You keep people and relationships at a distance. Keeping things at the surface level helps you feel like you’re in control of your life. But what you’re terrified to confront is your fear of intimacy.
You create intimacy through unique bonds with people. Fearing intimacy isn’t a life sentence to being alone, as long as you’re willing to confront your fears and overcome them.
What is a Fear of Intimacy?
A fear of intimacy is when you’re afraid to share a close relationship with another person. You have walls around your heart which prevent you from forming meaningful and lasting bonds.
Pushing people away isn’t a conscious decision. If you fear intimacy, you likely want to feel understood and have lasting bonds with others. Your fear is rooted deep within you and is a way to protect yourself.
Your fear may cause you to realize you’ve sabotaged your previous relationships. Keeping people at arm’s length means they can’t reject you. The safety is in the “not trying” rather than the possibility of rejection.
You avoid all 5 types of intimacy:
- Physical. Physical intimacy is about holding hands, hugging, and providing caring touch to another person.
- Emotional. The ability to be fully yourself without fear of rejection.
- Intellectual. The ability to connect about academic topics without fear, such as books, political opinions, or science.
- Spiritual. Sometimes religious, but often the willingness and openness to sharing special, unique, and meaningful moments with another person.
- Experiential. The willingness to try new and exciting things with another person.
Intimacy isn’t something that’s shared only in romantic relationships. You build different types of intimacy with friends and family as well. If you fear intimacy, you likely avoid group or relationship-building activities with others.
Signs you may fear intimacy include:
- Dating many people in a short amount of time
- Debilitating trust issues
- Lack of self-confidence
- Avoiding physical or sexual contact
- Lack of communication in your relationship
- Difficulty expressing your feelings
- Sabotaging relationships
- A history of short relationships or no relationships
- Perfectionism or obsession with how people view you
If these things sound familiar to you, you may fear intimacy. But where did this fear originate? Trauma may be the answer.
Why Do People Fear Intimacy?
You likely fear intimacy because you’re a survivor of trauma.
Trauma impacts everyone differently. Some people can pick up the pieces and move on in a shorter amount of time if they have the tools to help them do so. For others, the symptoms and repercussions of the traumatic circumstances stick with them. These memories create invisible cracks in your mental foundation.
Trauma comes in many forms and types. What one person considers a pivotal and life-changing event may not feel that way to others.
Trauma includes things like:
- Verbal and physical abuse
- Lack of parental guidance
- Conflicts with past relationships
- Bullying or teasing
Having trauma in your past doesn’t automatically mean that you’ll fear intimacy. But, it’s a pervasive underlying factor for many people who have this fear.
How is Fear of Intimacy Related to Addiction?
Like everyone who has trauma doesn’t develop a fear of intimacy, everyone who fears intimacy doesn’t develop an addiction. But some people do. Isolation doesn’t feel good. Your brain wants to make you feel better by seeking out sources of dopamine. There are many sources of dopamine, but the most readily accessible one is sexual pleasure.
You deepen a unique neural pathway as you continue to turn to sexual pleasure to feel better. This pathway links suffering, stress, and apathy to sex and intimacy. Using sex as a coping mechanism becomes a sex addiction.
Sex addiction is unique because it’s an intimacy disorder. You use sexual outlets to rely on yourself and keep others at bay. At the same time, it’s also a way to feel better when you’re alone. The two activities — sexual pleasure and loneliness — become linked. As you isolate yourself, your behaviors become more problematic. They can lead to many other issues down the road with relationships.
How to Overcome Your Fear of Intimacy
Overcoming your fear isn’t an easy task. To overcome your fear, you need to make mindful choices about your behaviors in daily life. As you continue to make choices that open you up, you’ll start to overcome your fear.
Strategies to overcome your fear include:
- Start on Small Things. Do little things you would usually avoid doing with other people. Try telling them about your feelings or sharing a special moment. Starting with small tasks means the bigger things will become easier with time and experience.
- Confront Your Fear. While it will be uncomfortable at first, start expressing your feelings more. It could be just to yourself at first, then to a partner or therapist down the line. Speaking and naming what you’re afraid of can take power away from it and give the power of choice back to you.
- Revisit Your Past. Your primary caregivers modeled what relationships looked like to you. Think back to your relationships with them. Try to understand what types of relationships they modeled to you. Consider whether you’ve recreated negative relationships in your adult life as a result.
- Seek Help. Fearing intimacy means it isn’t easy for you to trust others. Still, working one-on-one with a mental health specialist can help you get on the fast track to overcoming your fear. To truly heal, you need to address the root cause of your fear and any behaviors that resulted from it.
How Begin Again Institute Can Help
At Begin Again Institute, we help people with intimacy disorders and sex addiction. During our 14-Day Men’s Intensive, be around other people with circumstances similar to yours. Experiencing genuine empathy with them means you’ll feel heard and understood, which opens the door to your healing. Contact us today if you’re ready to fight your fear of intimacy.