What is the fear of intimacy?

Fear of intimacy is described as a fear of sharing close physical or emotional relationships with others. People who are afraid of intimacy may experience distress or anxiety at the thought of being intimate with another person. Intimacy can take many forms, including sexual intimacy, emotional intimacy, intellectual intimacy, experiential intimacy, and spiritual intimacy.

Learn more about fear of intimacy, its characteristics, causes, and how to deal with it.

define fear of intimacy

The word “intimacy” comes from the Latin “intimameans “innermost.” It refers to the idea of ​​sharing with others the innermost or truest part of oneself, and involves building intimacy and connection in relationships.

Fears of intimacy include anxiety or fear of sharing close connections with others. People with this fear often do not want to avoid intimacy entirely, and may even desire it, but they may often push others away or destroy their relationships because of the fear.

Those who are afraid of intimacy may experience a fear of intimacy of all kinds, including emotional, spiritual, and sexual. Some defining types of intimacy include the following:

emotional intimacy

Emotional intimacy with another person may involve sharing your deep-rooted thoughts, fears, dreams, or emotions. Sharing emotional intimacy means feeling comfortable speaking openly about sensitive issues with others. This helps both parties feel safe.

experience intimacy

Those who share the experience of intimacy are connected by the shared experiences and moments. This might take the form of inside jokes or sharing memories with each other. Sharing experiences together can create a sense of intimacy and connection.

intellectual intimacy

Sharing intellectual intimacy with another person may involve sharing an opinion on a particular topic, knowing that it will be valued. This does not mean agreeing with another person or feeling compelled to change one’s opinion.

By freely sharing thoughts and ideas, intellectually close people often engage in thought-provoking conversations that may challenge one’s perspective without feeling attacked or judged.

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spiritual intimacy

Sharing intimacy with a spiritual base may or may not involve a certain religious practice. Spiritual intimacy involves becoming intimate through shared beliefs. This may involve prayer or worship between husband and wife.

sexual intimacy

Sexual intimacy involves sharing an intimate sensual relationship with another person. Shared sexual expression through sexual intercourse or other sensory activities can form a sense of connection and intimacy between people.

fear of intimacy

People who are afraid of intimacy can often form relationships, including romantic attachments and friendships, but when forced to act vulnerable or share intimacy in other ways, they may display apathy, apathy, or other behaviors designed to push others away.

Some common ways that people who are afraid of intimacy may distance themselves from others include:

  • Withholding feelings, being dismissive, or reacting negatively to others showing feelings
  • avoid physical contact
  • avoid sexual contact
  • become paranoid or suspicious of a partner
  • angry or lashing out
  • Extremely picky about partners
  • Feeling protected or having difficulty sharing emotions or feelings
  • trusting people

People who are afraid of intimacy may also have a history of self-imposed social isolation or unstable or unstable relationships. They may also struggle with low self-esteem and a fear of commitment.

What causes the fear of intimacy?

The causes of intimacy fear can be complex and varied. Some researchers have suggested that everyone has some level of fear of intimacy. However, more severe fears of intimacy often stem from past childhood experiences, trauma, or abuse.

negative childhood experiences

Pain or distressing experiences in childhood may lead adults to develop a fear of intimacy with others. Childhood experiences can determine how an adult trusts others. If a child’s trust is violated by abuse or trauma, as an adult, they may have difficulty trusting another person close enough to them.

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trauma or abuse

Intimacy may be affected if any relationship involves abuse or violence. The inappropriate use of their power by one partner over another can lead to a breakdown of trust and a lack of security necessary for intimacy with the other. Past experiences involving physical, emotional, verbal or sexual abuse can also lead to fear of intimacy.


People in relationships that experience constant conflict may find it difficult to develop intimacy with their partner. Underlying issues such as anger, resentment, feelings of hurt, lack of trust, or feelings of being undervalued can cause people to avoid intimacy.

communication problems

Those who are in relationships due to communication problems may experience intimacy problems. This may stem from a feeling that it is not well understood.

underlying fear

Fear of intimacy can also develop due to other underlying causes, including:

  • Fear of being abandoned.Worrying that a partner or person will leave once they really get to know you
  • Fear of exposure.Worry about your partner or friend learning embarrassing information
  • Fear of attack.Worry about sharing personal information with partners in case it can be used against you later
  • Fear of losing control. Fear of getting closer or closer to others can cause you to lose some sense of control over your life.

Diagnosing fear of intimacy

Clinicians Use Fifth Edition Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the official manual of the American Psychiatric Association for diagnosing mental health conditions, including phobias.

However, fear of intimacy is not a clinically recognized phobia, so there is no specific diagnosis for fear of intimacy. A psychologist, therapist or other qualified mental health professional can work with you to determine if you have a fear of intimacy, and where you fall. Some people are mild-mannered, while others may not be able to develop intimacy at all.

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The Fear of Intimacy Scale is a measurement tool that helps therapists objectively assess the condition.

Coping: Navigating Your Fear of Intimacy in Your Relationship

Many people experience intimacy barriers at times. However, if the fear of intimacy is interfering with relationships or daily life, you can seek help.

Some ways to deal with intimacy fears include:

  • Talk to a relationship counselor or therapist
  • If you’re in a relationship, focus on the good things and tell your partner how much you appreciate them.
  • Be open to your feelings, especially your partner
  • Make an effort to create opportunities for intimacy. This may involve planning a set time to interact together.
  • Discover new ways to build intimacy. This may include trying new activities to create experiential intimacy, discussing ideas for intellectual intimacy, sharing emotions you would not normally share with others to create emotional intimacy, and discussing spirituality to create spiritual intimacy of intimacy.
  • Create a safe space where you and your partner or other companions are comfortable and respectful of personal space


Fear of intimacy may involve a person feeling fearful, anxious, or distressed about intimacy with another person. This can occur in a variety of intimate relationships, including sexual intimacy, emotional intimacy, intellectual intimacy, experiential intimacy, or spiritual intimacy. Those who fear intimacy may have a history of unstable relationships, avoid physical or sexual contact, be isolated, and have difficulty sharing their feelings. Talking to a relationship counselor or therapist is an important step in helping to overcome your fear of intimacy.

VigorTip words

Fear of intimacy can be disturbing, but it can help. If you’re in a relationship but fear intimacy, consider telling your partner how you feel and being honest about your fears.

A relationship counselor, psychologist, or therapist can help you develop strategies to deal with your fear of intimacy, whether or not you’re currently in a relationship.