A fear of intimacy generally refers to a feeling of apprehension of developing close relationships. Although it most commonly involves a fear of committing to a romantic relationship, it can also involve the reluctance to form close friendships. Many experts define this fear as a social phobia and anxiety disorder. A common reason for avoiding intimacy is a fear of abandonment.
Some individuals who suffer from a fear of intimacy seek the advice and treatment of psychologists or social phobia counselors. Some of these patients exhibit an irrational fear of physical intimacy. In such a case, the patient may feel extremely uncomfortable when giving or receiving physical affection. Some cases may be sexually related, while others involve any type of physical contact, such as touching, kissing, or embracing.
Symptoms vary with each individual. While some people fear the physical aspect of intimacy, others have an aversion to any type of commitment or emotional attachment. In some cases, this may stem from a distrust of others, perhaps due to a traumatic experience that occurred earlier in the person's life. It may also be due to failed relationships from the past.
Some patients who suffer from clinical depression may develop a fear of intimacy. These patients may have an irrational fear of becoming emotionally hurt. This can present a problem with forming new relationships because, in many cases, the individual with intimacy issues does not wish to change his views.
In some cases, the fear of emotional intimacy can have a direct impact on a person's quality of life and lead to years of loneliness and isolation. Many individuals with this social anxiety drive people away and never form lasting relationships. As a result, they may suffer from long-term depression, which could lead to health issues such as insomnia and fatigue, and might jeopardize their jobs.
The first step to overcoming a fear of intimacy is to recognize why it exists. For many, the reason is a fear of what may result by becoming intimate. Learning to accept that rejection from others is an inevitable part of life and not allow this to diminish one's self worth is a good starting point. For others, having poor self-esteem can lead to intimacy issues. Gaining self confidence and learning to value and respect himself may help the person overcome this fear and develop meaningful relationships.