What Causes Fear Of Intimacy & How To Overcome It

Updated July 12, 2019

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The fear of intimacy is an inherently complex subject matter. Clinically, it has been listed as an anxiety disorder and social phobia in which the afflicted individual struggles to form bonds, connections, and close relationships with others. Many analysts have conducted probes and studies into the fear of intimacy in the hopes of finding a cure or solution to the ailment. However, before one can truly overcome the fear of intimacy, he or she must have a clear and concise understanding of the malady.

An Overview Of The Fear Of Intimacy

In a nutshell, the fear of intimacy is "the inhibited capacity of an individual, because of anxiety, to exchange thought and feelings of personal significance with another individual who is highly valued." Psychology Today furthermore affirms that 17% of adults in Western society suffer from this affliction.

Individuals who fear intimacy ultimately view themselves as undeserving of love or affection, hence their apprehension and anxiety about close relationships. While men can suffer from the fear of intimacy, the phobia is considerably more common amongst women.

Symptoms Of The Fear Of Intimacy

In the majority of circumstances, the fear of intimacy is revealed by other phobias which involve closeness with other people. According to Promises Treatment Center, feeling uncomfortable or uneasy about sharing deep feelings, emotional truths, or past traumatic experiences can serve as telltale signs of an individual who fears intimacy. Contrary to popular belief, intimacy involves much more than taking off one's clothes and having sex. Emotional intimacy can be just as powerful as physical intimacy, if not more so.

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Fear of intimacy is not mutually exclusive to being afraid of sharing personal details. Individuals who dread personal relationships are also likely to experience anxiety at the notion of another person becoming close to them or viewing them as a source of emotional support or someone they can confide in. The anxiety above disorder moreover breeds the fear of learning about a significant other's problems, showing affection, discussing personal goals/aspirations and expressing concern for a significant other.

Reader's Digest also shares a list of less apparent symptoms pointing to the fear of intimacy. These include, but are certainly not limited to, habitual anger, perfectionism, aversion to sex, low confidence levels, and attempts to hide one's partner from other individuals.

What Causes The Fear Of Intimacy?

Past Childhood Trauma

While there are several factors which can engender the fear of intimacy, past childhood trauma well-documented as a frequent cause. The very first relationships that children ever have are with their parents or caregivers. A person who grew up being either abused or neglected when they expressed sadness, anger, or other emotional may, therefore, grow up and develop attachment issues. Due to their past trauma, they will view emotions, connections, and other forms of intimacy as bad.

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Past Failed Relationships

Unfortunately, prior relationships can greatly impact one's future romantic endeavors. Not every person who has past failed relationships will develop issues with intimacy; however, it is a possibility. More often than not, this avoidance of intimacy comes as a defense mechanism. The afflicted individual may have invested a lot in their prior relationship only to have the other person hurt them in one form or another. Therefore, the man or woman begins to shut themselves off by avoiding future occurrences which involve intimacy, thus preventing them from vulnerability and additional, potential heartache.

Lack Of Confidence/Low Self-Esteem

In some situations, the fear of intimacy is prompted not by past trauma or failed relationships, but simply by how the individual views themselves. Confidence and self-esteem are significant factors and play a big role in the interactions and relationships that people have with others.

An individual who views themselves poorly may not truly view themselves as worthy of love, affection, or closeness with others. They may also begin to question why another person would want to open up to them or bond with them. Furthermore, they may fear eventually letting the other person down and, therefore, avoid situations where intimacy could arise altogether.

Before any individual can become intimate with another person, there has to be a degree of comfort within themselves. Someone who does not truly like who they are will have a considerably more challenging time with bearing their soul to another human being.

Past Emotional/Physical/Psychological/Sexual Abuse

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Sometimes the fear of intimacy stems from prior abuse that the afflicted individual has experienced. There are many forms of abuse, yet all of them have devastating impacts and can take years to heal from. Like people who have experienced prior failed relationships, fear of intimacy can also be a defense mechanism for individuals who do not wish to subject themselves to more potentialpain or abuse.

Dealing With Someone Who Suffers From The Fear Of Intimacy

Being involved with someone who fears intimacy can be a challenging feat. This journey can be very taxing and stressful. It is certainly not for everyone. However, Classroom recommends that people who are up to the task should take certain steps.

First and foremost comes obtaining a deep understanding of what it means to be vulnerable. This should be done for the sake of the individual who suffers from the fear of intimacy. Not only can this exercise help the other person in the relationship learn more about the meaning of intimacy, but they will also be more equipped to help their partner overcome the anxiety and phobias that they have attributed to intimacy.

Next comes the ability to abstain from judgment. Sometimes, it can be so easy for an individual to ask themselves, "why can't he/she just trust me?" While this train of thought is completely understandable, the person must also understand that the fear of intimacy is a very complicated, internal issue. If the afflicted person feels as though they are being judged, they will likely retreat further into their shell or cut the other person out of their life altogether. Displaying acceptance, kindness, not judgment or anger is one of the best courses of action.

An individual who is involved with a person who fears intimacy should finally ensure that they are validating their partner. Of course, extreme validation is likely to have the opposite intended impact. However, appropriate validation can be as simple as hearing them out and ensuring that they know their feelings are normal.

Sometimes people often make the error of thinking their significant other is already aware of certain positive affirmation, but verbally hearing words of kindness can make all the difference in the world. This is especially applicable to an individual who is phobic or anxious about intimacy.

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How To Overcome The Fear Of Intimacy

While overcoming the fear of intimacy may feel like an impossible task, Law of Attraction has several helpful tips and suggestions. First and foremost comes the change of ceasing to heed critical inner voice. More often than not, this is the voice which tells people "you can't do that," "he/she might hurt you if you open up to them," "you're better off being alone." The ability to essentially "turn off" this voice takes a sense of awareness. Each person should know who they are, believe in themselves, and rest assured that they are lovable and worthy of enjoying the sacredness of intimacy with another human being.

Equally as paramount is the determination to increase confidence levels and relinquish personal insecurities. Surrounding oneself with positive, supportive company can make all the difference in the work, as can uplifting affirmations. Many people don't realize the power of habitual self-talk. Individuals who regularly tell themselves that they are too fat, too skinny, too dumb, too ugly, etc. will eventually believe these things, regardless of how untrue they may be.

However, the polar opposite is also applicable, which is where boosting confidence and admonishing insecurities comes into play. Individuals who suffer from intimacy can improve their self-perception by telling themselves "I am worthy of love," "I am beautiful," "I have so much to offer," "I deserve happiness," "I deserve healthy relationships." Believing the preceding affirmations can take time, especially if the individual has already internalized negative beliefs about themselves. However, consistency wins in the end. If the person sticks it out and shifts their self-talk from positive to negative, they will inevitably feel better about themselves with time.

A Final Word

While each can take the steps above to overcome the fear of intimacy, sometimes speaking with a professional can also help as well and ensure that progress is not only long-lasting but permanent. Sometimes, people have a difficult time with seeking help and view it as a sign of weakness, rather than one of strength. The strongest people of all have no problem asking for help when they need it.

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Here at Regain, we pride ourselves on our world-class therapy, counseling, and care. We will always be here to help you, no matter what. Ultimately, the choice is yours, but if you ever feel the inclination to contact Regain for any reason, you can do so by clicking here.

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