Fear of intimacy is a social phobia which produces anxiety about being emotionally and physically close to another individual. It is defined as ‘the inhibited ability of an individual, due to anxiety, to fulfil a significant relationship with another individual’.
This terror can result in failed relationships and social exclusion. Sufferers experience feelings of isolation and loneliness, and an inability to connect with others.
The fear of intimacy has a number of causes. Experience of abuse or neglect tends to predispose a person to being afraid of allowing themselves to become vulnerable to a new relationship. The sufferer can inwardly fear abandonment which will bring about a guarded attitude, which will effectively prevent an intimate relationship.
People who are raised in families with little or no emotional intimacy are often afraid of establishing emotional contact with their spouses. The kind of family in which this occurs is often dysfunctional, with a background of alcoholism or some similar problem. In these families, intimacy is perceived as a threat to the unhealthy yet established behaviour operating within the system.
Fear of intimacy can also evolve from the embarrassment resulting from sexual abuse or early exposure to pornography.
The lack of intimacy will often result in individuals feeling lonely, unwanted, unloved, and emotionally deprived. In some cases, no meaningful relationship can take place, which can lead to emotional health problems such as depression and anxiety.
Sufferers are often self-centered or have low self-esteem or perhaps feelings of guilt. If left untreated, fear of intimacy can destroy any meaningful connections and lead to total isolation and loneliness.
The fear of intimacy is totally curable. Here are some of the methods you can use to solve the problem.
Always be genuine in your relationships. Always acknowledge your feelings and express them truthfully. If you feel angry or betrayed, or even annoyed, express your feelings openly. For example, you can use an expression like “I feel annoyed because I was expecting to see you there.” If you feel pleased or elated, express that too. You can say something like “I was delighted that you decided to come after all. I feel good when you are around.”
Instead of allowing fear of intimacy to ake charge of your life, step out and reveal your feelings. You may feel vulnerable or afraid at first but those fears will pass.
Learn to communicate about day to day affairs: you can learn intimacy by sharing your personal and everyday experiences. Also learn to discuss your experience of being betrayed in the past, and listen and sympathise with your partner’s experiences. If you do not have total mutual self-disclosure, then your relationship is unbalanced. One partner has opened up, while the other has hidden everything away.
Don’t play games, such as expecting your partner to read your mind or dropping hints instead of saying outright what you really mean. Talk about what’s going on in your life and how you feel and think. This way you build trust in your relationship, which helps you get over the problem. Don’t forget that, the longer your anxiety about intimacy continues, the worse it gets and the more difficult it is to conquer. So it is up to you to face up to the fear of intimacy and go out and get yourself a richer, more fulfilling life.