Fear of Intimacy: What is It and How to Deal with It
Psychologists describe intimacy as a fundamental human motivation.  It’s one of the greatest needs we have: we all want to feel wanted and loved. Yet, some people are afraid of getting too emotionally close to others – this is called fear of intimacy.
What Causes Fear of Intimacy?
There isn’t one single factor that causes fear of intimacy but you’re more likely to be afraid of getting close to others if you went through abuse and trauma or experienced a bad breakup. You might also be afraid of emotional closeness because of how you were brought up: if your parents shut you down when you tried to express emotions, you might have learned to ignore your needs.
The Signs of Fear of Intimacy
If you fear intimacy, it means that you display behaviours that make it difficult for you to form lasting and healthy relationships with others.
1. You struggle with commitment
Your relationship might be intense but they don’t last and you might frequently change your partners. You might also push your partners away to prevent them from getting too close. On the other hand, you might avoid relationships altogether to avoid getting hurt.
2. You don’t talk about how you feel
Being afraid of intimacy also means that you don’t open up enough to build a deep connection with another person. You might find it difficult to recognise and express your emotions.
3. You have low self-esteem
People with low self-esteem tend to believe that they aren’t worthy of love and that they’ll only be ready to be intimate when they become the best versions of themselves.
4. You fear abandonment
Rejection is never a pleasant experience to anyone but if you make efforts to avoid it even when a breakup isn’t the cards, it’s a sign you’re scared of being intimate with someone.
How to Overcome the Fear of Intimacy
1. Consider what made you afraid of intimacy
Was it a negative childhood experience with your peers that made you feel like you’re never good enough or parents who taught you that people can’t be counted on? Knowing what contributed to it allows you to work on its other aspects such as low self-esteem but also helps you acknowledge that it’s something you acquired when you were younger and not a belief you have to hold onto in adulthood.
2. Become more mindful
To successfully overcome the fear of intimacy, it’s also important to find out if your behaviour stems from this fear or if there’s another reason behind it. For example, picking fights with your partner might mean that you’re subconsciously trying to push them away but it might also be a sign that you aren’t compatible. Learn to sit down with your thoughts and emotions. You can simply take a deep breath and observe them without judgement. This exercise should help you learn how to listen to your body and improve your relationships with others.
3. Take one step at the time
Opening up to others is scary and won’t be something you can get used to straight away. Instead, take things slow and remember that being vulnerable in a world that sees it as a weakness can be a great strength. Try to do one thing that makes you feel uncomfortable a day, for example, admit that you’re struggling or pay someone a compliment.
If you’d like to work on your limits and relationships with others, you might benefit from counselling. Contact My Family Psychologist to see how we can help