Individuals who are struggling to form relationships with others are likely to have a fear of intimacy. Intimacy is not always limited to physical touch, in fact, intimacy is defined as the capacity to communicate one’s authentic self with another person to build a close-knitted and deep connection. A fear of intimacy is often the cause of the inability to build relationships with others, whether romantic or platonic.
What is a fear of intimacy?
A fear of intimacy is defined as a dread of sharing a close relationship, no matter if it is emotional or physical, with another person. Also known as intimacy avoidance or avoidance anxiety, people who suffer from this fear typically avoid any form of connection. In most cases, individuals with a fear of intimacy may actually yearn for close relationships with others, yet regularly push people away or even self-sabotage.
While a fear of intimacy and a fear of vulnerability may be intertwined, they are two separate conditions. Those with a fear of vulnerability are typically unwilling or afraid of opening up. On the other hand, an individual with a fear of intimacy may be comfortable with opening up about their true selves in the beginning, but often start to pull back when they feel that the relationship is becoming “too close”.
Causes of a fear of intimacy
A fear of intimacy is likely a defence mechanism that an individual has developed due to past experiences. Someone with a fear of intimacy would not allow themselves to become too close with someone for the fear that they might get hurt.
Some of the common causes of a fear of intimacy may include:
- Fear of abandonment – This could have resulted from something that happened in one’s childhood such as the loss of separation of a loved one.
- Fear of rejection – Having had a negative experience with being rejected such as being ridiculed or criticised may result in an individual developing a fear of getting close to others because they do not want to experience that kind of hurt again.
- Avoidant personality disorder
- Anxiety disorders – A fear of intimacy may also be a subset of social anxiety disorders.
- Physical, verbal or sexual abuse
- Parental neglect
- Fear of losing oneself or being controlled in a relationship
Signs of a fear of intimacy
The signs of a fear of intimacy are often obvious, but may be misinterpreted as indifference or other issues instead. For instance, it may come across to others that the individual has anger issues or is unsympathetic and cold.
An individual who has a fear of intimacy may:
- Have a fear of commitment (which could manifest into serial dating or having only short-term relationships)
- Have trust issues and low self-esteem
- Have difficulty expressing their needs or feelings
- Actively avoid physical contact
- Experience episodes or outbursts of anger
- Self-sabotage their relationships (for example, being critical of a partner or accusing a partner of something that did not happen)
- Constantly push others away
How does a fear of intimacy affect relationships?
Fear of intimacy can have a significant impact on an individual’s life, especially their relationships. A fear of intimacy could cause an individual to hold back on their affection. This could result in those around them to feel unloved or unappreciated. Those with a fear of intimacy may also put up walls to meaningful emotional connections, making it challenging for others to get to know them.
However, with that being said, individuals with this fear often yearn for a deep connection, even if their actions may show opposite. If a partner or loved one does not understand this, it could result in the individual developing a greater risk for social isolation, depression and even substance abuse.
Overcoming the fear to build meaningful relationships
To overcome the fear of intimacy, professional guidance is often required, especially if it is rooted in past events. In particular, psychotherapy could be incredibly effective for someone with a fear of intimacy.
Psychotherapy is a comprehensive analysis of an individual’s beliefs, attitudes, behaviours, past experiences and struggles that may have impacted their relationships and lives. Essentially, psychotherapy delves deep to explore the root causes of an individual’s struggles in order to facilitate personal growth.
Emotional Wellness provides professional counselling services in Singapore. Our experienced psychotherapist has over 15 years of experience in a myriad of therapy services – youth counselling, relationship counselling, anxiety counselling, depression therapy, exam stress counselling and more. We can assist you in overcoming your fear of intimacy and allow you to see yourself and your relationships in a brand new light. With our professional therapy services, you can build meaningful relationships with your loved ones.
Fix an appointment with us today.