When Your Fear Of Intimacy Holds You Back, Here’s What You Can Do
Do you break out in a cold sweat when the person you care about asks you to take your relationship to the next level? Are you scared of intimacy?
Some people term this anxiety of getting close to others as commitment-phobe but the fear of intimacy is more than just fearing commitment. The fear of intimacy, also known as intimacy avoidance or avoidance anxiety, is when you fear forming a close emotional and physical relationship with others.
This fear is deeply rooted and can make you avoid social relationships and at the same time long for an emotional connection. This fear can also drive an individual to push others away and sabotage a healthy relationship, all for nothing.
Below, let’s take a look at what is the fear of intimacy, the causes behind the fear of intimacy, the signs you need to look out for, and how you can overcome the fear of intimacy.
What Is The Fear Of Intimacy?
Before we begin to understand the fear of intimacy, let’s understand what intimacy is. Intimacy is the ability to share yourself – good and bad parts – with another. This experience means getting close and forming connections with the other person.
There are five kinds of intimacy:
- Intellectual intimacy: When you share your thoughts with others
- Emotional intimacy: When you share your feelings and emotions with others
- Sexual intimacy: When you form and share yourself physically with others
- Spiritual intimacy: When you share your inner beliefs and spiritual self with others
- Experiential intimacy: When you share your experiences with others
The fear of intimacy can involve fear of one or all of the types of intimacy to various levels. This fear is different than the fear of vulnerability but the two can be associated with the other. For example, you can have the fear of intimacy but can be comfortable with being vulnerable with your partner.
The Signs You Need To Look For
While the fear of intimacy is fairly obvious to note, it can be misinterpreted as indifference or “coldness”. Here are some signs you need to be aware of.
The fear of intimacy signs can include:
- Having low self-esteem
- Having trust issues
- Experiencing frequent bouts of anger
- Avoiding physical contact
- Having trouble forming close and meaningful relationships
- Having a history of unstable relationships
- Not being able to share emotions
- Social isolation
What Causes The Fear Of Intimacy?
Many factors can cause one to develop a fear of intimacy. For some, it can be because of traumatic childhood experiences but for others, it can be a defense mechanism.
Some common causes of the fear of intimacy can be:
- Fear Of Abandonment: People who are afraid of being abandoned or have been abandoned – emotionally or physically in the past – in the past can also develop a fear of intimacy.
- Fear Of Being Controlled: People who’re afraid of being controlled or dominated by others can also develop a fear of intimacy. This fear of being controlled can stem from growing up in enmeshed or dysfunctional families.
- Anxiety Disorders: The fear of intimacy can also be a kind of social phobia or anxiety disorder. If you’re afraid of external criticism or rejection, you’re more likely to develop a fear of intimacy.
- Avoidant Personality Disorder: Avoidant personality disorder can also drive the fear of intimacy. It can make you avoid social interactions, cause low self-esteem, oversensitivity to criticism, and much more.
Other risk factors can include:
- Enmeshed families
- Emotional neglect
- Loss of a parent
- Replacing a parent
- A parent struggling with a mental health disorder
- A parent struggling with substance abuse
- Physical, emotional, sexual, or verbal abuse
The fear of intimacy is common in people who develop trust issues in childhood, people with a history of depression, and people who’ve had experienced sexual assault in the past. Bullying or traumatic relationships can also contribute to this fear.
How To Overcome The Fear Of Intimacy?
However hard it can affect you, it is possible to overcome the fear of intimacy. Psychotherapy can help you overcome this fear. A therapist can help you understand the cause of your fear and change your beliefs accordingly. You can connect with a trained therapist on BetterHelp by signing up below.
Other ways to overcome the fear of intimacy can be:
1. Accept The Uncertainty
Uncertainties are a part of relationships, no matter how successful they may be so instead of avoiding the uncertainty, embrace them. Remember, uncertainties don’t last forever. Even if the relationship doesn’t turn the way you want, remember that it has nothing to do with your self-worth.
2. Improve Communication
Talking about your fear of intimacy can be challenging but keep the communication line with your partner open and honest. Talk to them about your boundaries, what makes you feel safe, and what triggers your fear response.
3. Be Self-Compassionate
The fear of intimacy is a battle with yourself so be kind and compassionate with yourself. You need to accept yourself as you are before you can accept others in your life. Understand your self-worth and be compassionate with your past.
4. Give Yourself Time To Heal
Overcoming the fear of intimacy can take time so prepare yourself to face setbacks. However, don’t let those setbacks pull you back from your recovery. Be kind to yourself in the process. You CAN overcome this fear with time!
If your partner is afraid of intimacy…
If your partner fears intimacy, you can keep healthy communication with them and let them know that you’re there for them and ready to listen when they’re ready to talk. Don’t force them to open up and keep the pace as they take it.
If they’re seeking therapy, be supportive. Ask them what you can do to make them feel safe. As much as you can be patient and know that healing from past experiences takes time. It might not be easy for either of you but keep in mind that their fear of intimacy is not about you.
The fear of intimacy is a fear born out of anxiety and can sabotage a healthy (and potentially successful relationship). With the right professional help, it is possible to overcome the fear of intimacy.
I hope with this article, you were able to understand what is the fear of intimacy, its causes, the signs, and how you can overcome the fear.
Do you struggle with forming close relationships too? Let us know in the comments below or you can write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.