. Remove falsified depictions of sexuality from your intake and see what it does for your fear.

Performance Anxiety

Individuals who haven’t had much sexual experience tend to fear a lack of satisfying another person during sexual intercourse. These usually tend to be mild fears, but they fall down the rabbit hole in some cases, so to speak. Genophobia can stem from a severe form of performance anxiety, which works as an endless deterrent, only growing as time passes if not dealt with appropriately. The fear of being unable to offer sexual satisfaction creates a wedge in the ability to experience intimacy. If someone is to find themselves avoiding intimacy due to the fear of sexual dysfunction, they should consider getting help.

Symptoms Of Genophobia

The fear of intimacy and all that follows with such a concept is the basis of this phobia. Some general symptoms that show this goes beyond “anxiety” are the feeling of breathlessness and dizziness upon even just the thought of intimacy. When the fear begins to set in, a person will begin to feel nauseous and sick to their stomach. These symptoms all follow even during simple conversations that refer to sexuality and usually stem from a fear of nudity. If the entire concept creates unease to this degree, then there is a chance that genophobia is at play.

Working To Accept Your Body

Fear of Sexual Intimacy Can Indicate Something Deeper

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As insecurities weigh in with genophobia as a leading cause for its development, becoming confident in your skin is a critical factor in improving the diverse effects of this condition. Working towards self-acceptance is not an easy feat, but there are quite a few tactics that can assist someone in the process.

A great coping mechanism for low self-esteem is to practice mindful meditation. Meditation is beneficial to equanimity and the overall control of a person’s thoughts, directly linked to insecurities. Someone can practice alone in a quiet location, or they can work with a guide and follow their directions of thought through the process. During such a shift in lifestyle, it is also beneficial to work towards not being judgmental. Judgments are what cause insecurities, whether consciously or subconsciously. Remaining mindful of personal judgments can help a person realize where their perception of the world influences their perception of self.

Writing in a journal about the thoughts and anxieties experienced during conflicts and casualties while dealing with genophobia has two benefits. The first is to provide documentation of the thoughts and triggers related to the phobia, which can be offered to a therapist for more personalized treatment later down the road. Secondly, it offers an outlet to help assess the internal mechanisms of the phobia to better dissect and address the issues in day-to-day life.

Developing awareness is an essential tool for improving esteem. Living in the moment and taking in the world around you through a more positive perspective can truly change a person’s outlook from the outside in. Participating in one’s own life is a sure-fire way to excel at feeling confident and content with the skin you’re in.  These are not feelings that develop overnight, but with time, a conscious effort, and proper treatment, they are possible. When a person takes care of themselves emotionally, physically, and mentally, they provide a roadway to success with a personal image. Genophobia is complex and intricate but is a hurdle that can be overcome. If esteem is the leading cause of someone’s fears of sexual intimacy, then reprogramming the mind and perception is the most straightforward tactic for changing such a fate.

Getting Treatment

Working with a professional is the most effective way to overcome xenophobia. Sometimes this professional is specifically a sex therapist, but regular therapists are just as capable- in most cases- as certified therapists. Genophobia is a complex condition and can be very difficult to work through, so utilizing a therapist is essential to treatment success. Consider online therapy, such as ReGain, to begin working towards treatment from the comfort and security of your home.


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Talking with close friends and family about your condition is going to prepare a person for the deep level of communication needed for successful treatment; for a therapist to assess and address an individual’s personal experience with genophobia, the professional needs to have a clear understanding of the symptoms and thoughts that are tied to the overall fear at hand. Writing in a journal is another tactical preparation for discussing genophobia with a therapist. It is vital to have a plan of action to introduce the elaborative nature of this phobia, so taking the time to write out key components of triggers and symptoms will be very beneficial.

Researching the condition to understand the symptoms and causes is a strong tool to have handy when addressing the problem and seeking treatment. Many beneficial sources on the internet can help guide you through handling better the fear of intimacy, such as the many publications produced by Healthline on this topic. Narrowing down the details of genophobia will help create the conditions needed for the most success when working towards treatment.

Types Of Treatment

When preparing to receive treatment for genophobia, it is essential to treat said treatment if the patient is prepared. Expect techniques such as cognitive behavioral therapy centered around conversations choreographed to reroute thoughts into better channels. If a person’s genophobia stems from trauma, then treatments such as EMDR may be utilized for the sake of more profound reprogramming. The derivative of fear determines the method of treatment.

Genophobia is treatable and can be overcome with the right attitude and efforts. Someone suffering from this irrational fear can reach a point where a healthy sex life is possible, but the conscious effort and attention must be present throughout treatment. Anyone struggling with such a phobia should reach out to a loved one and begin planning for a long-term treatment action plan- don’t go through this alone, there is help, and it does work.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

 What causes fear of intimacy?

 There is a range of causes for a fear of intimacy. Having a fear of intimacy often means a person may be deliberately avoiding intimacy, ether emotional or sexual, or a person may not even realize they are doing it. It’s also important to recognize that just because a person has a fear of intimacy doesn’t mean they are not seeking intimate relationships. A person may very much want intimate relationships, but the fear of intimacy stops them in their pursuit. Some of the largest causes for a fear of intimacy are: fear of rejection, fear of engulfment, fear of nudity, fear of vulnerability, or even a general fear of intimacy itself. Two people may not have the exact same cause for avoiding intimacy. It’s also possible that childhood sexual abuse could be a cause for anxiety intimacy sexual communication problems. Parental neglect or separation issues are also two other common causes. Having a fear of intimacy is nothing to be ashamed of, and anybody can learn how to communicate their intimacy in a healthy manner.

What are signs of intimacy issues?

 Some common signs of intimacy issues are having low self-esteem, avoiding communication and sexual satisfaction, living in self-imposed isolation, having a history of unstable relationships, having trouble forming relationships, avoiding emotional or sexual interactions, and more. A person who fears intimacy can have a number of different reasons, but receiving help and coaching can allow a person to let their intimacy grow and develop.

How do you date someone with intimacy issues?

 Dating someone who fears intimacy may seem challenging at first, but it’s more than possible to have a healthy relationship. First things first, understand that overcoming intimacy concerns or issues is not an overnight process. Try not to be pushy with your partner or force them into any situations they aren’t comfortable with. Encourage your partner to talk about their past when they’re ready. Some causes of intimacy issues are parental neglect or childhood sexual abuse, which can be challenging topics. However, with the help of a licensed therapist and a partner’s support, a person can learn to be comfortable with intimacy. Additionally, share your own flaws with your partner and open yourself up emotionally. Those with a fear of intimacy or fear of vulnerability may find it challenging to open up, but doing so yourself may help them become more comfortable.

What does fear of intimacy feel like?

 A fear of intimacy, fear of vulnerability, fear of engulfment, and more can all be challenging. In general, those with a fear of intimacy may find themselves anxious in intimate circumstances or social isolated from others. Emotional or sexual intimacy fears can cause a person to be afraid to seek out situations where this form of intimacy may arise. A fear of intimacy can also result in emotional outburst as a result of frustration and it’s possible for a person with a fear of intimacy to become nervous at the idea of physical contact with another person.

What does lack of intimacy do to a person?

 lack of intimacy brought on by a fear of intimacy, fear of engulfment, fear of nudity, or fear of vulnerability can make a person prone to loneliness, anger, and general feelings of a lack of support. With this in mind, anybody can learn to become comfortable with intimacy over time, and intimacy anxiety can be quelled. Insatiable sexual fears can lead a person to not interact with others in a social environment, but learning to overcome any insatiable sexual fears or issues can help anybody struggling with an arch sex type of intimacy fear. A lack of intimacy doesn’t mean a person can’t establish and maintain a relationship. People who fear intimacy can learn to become comfortable with others and create meaningful relationships that last for years with the help of their partner and a professional experienced with intimacy issues.


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