Fears of intimacy are very common – but they can lead to a lot of pain and confusion in people’s lives.
If you're facing a fear of intimacy, it’s helpful to understand your particular causes, as well as how symptoms are presenting. Read on for what this fear typically looks like, as well as how you can cope with your anxieties, eventually branching out to overcome this fear in a safe, trusting manner.
The causes for fear of intimacy vary widely – from trauma to fear of rejection
There’s no singular cause for fear of intimacy, which can manifest in different personality types for different reasons.
For example, people who have suffered from a difficult relationship, sexual trauma, or complicated loss may struggle intensely with intimacy fears and with trusting their own gut, as well as another person.
Sometimes, childhood and early family relationships play a role, particularly when there is trauma, neglect, or abuse in a person’s past.
Even with a balanced upbringing, trust issues can exist. When you think about how much goes into healthy relationships – the ability to trust, be open to rejection, be vulnerable, self-soothe, to give and receive, have open communication, assert oneself, make compromises, etc. – it’s understandable why intimacy remains an ongoing challenge for so many people!
Identifying your own personal cause can be a helpful first step in learning to manage it.
Reflecting on your inner thoughts and deep beliefs can help you understand your intimacy challenges
Listening to people’s inner thoughts gives us the best information about what this fear can actually look like.
Consider the following thought patterns:
- “Since this person can’t possibly like me for who I am, I wonder what they want from me?”
- “If my partner knew my real thoughts or feelings, they would hurt, judge or reject me.”
- “I keep rejecting people, and seeing their flaws, but truthfully, I have so many of my own that I keep secret.”
These are some common thoughts that someone with intimacy challenges may face and struggle with, and give us insight into what is driving the fear.
Isolation, overworking, and serial dating are example symptoms of a fear of intimacy
Fear of intimacy manifests differently for everyone, including:
- Isolating oneself and spending too much time alone
- Over-working or over-involved in solitary work
- Serial dating or promiscuous behavior
- Becoming overly pleasing or compliant with a partner
- Entering scripted, superficial or “faux relationships” that allow us to appear normal – while hiding our true selves
If these resonate with you, know that you can overcome the fear.
Friends, family, and your support system can help you overcome your fear
Dating and relationships are hard and can be really difficult if we are on our own, while also carrying around whatever hang-ups or fears that we might have. Often, there is nothing more therapeutic than having good close friends and a great support team!
If our fears are related to a more recent experience, our friends and support team can really help validate our experience, and release any pent up emotion.
If it is more connected to a long term self-worth issue, we can take the time to reflect on ourselves and make positive changes. Seeing a therapist can greatly accelerate and enhance that process.
Therapy can help you get to the root of your concern, and eventually learn to cope
Therapy is invaluable for those who are struggling with these fears, especially when these fears are ingrained. Working with a specialist can help you find better ways of managing these fears and also help you get to the root of the problem, so that you feel more relaxed and confident in being yourself.
If you have already tried therapy for the problem you are experiencing, and it has not worked, you shouldn’t blame yourself. The therapist may not have been right for you; the timing may have been off; and sometimes, it just takes a few tries to land the right time and fit.
To find a therapist for fear of intimacy, prioritize your own comfort and ability to open up
The healthy relationship that develops between you and your therapist can be a major catalyst for growth and intimacy within other relationships, so it’s important that you find the right match.
Here’s what to look for:
- Seek out a therapist who specializes in dating and relationships. They should understand some of the current trends in how people meet (including online trends), and should be comfortable talking about sexuality and romance. Bringing up your concerns and daily encounters shouldn’t feel shameful.
- Look for a therapist who is a warm, empathic professional, but who is also “comfortable in their own skin.” It’s important for therapists to be human and to be able to share in their client’s joys, sadness and successes. If they are too “clinical,” distant, or over-involved, you might want to try someone else.
- Even if you don’t want to dwell on talking about your childhood, find a therapist who values and understands the connections between events and relationship in childhood, and one’s current fears. A therapist who specializes in this can usually help in a more accelerated and lasting way.
- If you have specific life experiences or choices that you know may be hard for some people to hear or speak about, don’t assume that every therapist is equipped to deal with that and to listen non-judgmentally. Be upfront about your concerns and what you are looking for.
Fears of intimacy can manifest in different ways, and for very different reasons. But when they aren’t addressed, the results are universally detrimental – and can lead to feelings of loneliness and emptiness, and poor relationships.