Intimacy Avoidance: 13 Ways To Overcome Fear Of Intimacy (2024)

Do you often feel like you’re scared to get intimate with someone? That’s because you might have a fear of intimacy. 

Don’t worry though; you can fix intimacy avoidance if you set your mind to it. There are many possible reasons you’re afraid of intimacy, from early childhood memories to past relationship trauma. So hopefully this article will help you figure out where this fear is coming from and also how to overcome it.

Let’s dive in.

What is Intimacy Avoidance?

Intimacy avoidance or in other words, fear of intimacy, is the fear of making a close emotional or physical relationship with intimate partners. It’s often characterized by feelings of anxiety, sadness, and overwhelm during possible intimate relationships, sexual intimacy, or close emotional connections.

Even though you don’t want in your core to avoid intimacy, these scary feelings paralyze you and prevent you from forming that special bond with your loved ones. You may also crave intimacy and long for closeness with others but still somehow end up sabotaging your relationships. 

Fear of intimacy is not the same as fear of vulnerability, but they’re closely connected. You might be afraid of intimacy but still, be able to be vulnerable and open up to others. If you have intimacy avoidance issues, the biggest problem for you is getting too close to someone, either physically or emotionally. 

Remember that intimacy avoidance is a real problem; it’s not a choice. You didn’t choose that for yourself. It’s not your fault you get overwhelmed by close relationships. It’s important to understand that intimacy avoidance is ingrained from childhood and is usually a biological response to the way in which someone was parented. 

What Causes Intimacy Avoidance?

Intimacy Avoidance
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As I said, intimacy avoidance doesn’t just happen to you overnight. And it especially doesn’t happen by your choice. The fear of intimacy is generally rooted in past childhood experiences and triggered by close adult relationships

This fear makes you pull away from someone, even if you care for them deeply and don’t want to hurt them. If you want to overcome your fear of intimacy, it’s vital to understand where it all began.

There are many different reasons that could cause intimacy avoidance such as family abuse or neglect, medical problems, fear of abandonment, religious beliefs, anxiety disorders, fear of engulfment, or a combination of all mentioned factors. 

For most people, fear of intimacy is the result of fear of engulfment or fear of abandonment. It all boils down to the general fear of loss. Although these fears are very different from each other, they tend to have the same result — pushing others away from you.

Signs of Intimacy Avoidance

Intimacy avoidance issues can play out in different ways for different people. The signs can vary, depending on your attachment style, your personality type, or the types of your relationships. 

It’s important to understand that we’re all different so the best you can do is focus on yourself and try to see past the manifestations.

So what are the most common signs of intimacy avoidance? Here are some of them.

  • Serial dating – If you jump from one intimate relationship to another without ever fully committing to anyone, this may be a sign you have fear of commitment and you’re potentially intimacy avoidant;
  • Perfectionism – A lot of intimacy avoidant people are perfectionists who set high standards for themselves and chase external achievements instead of searching for validation inside themselves;
  • Self-sabotage – Another common sign is self-sabotage. If you sabotage your intimate relationships unintentionally, you may be the intimacy avoidant type;
  • Difficulties expressing emotions – Not knowing how to communicate feelings and needs can sabotage a relationship. It may be a sign the person fears intimacy and emotional connection.
  • Difficulties with physical contact – A fear of intimacy can also come from childhood sexual abuse which can cause intimacy avoidance issues during adult life and get in the middle of romantic relationships.

How Do You Fix Intimacy Avoidance?

Now that you understand intimacy avoidance a little bit better, you may be wondering if it’s possible to overcome it. Yes, of course, it’s possible to fix intimacy avoidance. You just need to have the right tricks up your sleeve. 

In general, the best way to fix your fear of intimacy is to explore your subconscious (preferably with a professional therapist) and reframe your negative thoughts. 

Once you figure out your triggers and past trauma, you’ll be able to overcome your intimacy problems and fully commit to your partner. You’ll have more successful social and personal relationships.

How to Overcome Fear of Intimacy

Here are 13 practical ways to overcome your fear of intimacy and develop meaningful relationships.

1. Awareness is always the first step

The fact that you’re right here right now reading this article shows that you’re ready to confront your fears of intimacy. Kudos to you! That’s a huge step. As they say, awareness is the first step to change.

It’s important to get to know yourself, especially if you have a problem with intimacy and commitment. Most people are scared to admit they need help or that a certain fear is not serving them anymore. So, be proud of yourself for getting this far!

2. Look back on your childhood experiences

One of the best ways to overcome your fears of intimacy is to do some self-reflection. Look back on your past relationships and early childhood experiences. 

How would you define the relationship you have/had with your parents? What was your childhood like? Can you identify where it went wrong for you? Generally, people who have intimacy issues have developed certain negative patterns during their childhood that are now getting in the way of their intimate relationships.

The attitudes and behaviors you witnessed as a child subconsciously shaped you and the way you act as an adult. Once you differentiate yourself from your past circumstances, you will be able to leave them behind and create new healthy patterns that will allow you to connect with your partner on a deeper level.   

3. Be kind to yourself

As much as it’s frustrating to have intimacy problems, don’t forget to be kind to yourself. You won’t get far if you talk negatively to yourself. There’s no one to blame for this, remember that! And you’re certainly not guilty of anything. 

So, learn to accept yourself and love yourself. When you start feeling unworthy of love, just stop! Don’t let those negative thoughts get a hold of you. Instead, acknowledge them and let them pass through you. 

4. Talk to your loved ones

Talk to your partner about your issues. You’re in this together, so don’t be afraid to open up to them. It doesn’t have to be your partner. You can also talk to your family members, friends, or a professional therapist. 

If it’s not too painful for you, try to share your fears with your loved ones. Tell them how you feel. Speak up about your negative thoughts and patterns. They might be able to help you by sharing personal advice or talking it out with you. 

If it’s too hard to talk to your close ones, consider seeking help from a professional who will have the right tools to help you overcome your fears. 

5. Talk to a professional

Psychotherapy is one of the most effective ways to solve intimacy avoidance. Mental health specialists can help you navigate your family relationships so that you can get to the root of the problem in the most profound way. 

They can also help you figure out where it went wrong and how you can fix it now. With the right professional, you will feel completely accepted and valued. This is how you’ll be able to overcome your fears and create new relationship patterns.

6. Focus on daily self-care

Daily self-care goes a long way. Don’t underestimate the power of a five-minute meditation session or a journaling activity. Even if it’s five minutes of your day, it’s essential to set aside the time for yourself. Whether you want to sit in silence or meditate, daily self-care will allow you to be kind to yourself. 

7. Try journaling

Fear Of Intimacy
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Journaling is one of the best self-care activities. It’s also a practical way of getting your feelings out and understanding your patterns. This can be particularly beneficial if you choose to overcome your fears of intimacy by yourself and without professional help. 

Journaling will help you capture your deepest fears. It will help you put your feelings into words. You will understand each and every thought a little better. 

And when it comes to intimacy avoidance, you will go a long way if you start tracking your behaviors and patterns in your social relationships. Over time, you’ll understand your triggers and potentially identify them even before they come out.

8. Be patient

Overcoming the fear of intimacy takes time. These fears are often deeply rooted in us and you can’t fix them overnight. If you want to improve your adult relationships, you need to be patient. 

Give yourself time to heal. Even when you’re making a ton of progress, occasional setbacks might occur from time to time. Don’t get discouraged by it. Instead, speak kindly to yourself and be patient.

9. Don’t listen to your inner critic

Try to recognize that little inner critic in your head that tells you things like, “He doesn’t love you. He’s only using you. You’re stupid for believing him when he says he loves you.” This critical voice of yours is not helping you in any way. It’s just getting in the way of your intimate relationships. 

When you feel like your inner critic is putting you down or hurting your confidence, you need to learn to let it go. Recognize it and see it for what it really is – just a cruel thought process that’s preventing you from finding true love. 

Once you identify it, you will be able to break free and learn to separate imagination from reality. Letting go of your inner critic will allow you to become the best version of yourself.

10. Out with the old, in with the new

Are you ready to let go of your inner critic? Do you really want to let go of your bad patterns, negative thoughts, and past trauma? If you’re not ready to do this yet, it will be very hard for you to uncover your truest self.

It’s time to get rid of old and negative behaviors. Out with the old, and in with the new. If you want to overcome your intimacy issues, you should be ready to embrace new patterns and learn new coping techniques that will actually serve you. 

11. Don’t block your feelings

You know how they say, “You’ve got to feel your feelings.” But what does that really mean? Well, it means that your feelings are what make you who you are. They make you alive. You shouldn’t block them out or pretend they’re not there. 

Instead, let them pass through you. Whether they’re good or bad, just let them be. Feel them. This will deepen your capacity for joy, love, and passion. It will allow you to care more deeply for your intimate partner and create a deeper spiritual connection with them. 

12. Don’t be afraid to be emotionally vulnerable

Being emotionally vulnerable is one of the biggest fears that most people have. But again, are you really living your life to the fullest if you ignore your emotions? There’s no reason to be scared of vulnerability. It’s what makes you human. 

Being vulnerable means you’re willing to be open to new people and new experiences. You’re willing to feel everything, both the good and the bad. You’re also open to breaking old patterns that no longer serve you. 

Being vulnerable is nothing to be ashamed of, quite the opposite. It’s a powerful and underestimated emotion that can allow you to uncover your true self.

13. Learn from the successful relationships in your life

Intimacy avoidance doesn’t mean you can’t form strong bonds with your friends and family members. So even if you’re afraid of intimacy, you probably have at least one close relationship in your life that you consider fulfilling and successful. 

Well, now it’s time to do some reflection all over again. Take a close look at your strongest relationship right now. Evaluate it and then use it as an example for your other relationships. If it helps, you can talk to your closest friend about it and hear their point of view. This will be a great exercise for overcoming your fear of intimacy and finding your inner power.

Why Do Avoidants Fear Intimacy?

Avoidants fear intimacy because they’re afraid to get hurt. As simple as that. They might have some past attachment experiences that have taught them to be fearful of intimacy. 

Being open and intimate can lead to negative emotions and avoidants simply want to avoid that. Unfortunately, by cutting down the negatives, they deprive themselves of the positives too. So when they look for closeness and intimacy, they struggle to find it because they’re not ready for that step yet. 

What Are the 4 Types of Intimacy?

How To Overcome Fear Of Intimacy
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Despite what some people think, intimacy is not all about sex. Physical intimacy is just one of the many forms of intimacy. 

Being intimate actually means being connected. There are four types of intimacy.

  • Emotional intimacy
  • Mental intimacy
  • Spiritual intimacy
  • Physical intimacy

Being close to your partner and fostering intimacy in your relationship means combining all four types of intimacy. 

Intimacy Avoidance in Marriage

Intimacy avoidance in a marriage can be a very challenging problem for both partners. One side may unintentionally or on purpose withhold intimacy, which could create a major rift between the partners.

As always, communication is key. If your partner’s fear of intimacy is getting in the way of your love life, don’t be afraid to tell them how you feel. Seek professional help if you can’t fix it together, but always remember to stay kind to each other because you’re in this together.

Related post: 20 Real Reasons Why Your Wife Avoids Intimacy + Solutions

Intimacy Avoidance Disorder

Avoidant personality disorder or intimacy avoidance disorder is a very challenging problem nowadays. Believe it or not, it affects about 2.5 percent of the population, both men and women equally. 

It usually starts in childhood as a result of childhood experiences or possible sexual abuse. Some of the most common symptoms of intimacy avoidance disorder are low self-esteem, awkwardness, shyness, etc.

Intimacy Avoidance Test

Intimacy Avoidance Signs
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Intimacy avoidance is often seen in people with the avoidant attachment style. If you want to discover your attachment style, here’s a great test to help you figure it out:

Discover Your Attachment Style Quiz

Intimacy Avoidance Narcissism

Being in a relationship with a narcissistic person usually doesn’t involve intimacy. It’s because people with narcissistic personality disorder see intimacy as codependence and a form of emotional strangulation. They avoid intimacy because it triggers their underlying fear of abandonment. Their emotional instability often causes them to see intimacy as the demise of freedom and something dangerous. 

Final Thoughts

Thanks for taking the time to read my article. I hope you found this article helpful and that these tips will help you overcome your fear of intimacy.

Remember that in order to be intimate with someone, you need to share a close emotional and physical connection with them. Intimacy avoidance might help you avoid negative feelings, but it’s also preventing you from being close to others.

Fear of intimacy doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t want to be in an intimate relationship. You may long for intimacy, yet somehow always find yourself getting scared by it. 

So, if you want to overcome these issues, start by taking a closer look at your past experiences. You can reframe your old patterns and create new ones. Don’t forget to be kind to yourself and the change will inevitably come.

If you have any additional questions about this topic, I’m here to help!

Don’t hesitate to reach out or leave a comment in the section below. Let me know your thoughts and I hope I hear from you soon!

About The Author

Bijan Kholghi is a certified life coach with the Milton Erickson Institute Heidelberg (Germany). He helps clients and couples reach breakthroughs in their lives by changing subconscious patterns. His solution-oriented approach is based on Systemic- and Hypnotherapy.