When a lot of people hear about fear of intimacy in relationships or generally, the first thing that comes to mind is fear of sexual intimacy. That is also known as “genophobia” or “erotophobia”. However, they are not synonymous. Intimacy is more than just a sexual connection. Before we can go proper into the fear of intimacy or why people fear intimacy, we need to understand intimacy.
Intimacy is this vulnerability, and comfort you feel around a particular person but in this case your partner. Intimacy is also this closeness you feel in your personal relationships. It can include physical or emotional closeness or even a mix of the two. But, basically, there are four major types of intimacy. They are;
1. Physical or sexual intimacy: This has to do with a sensual feeling of connection you have with someone.
2. Emotional intimacy: This particular type of intimacy has to do with a deep emotional connection you feel around someone basically. Emotional intimacy is not always easy to form but not impossible.
3. Spiritual intimacy: This is a much deeper than basic connection. Generally, it deals with spiritual awakening and or connections.
4. Mental intimacy: This is basically seen in sapiosexuals. You bond through an exchange of ideas or deep, meaningful discussions.
If you have a fear of intimacy, you may be deliberately avoiding intimacy or you may not realize you’re doing it. Fear of intimacy doesn’t necessarily mean that you don’t want intimate relationships. You may long for intimacy, though you can’t seem to allow yourself that vulnerability.
SIGNS OF FEAR OF INTIMACY
There are various signs you can observe if you suspect your partner or even a friend has a fear of intimacy. They are;
#1. LOW SELF-ESTEEM:
Generally, this is the first sign you would notice with anyone that has feared for intimacy. They often feel a strong emotional void. Mostly because of their invalidated feelings in the past. Then this becomes the pillar of their fears.
#2. TRUST ISSUES:
This is also another sign of a profound fear of intimacy. How do they know they can trust you? How are they sure their emotions safe with you? Basically, they are always paranoid and on edge. They need constant reassurance because they don’t fully trust you.
#3. FRAIN FROM PHYSICAL CONTACT:
I knew this girl. Anytime you actually stretch your hand to hug or just even it’s a warm handshake, she’d either get fidgety or angry. Basically, most people that exhibit this particular sign might have gone through domestic and/ or sexual abuse.
#4. TROUBLE WITH COMMITMENTS:
Generally, this is a very clear sign. They can’t form or build relationships. This is usually centered on a fear of emotional intimacy. As such, they can’t commit. Subsequently, it causes a constant history of unstable and mentally draining relationships.
EXAMPLES OF FEAR OF INTIMACY
Some examples of fear of intimacy are;
a. Withdrawal of emotions and affections.
b. Reacting indifferently or adversely to affection or positive acknowledgment.
c. Becoming paranoid or suspicious of a partner.
d. Losing interest in sexuality.
e. Being overly critical of a partner.
f. Feeling guarded or resistant to being close.
CAUSES OF FEAR OF INTIMACY
Generally, there are quite a number of things that can cause a fear of intimacy. It may have to do with past experiences, especially those of childhood. It’s likely a defense mechanism. Some of these are;
#1. Fear of rejection:
When the fear of intimacy is rooted in the fear of being rejected, you can never take any step toward building a relationship. You may fear rejection because it happened to you before or you’ve seen it happen to others and you don’t want to experience that kind of emotional pain and trauma.
#2. Fear of abandonment:
You might be worried that once you’re in an intimate relationship, the other person will leave. Fear of abandonment can be a very terrible thing. Basically, it can be due to something that happened in childhood or even the death or separation of a parent or other close adult.
#3. Personality disorder/ Attachment Styles:
When we talk about attachment styles or even personality disorders, it plays a huge part. The avoidant personality disorder, also known as intimacy anxiety disorder, is an anxiety disorder that affects about 2.5 percent of the population. It affects men and women equally and tends to start in childhood.
Some of these traits include:
a. Low self-esteem, shyness, awkwardness
b. Fear of humiliation or judgment
c. Avoidance of social situations
d. Oversensitivity to criticism
e. An exaggerated sense of potential problems
Although, the cause of avoidant personality disorder isn’t clear. But it tends to run it, families. In addition, a popular theory is that it is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. However, it could be triggered by an instance of rejection or abandonment.
#4. Childhood sexual abuse:
Generally, sexual abuse in childhood or better-said rape can lead to fear of intimacy either in emotional or sexual relationships. Basically, such abuse can make it challenging to trust another person enough to become intimate.
When these children eventually grow up, they begin to exhibit symptoms like;
a. Inhibited sexual desire, difficulty becoming aroused
b. Seeing sex as an obligation in marriage
c. Feelings of anger, disgust, or guilt when touched
d. Emotional distance during sex
e. Inappropriate sexual behaviors
f. Physical problems such as pain, erectile dysfunction, or difficulty having an orgasm
Some other causes of fear of intimacy can be;
a. Physical abuse or domestic abuse
b. Separation issues involving overdependence on parents and family
c. Fear of being controlled or losing oneself in a relationship
EFFECTS OF FEAR OF INTIMACY
Some of the common effects of fear of intimacy are:
#1. SOCIAL ISOLATION:
Social isolation basically has to deal with introversion. Most times victims of any form of abuse which in turn results in a fear of intimacy, learn to always shun their emotions.
#2. DEPRESSION AND SUBSTANCE ABUSE:
Although, this is can be treated as an effect of fear of intimacy. But it can lead to other effects like anxiety even death. At first, it’s depression than other mental health problems that accompany it. Then, substance abuse. The fear of intimacy may seem like a very trivial issue but it becomes a greater problem when this person here develops an inferiority complex because of this.
DATING SOMEONE WITH FEAR OF INTIMACY
When your partner has a fear of intimacy, there are some things you can do that would be of help, like;
A very common thing a person with a strong fear for intimacy is the “disappearing act”. You are in a relationship with this person and when you try to get close they disappear. Try and be patient with them. Seen as a social or anxiety disorder, it usually results in a person blowing hot then cold, or doing the occasional disappearing act, which can be terribly frustrating for others. But it’s also terribly frustrating for the person who is suffering from this. Although they do want to be friends with you they end up destroying it themselves. The very nature of this anxiety disorder makes it difficult for them to explain what’s going on.
Although, understanding is a very deep word let’s help you visualize it. What made this person this way? Is it childhood trauma? You have to try to understand them when trying to help. However, it’s always difficult at first when dating someone with a fear of intimacy, but, over time, if you ensure proper communication and support towards him, you will teach your partner how to overcome his fears.
#3. Don’t let the conversations be all about you:
Basically, someone with fear for intimacy knows a little psychology themselves. They love to keep you talking all about yourself. When they do this, pay extra attention and turn the conversation around. Get them talking about themselves. Although it might seem hard at first, don’t let them deflect. Remember not to be too obvious when you do it.
#4. Always encourage them:
Life is beautiful even with imperfections. A person with intimacy issues is always afraid to make mistakes. They want to be perfect all the time. Then, it’s your job to remind them, that they don’t need to be. They always want to present this defensive and perfect front. You have to look way past that when you want to get close to them.
#5. Look beyond their facade:
They often love to act strong, with strong opinions but to some rude and sharp opinions. It is a defensive mechanism for them to chase and scare people off. When they get free around you, you’d see that they are more relaxed and appear to contradict themselves. That is, they might act in a direction opposite of the image you painted of them in your mind.
HOW TO OVERCOME FEAR OF INTIMACY?
How do you overcome the fear of intimacy? I’d give you a simple step-to-step guide.
1. Think about events in your life and try to understand where your fears come from. Are you unconsciously destroying relationships? And do you want more meaningful relationships?
2. All relationships come with a degree of uncertainty. Many intimate relationships are worth having, even if they don’t last forever.
3. You’re not perfect, but neither is any potential relationship partner. If someone ends a relationship with you, it says nothing about your value as a person.
4. Learn how to communicate your feelings. Be open with your partner. If it’s not too painful, talk about your fears and where they come from. If it’s too painful to discuss, explain that you’re willing to work through these issues with a medical professional.
5. Seek help from a professional. Generally, psychotherapy has been known to help a lot of cases, why don’t you try it?
FEAR OF INTIMACY TEST
1. Do you find it difficult to trust your partner?
2. Did you have trouble forming them or committing to them?
3. Do you fear being rejected or hurt by your partner?
4. Do you live in self-imposed isolation?
5. Does physical contact cause you discomfort?
When all or some of your answers are “a”, then you definitely have a fear of intimacy. Although, the fear of intimacy in most cases is a defensive mechanism. However, if you want to get over it, try to see things from your partner’s point of view.
The fear of intimacy is getting more rampant than you think these days. It is a growing issue because 3 out of every 5 persons have been through some sort of abuse. But no matter how it is, you can pull through, you are stronger than you can imagine. It is possible to heal from it.
FEAR OF INTIMACY FAQ’S
What causes fear of intimacy?
Basically, the ruling cause of fear of intimacy or intimacy issues is abuse either, sexual abuse, domestic abuse or even emotional abuse.
What is emotional abuse?
Emotional abuse has do with persistent/ constant emotional manipulation in relationships. In turn, this causes a fear for emotional and in some cases physical intimacy.