Do you feel unsatisfied in your relationships? Perhaps you feel that you might have a tendency to keep people at a distance, or perhaps even push them away.
Feeling uncomfortable or afraid of intimacy is perfectly understandable. It isn’t always easy to let people in, close enough to see everything about you. However, this fear can also take a toll on you and your happiness.
It is important to pay attention to signs that you may have a fear of intimacy in order to understand yourself better, and learn what you may need for better mental health.
1. You struggle with low self-esteem
Low self-esteem can affect many aspects of your life, including how you might feel about intimacy. Fear of intimacy is often rooted in a belief that you don’t deserve to be loved. This can lead to you pushing other people away, afraid to hope that they can love and accept you, only to be disappointed.
Low self-esteem also goes hand-in-hand with being afraid to be vulnerable with someone. The thought of being truly honest and open can bring up fears of others discovering your shortcomings (whether real or imagined), and rejecting you for them. You may feel that being vulnerable opens you to potential judgment, and in the worst of cases, exploitation from those who might try to use their knowledge of your flaws against you.
Vulnerability is a necessary part of truly intimate relationships, and so you may fear that intimacy can bring your weaknesses to the surface, and force you to acknowledge the parts of yourself that are difficult to confront and accept (Bloom & Bloom, 2019; Fritscher, 2021; Gillette, 2022; Pietrangelo, 2019; WebMD, 2020).
2. You withdraw from physical contact
This sign alone may not automatically mean that you fear intimacy, as this can be traced back to several different factors. However, constantly avoiding physical contact with your partner can be one of several key signs that, when combined, may indicate a fear of intimacy.
It is important to go at your own pace when it comes to physical intimacy, but have you been actively avoiding, perhaps even fearing physical contact? Is there a part of you that feels the need to withdraw or avoid this in order to put up a barrier between you and your partner? If this is the case, you may have a fear of intimacy (Gillette, 2022; Fritscher, 2021; Pietrangelo, 2019).
3. You have brief or surface level relationships
Does your dating history consist of a series of short relationships? Some people call this “serial dating.” You might not have a problem with the initial stage of a relationship, but start to feel uncomfortable when it progresses to a more intimate level, and you become closer – and thus, feel more vulnerable – with who you’re seeing.
In terms of friendship, you might also tend to keep people at a certain distance. For instance, you may have a number of friends with whom you can hang out or joke around with, but you keep your friendship to a surface level so that none of them are emotionally close enough to you to really know you (Gillette, 2022; Fritscher, 2021; Pietrangelo, 2019; WebMD, 2020).
4. You feel unable to express your needs
People with a fear of intimacy may struggle with proper communication in relationships. Do you find it difficult to express your wants and needs to your partner or loved ones? Perhaps you feel as though you may not deserve their support, or that they will decide that you are not worthy of it.
Unfortunately, as your concerns continue to go unexpressed and therefore unaddressed, your needs in the relationship are not met, and you feel more unfulfilled. This may then gradually diminish trust (Gillette, 2022; Fritscher, 2021; Pietrangelo, 2019).
5. You are overly critical
Within a relationship, you may find that you also become controlling, difficult, and overly critical. You may do this out of fear of them getting too close, in an attempt to push them away and keep them from crossing the boundaries of your comfort zone.
You might also become hypercritical in this way because having a low self-esteem – which, as previously mentioned, can lead to a fear of intimacy – causes you to be hard on yourself. This in turn extends to setting the same expectations for the person you are in a relationship with (Fritscher, 2021; Pietrangelo, 2019; WebMD, 2020).
If you feel that a fear of intimacy may be holding you back, or keeping you from being truly happy, then it may help to take a minute to assess if these signs resonate with you.
A fear of intimacy can be conquered with courage, patience, self-reflection, proper support, and maybe a bit of help. A qualified mental health provider can also help you work through your issues and understand yourself even better.
Bloom, L., & Bloom, C. (2019, March 14). Fear of intimacy. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/stronger-the-broken-places/201903/fear-intimacy
Fritscher, L. (2021, August 10). How a fear of intimacy can cause you to avoid or sabotage relationships. Verywell Mind. Retrieved from https://www.verywellmind.com/fear-of-intimacy-2671818#toc-signs-and-manifestations
Gillette, H. (2022, February 28). How to overcome fear of getting too close to someone. Psych Central. Retrieved from https://psychcentral.com/blog/afraid-of-getting-close-to-someone-fear-of-intimacy#signs
Pietrangelo, A. (2019, January 10). Fear of intimacy overview: Causes, symptoms, and treatments. Healthline. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/fear-of-intimacy
WebMD. (2020, November 23). Fear of intimacy: Signs to look for. WebMD. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/sex-relationships/signs-fear-intimacy#091e9c5e8207efd4-2-2