The fear of intimacy is a very common type of fear that many people of varying ages experience throughout their lives. It can also be referred to as “avoidance anxiety,” or “intimacy avoidance,” but overall means the same thing: a fear of sharing a close emotional or physical relationship. For those who are facing the fear of intimacy, our series of articles “The Fear of Intimacy” parts one, two, and three might be for you. In part two, we cover the signs and manifestations of intimacy avoidance.
The fear of intimacy can be seen in various ways in any type of relationship- familial, platonic, or romantic. It is noteworthy to recognize that these manifestations of underlying intimacy issues can often be interpreted as the opposite of what the person is trying to achieve when referring to connection. Many people might desire a close relationship but fear then prevents them from and prompts them to do things that can cause problems forming these connections.
Typically, the fear of intimacy is often most pronounced in those relationships that the person struggling with intimacy values the most. This can be a very hard point to understand for those individuals attempting to connect and engage with the person who has intimacy avoidance. The fear does not typically cause major difficulties unless one of the people desires closeness that they are not able to get.
Here are some of the specific behaviors, signs, and manifestations that are commonly seen with intimacy avoidance.
Serial dating and the fear of commitment. People who have a fear of intimacy are often able to interact with others, at least in the beginning of their relationship. It is at the point where the relationship grows even closer and the value of the relationship grows when things can begin to detach.
- Rather than connecting on an intimate level, the relationship takes a different path and is usually ended in some way- being replaced with another, more superficial relationship. This can be a noticeable pattern in many short-term partnerships, and there are a number of reasons why a person may look to have commitment issues. At this point, many are deemed “serial daters.”
- Perfectionism. An underlying fear of intimacy often leaves a person feeling that they do not deserve to be loved or supported. This leads to the person feeling that they “need” to be perfect to prove themselves to have a connection with anyone. This can take the form of being a workaholic, a people pleaser, or in the opposite direction- to push everyone out of their life and continue on their own.
Difficulty expressing needs. A person struggling with intimacy avoidance might have trouble expressing their needs, desires, and wants. This can stem from perfectionism or the fear of commitment, along with many other reasons.
- This can be a very troublesome aspect of the fear of intimacy, as partners and others are not able to “read the mind” of the person struggling with this fear. Thusly, their needs are left unmet and unfulfilled, which further drives the feelings of unworthiness. This can turn into a vicious cycle, that- with the lack of partner understanding- leads to further disconnect and lack of trust within the relationship.
- Sabotaging relationships. Those who have a fear of intimacy often sabotage their relationships, sometimes without even realizing it is happening. Acts of sabotage can take the form of nitpicking or being extremely critical of their partner. This manifestation can also trigger the person to make themselves unlovable in various way, act suspicious of trivial situations, and become accusatory of their partner for things that have never occurred.
- Difficulties with physical contact. A fear of intimacy can also lead to extreme feelings with physical contact. In some cases, the person with a fear of intimacy may struggle with even the most basic physical contact- trying to avoid even the slightest touch. Others may have a constant need for physical contact and become overly touchy in inappropriate times. In some studies, intimacy avoidance actually creates individuals with extreme sexual habits and needs.
If you are struggling with the fear of intimacy, plan a discussion with your medical care team or therapist to dive into the depths of finding out the reasons why this is, and how you can work to control this fear, learn to live with it, and reclaim your life.
Interested in learning more about the fear of intimacy? Read up on our The Fear of Intimacy: Are you Afraid? Part One or The Fear of Intimacy: Diagnosis, Treatment & Management: Part Three.