Fear of intimacy: What it means to be afraid of getting too close to someone


Do you fear coming too close to someone in a relationship? You could be suffering from fear of intimacy. Here’s how you can deal with it.

Sex can be fun and exciting for most people, but for some people, it is a source of fear and anxiety. Did you ever feel a sense of fear take over when someone came close to you? Do you go into fight-or-flight mode the moment someone attempts to get close to me? While it could be a momentary reaction, for some it is an unhealthy mental health problem that needs to be addressed. Some would call it the “fear of intimacy.” It is a real thing and here’s everything you need to know about it.

What is fear of intimacy?

Being intimate with someone is to share an emotional and physical connection with them. When you have a fear of intimacy, you fear becoming too close to people and it affects your relationships. People who have a fear of intimacy connect with their partner intellectually, emotionally, and with common interests or experiences. Also, people with this fear may not even realize that they are deliberately avoiding intimacy.

Fear of intimacy doesn’t mean that the person doesn’t want an intimate relationship, they may even desire it but they are unable to allow themselves the vulnerability to be in that sort of relationship.

A couple in bed
People with fear of intimacy find it difficult to develop sexual relationship. Image courtesy: Freepik

What are the symptoms of fear of intimacy?

It is very easy to confuse fear of intimacy with being cold, indifferent, or angry. Here are some signs that can help you understand it:

  • you have trust issues
  • you have low self-esteem
  • avoid physical contact
  • difficulty forming close relationships
  • unable to share feelings or express emotion
  • have trouble fulfilling your sexual desire
  • live in social isolation
  • you think you are not lovable
  • facing difficulty expressing your needs and wishes
  • avoiding physical contact completely

If you notice any of these signs, you may have a fear of intimacy and you may need to address it to have a healthy and happy relationship.

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This fear can be a result of a lot of things, including your past experiences. Here are the common causes of the mental health disorder:

  • Fear of rejection: Fear of intimacy could stem out of fear of being rejected. It could be due to a past rejection, avoiding the feeling of being hurt, or low self-esteem.
  • Intimacy anxiety disorder: Also known as an avoidant personality disorder, it is marked by poor self-esteem and intense fear of rejection.
  • Past trauma and fear: Experiences of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse can create deep-seated fear and mistrust of intimacy. Betrayal, infidelity, or heartbreak can create deep-seated fears that hinder future intimate relationships.
  • Attachment issues: Insecure attachment styles, such as anxious or avoidant attachment, developed in childhood can lead to difficulties in forming close relationships when you get older.
  • Low self-esteem: When you don’t have confidence, you doubt your worthiness of love and intimacy, which can make you avoid close relationships.

How to overcome the fear of intimacy?

The first step to dealing with the fear of intimacy is to know the cause of the problem. Addressing the underlying issues helps a person deal with the problem. Here are some ways that can help you overcome it:

1. Understand the root cause

To address the fear of intimacy, you have to come to terms with the problem and understand its root cause. Figure out if you want to be in a relationship, if at all. If you want a meaningful relationship, you should address the issue and see a professional about that.

2. Develop self-compassion

Life is uncertain and not everything will work in your favour. If a relationship ends, it doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong with you. Be kind to yourself and understand the situation with a calm mind. Acknowledge that fear of intimacy is a common problem that can be solved so be gentle to yourself as you work through it.

3. Communicate openly

While it may feel difficult to express your thoughts clearly and make the other person understand this fear, it is worth a try! Try to be open and honest with your partner. Express your fears, needs, and boundaries clearly and respectfully to avoid problems in your relationships.

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4. Have a positive outlook

Do you often think negatively about yourself or the relationship? You should identify and challenge any negative beliefs you may have about yourself, relationships, or intimacy. Replace your negative beliefs with more positive and realistic thoughts.

sexual performance anxiety
Replace negative thought with positive thinking to have a healthy relationship. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

5. Practise mindfulness

Since fear of intimacy is a mental health disorder, calming your mind can help and mindfulness techniques can help! Incorporate mindfulness techniques into your daily routine to help you stay present and grounded in your interactions with others. Practising it regularly will also help you observe and manage your emotions more effectively.

6. Take risks

Challenge yourself to step outside of your comfort zone and take calculated risks in building intimacy with others. Remember that growth often happens outside of your comfort zone.

7. Seek therapy

Consider seeking therapy or counseling to explore your fears of intimacy in a supportive and non-judgmental environment. A therapist can help you gain insights into your patterns and provide tools to overcome them.

With proper care and therapy, you will be able to overcome the fear of intimacy and understand what is required to create a long-term relationship.


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