We have talked a lot on our mental health sites about relationship issues. Eileen Bailey, our community leader here on AnxietyConnection and ADHD Central has written a not to be missed five part series on how ADHD affects relationships. On MyDepressionConnection I have written on how depression affects relationships. And here on AnxietyConnection we have written about everything from how to deal with social anxiety and dating to how to deal with a spouse who has anxiety.
In this post we are going to talk about a specific fear with regard to relationships and that is the fear of intimacy.
What is the fear of intimacy?
Intimacy anxiety is the fear of emotional closeness with another. It can also include the fear of being sexually intimate with a romantic partner. The individual who fears intimacy will be reluctant to open up and be genuine for fear that they will be rejected for being their true self. They wish to avoid hurt and pain at all cost. There can be two underlying fears contributing to intimacy anxiety and they are the fear of ultimately losing their partner or the fear of being controlled and losing one’s freedom or identity.
What are some of the signs or symptoms of intimacy anxiety?
• The feeling that you don’t feel worthy of love.
• Avoiding close relationships because you feel that you will ultimately be rejected.
• Sabotaging a relationship when deep feelings develop. This can mean creating drama or instigating a fight when your partner shows signs of becoming emotionally close to you.
• Clingy and sacrificial behavior in order to keep the other person to remain in the relationship.
• Reluctance to commit to your relationship.
• Attempting to get your needs met within a romantic relationship with as little emotional investment as possible.
• Constant “testing” of your partner to see if they will leave you. Yet even if your loved one passes your emotional tests, the fear remains that they will abandon you.
• A lack of trust to be yourself in front of the other person and instead, trying to be what you think the other person expects.
• Constantly choosing the “wrong” people to date or have a relationship with, knowing that it will lead nowhere.
• Serial dating or lots of casual sex.
• Frequent break ups with romantic partners.
• Creating emotional distance with cool or aloof behaviors.
• Problems in the bedroom. The fear of intimacy can result in male impotency or erectile dysfunction. The fear of intimacy in women may also affect their ability to enjoy sexual relations or to reach an orgasm.
What causes the intimacy anxiety?
There are many different life situations which can contribute to a fear of intimacy. Some arise in adulthood where you have experienced painful romantic relationships. For anyone who has been hurt or damaged by a bad break-up, you may feel extremely fearful of opening your heart to someone new. Social Anxiety Disorder can also include a fear of becoming close to people within a relationship. People who have been emotionally, physically, or sexually abused may feel frightened at the prospect of trusting someone enough to be emotionally or sexually intimate.