13 Signs You May Be Suffering From Fear of Intimacy
If you have a pattern of pushing people away, you’re afraid of getting close to others, or you struggle with a fear of abandonment, you may be dealing with a fear of intimacy.
Experiencing a fear of intimacy in addiction recovery is so common and is rooted in various, complex causes. Unfortunately, if you’re in recovery, dealing with a fear of intimacy can keep you from experiencing meaningful, deep connections. It can hold you back in so many different ways.
Read on to discover how fear of intimacy manifests differently for different people, where it stems from, and how to start overcoming it.
What is intimacy?
The word intimacy may conjure within you ideas about romantic relationships, but intimacy isn’t only reserved for partners and spouses. Intimacy is simply the state of being close and connected with another person. This can be with a partner, a family member, a friend, or anyone in your circle.
The word intimacy also brings with it connotations of physical closeness, but intimacy transcends the physical. It is about feeling safe and vulnerable emotionally with another person. It is about feeling heard and understood mentally by another person. Additionally, it is about the sexual, or non-sexual, contact with another person.
As you can see, intimacy is truly a dynamic state with many layers. Although experiencing intimacy with others is a beautiful thing, it can be deeply difficult for some people to access.
If you fear intimacy, you may not even realise that that is what’s happening. Many people who fear intimacy do so on a subconscious level. You may not be outwardly dismissing connecting with others. However, your fear of intimacy may be manifesting in how you think and behave when it comes to your relationships.
What are the signs of fear of intimacy?
With intimacy itself being so complex, it may come as no surprise that fear of intimacy is quite complex as well. Based on your experiences, your conditioning, your beliefs, and how you grew up, your fear of intimacy may manifest itself differently than someone else’s.
If you struggle with fear of intimacy, you may only have a few close relationships outside of what you consider to be your immediate family. That being said, even your relationships with your family members may feel distant or disconnected on some level.
If you have a fear of intimacy, you may do or say things that push away your loved ones without even realising it. You may have trouble engaging in physical contact with a romantic partner. Some people who struggle with intimacy also have issues with commitment.
Below are 13 additional signs you may have fear of intimacy:
- Low self-esteem
- Sabotaging relationships, consciously or unconsciously (especially when they start to get serious)
- Serial dating, or always finding yourself in short-lived relationships
- Being a perfectionist
- Trouble sharing your feelings with others
- Difficulty being vulnerable with others
- Trying to avoid physical contact
- Trying to avoid sexual contact
- Pushing people away
- Difficulty trusting other people
- Constant worry about getting abandoned or being rejected
- Getting into unstable relationships
- Getting involved with partners who aren’t right for you
Again, a fear of intimacy shows up very differently for different people. Therefore, if you resonate with one of the signs above, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have a full-blown fear of intimacy. However, if something does resonate with you, it may be worth taking a deeper look at it.
What causes a fear of intimacy?
There likely isn’t any one specific driving force that caused your fear of intimacy to develop. Instead, there are many different things that could have contributed to your struggle with developing and maintaining deep, healthy relationships.
One contributor to the development of a fear of intimacy is your childhood. More specifically, the relationship your parents or caregivers had with you early on.
The earliest years of your life are pivotal when it comes to the development of your attachment style and how you relate to other people. If your parents or caregivers weren’t present or responded insensitively to you when you cried, for example, this influenced how you understood relationships to look.
Your first social attachment is with a parent or caregiver. Therefore, how they interacted with you, or didn’t interact with you, became a pattern that became normalised within you.
When you become an adult, this pattern stays with you. It influences how you interact in your relationships with other people. Your attachment style can be particularly highlighted in your romantic relationships.
Additionally, experiencing a trauma during your childhood or formative years can contribute to the development of a fear of intimacy. If you endured abuse when you were younger, or you experienced the loss of a parent or caregiver, these traumas likely impacted how you connect with others. If you didn’t process or work through the trauma you endured, it manifests in your present-day life.
Going through this sort of trauma can show up as a strong fear of abandonment or fear of rejection. You may be experiencing a fear of intimacy in an effort to protect yourself from potentially getting abandoned or rejected. Many who struggle with a fear of intimacy unconsciously use this as a defense mechanism so they can’t get hurt. That fear of getting hurt can often be rooted in an experience they had when they were younger.
How can fear of intimacy impact you?
Studies have shown that people with a fear of intimacy may have shorter life spans, more physical ailments, and more mental health concerns than those who don’t struggle with fear of intimacy.
Fear of intimacy can lead to being withdrawn socially. It can also lead to an increased risk of depression, and increased risk of engaging in substance use.
It can lead to relationship sabotage and constant short-lived relationships, or unhealthy/unstable relationships.
Additionally, it can damage your mental health and your well-being.
When you struggle with a fear of intimacy, you’ll be unable to attract the right kind of person into your life. If you struggle with low self-esteem, fear of intimacy can lead to toxic cycles and can perpetuate feelings of low self-worth or self-judgment.
Even though you may care deeply about people, a fear of intimacy can still have a negative impact on your relationships with them.
You may love your close friends, but you may struggle to connect with them on a deeper level.
You may love your family, but you inadvertently act in ways that push them away.
Because connection is so important for your well-being overall, a fear of intimacy can also affect your recovery from addiction.
Does fear of intimate relationships affect recovery from addiction?
In recovery, you begin to learn just how important and life-changing it is to have meaningful relationships with people you can lean on. The social aspect of recovery can be easy to overlook, but is so crucial when it comes to maintaining sobriety long-term.
When you’re in recovery and you go to therapy or you go to meetings, simply showing up is just the first step. Although it’s a big step and definitely one that should be honoured, the next step is allowing yourself to connect.
Being vulnerable with others and sharing what’s on your heart and mind is incredibly important. You may have been repressing or numbing your emotions for a long time, and in recovery, all of those will rise to the surface. It’s important to express them in a healthy way.
When you’re honest with people and talk to them about what’s really going on, and they’re honest and vulnerable with you too, it creates truly synergistic healing. Simply knowing that others can connect with your pain and your struggles can help you feel less alone.
In those moments when you’re spiralling in your own head, just having a conversation with someone who truly sees you can make all the difference and can take a massive weight off your shoulders.
Forming true and authentic relationships is paramount to your well-being. This isn’t only with romantic relationships, but also with relatives, friends, counsellors, sponsors, and the people you care about most.
Tips on how to overcome a fear of intimacy
If you struggle with a fear of intimacy, it doesn’t have to be this way. You’re fully capable of experiencing the deep, meaningful, fulfilling relationships that you deserve.
Below are a few tips on how to begin overcoming a fear of intimacy:
The first step in overcoming a fear of intimacy is to simply acknowledge that this is something you may be struggling with. You can’t change something until you become aware of it. If you’re reading this article, you’re likely pondering whether what you’re dealing with is a fear of intimacy.
If it is, acknowledge how this fear of intimacy shows up for you specifically. Are you afraid of commitment? Have you only experienced short-lived relationships? Are you afraid of getting abandoned or rejected?
If your partner, family members, or friends have ever expressed concerns to you about your connection, such as you pushing them away or not letting them in, keep an open mind. Consider their perspective and their concerns. This can be a good starting point for you to dive deeper into overcoming your fear of intimacy. Knowing how it shows up in your life will help you figure out how to uncover where it came from.
Express your feelings and concerns
This will feel incredibly difficult and uncomfortable, but it’s important to express your feelings and concerns to your partner, family members, or friends. When you struggle with a fear of intimacy, the words you say out loud to those you love may not always be in line with how you actually feel, and what your actual worries are. This is why sometimes, your words and actions may push your loved ones away, even though that’s not what you truly want.
It will take courage and vulnerability, but be open with your loved ones. If you feel afraid of getting close to them for example, and you sense that’s what’s going on inside of you, tell them. It will likely lead to a conversation that will help ease your fears and worries, and will bring you both even closer.
Observe your past
A big part of overcoming a fear of intimacy is looking at where it came from to begin with. As previously mentioned, your experiences in childhood and when you were growing up may have contributed to your current struggles connecting with others. Take a look at your parents or caregivers, and what your relationship was like with them when you were young. Observe when your fear of intimacy first began. Think about the first time you realised you may have an issue with connecting with other people. Without observing your past, you’ll likely continue to live out the same unhealthy patterns that have been holding you back from having meaningful, strong connections.
Engage in individual therapy
Engaging in one-on-one therapy allows you to get the help of an unbiased third party who can help you observe the patterns of your life. A therapist is able to catch the blind spots you may be missing and can help you connect the dots of your fear of intimacy. In therapy, you can unlock where these issues began and explore those emotions and feelings in a safe and supportive environment. You can learn how your past experiences have affected you in the present day. You can then learn how to integrate new ways of communicating and connecting with others, while honouring yourself. Therapy is a great way to work through a fear of intimacy and to increase your overall well-being.
Author - Thurga
- Signs of Fear of Intimacy - https://www.webmd.com/sex-relationships/signs-fear-intimacy
- Overview on How to Identify and Overcome Intimacy Issues - https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/intimacy/how-to-overcome-intimacy-issues/