What Is a Fear of Intimacy?

Patti Kate
Patti Kate
A fear of being abandoned may lead people to avoid forming relationships.
A fear of being abandoned may lead people to avoid forming relationships.

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.

Gaining self confidence might be helpful in overcoming a fear of intimacy.
Gaining self confidence might be helpful in overcoming a fear of intimacy.

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.

A fear of intimacy can be combated by being affectionate in the relationship.
A fear of intimacy can be combated by being affectionate in the relationship.

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.

The first step to overcoming a fear of intimacy is to recognize why it exists.
The first step to overcoming a fear of intimacy is to recognize why it exists.

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.

Body image issues can create a fear of intimacy.
Body image issues can create a fear of intimacy.

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.

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Discussion Comments


If you are with someone with a fear of intimacy, give them a chance. They are truly uncomfortable with some situations and it's not there fault.

And maybe I'm only saying that because I have it too.

But it's unfair to say "there not trying." If you were afraid of heights, and I asked you to jump off a building, would you? If you were afraid of sharks, and I suggested you swim with them, would you call me crazy?

You probably would.

I, personally, was put down into believing I had no self worth (it was not a home life situation), which caused me in return to be wary of touch or trusting. It takes a while for me to believe you won't hurt me if you attempt to get close to me, physically or emotionally.

If I think you are attempting to get close to me emotionally or intimately, I will flinch away from your touch and feel the pressure of it for hours afterwards. And it could have only been the brushing of hands.

But I am improving. And I do so by telling myself that everyone will hurt you, and life is too short to let that get in the way, and by slowly getting to trust people. And it works.


I have the same problem. I want people to hug me. But if someone hugs me, I shrink and feel very uncomfortable. Earlier, I used to feel uncomfortable with shaking hands as well, but now it is almost over. But still now I cannot hold anyone's hand or make any kind of physical contact.

I am single and I am afraid that my this problem will spoil my married life as well. I had a boyfriend. However, we broke up because the only thing that he wants from me is to be physical, which is not right. My friends make fun of me due to this behavior of mine. I never knew that nay other people also go through this kind of issue. Please help me to get rid of this problem. I can't hug anyone. Earlier, if someone touched me then it was like an electric shock. Matters are a bit better now, but still things need to be improved further for me to have a normal life.


My girlfriend and I have been together six years and it started off as an awesome relationship. We are best friends and also were very comfortable with intimacy. Before I was in the picture, she had many failed relationships because the guys "screwed" her over really bad. But after some time, she slowly got over these fears of closeness with someone else.

I asked her to marry me last year because she led me to believe that she was ready for this again. But about a month into the engagement, her past fear of intimacy kicked in and we broke it off.

We are still together and get along just great, but she has shut down sexually. That is a closeness for her that she doesn't want because of how emotionally she has been hurt by every other guy she has been with.

Even though I am nothing like the other guys, she still views me as a potential heartbreak. Her heart may not feel that way but her brain definitely does. Please help! What should I do? I'm not leaving or giving up!


I have never had a sexual relationship with anyone, even though I am 54 years old, and not unattractive. I have always had a sex drive, but have never liked close personal contact with others. I have friends, but I always keep them at arms length.

I was not abused, although as a child I was teased a lot, and I was always shy and quiet. Many times I have felt I missed so much by being this way, and I do get lonely, but when I think of actually being that close with anyone, I pull away.


This seems to be an article that hits home for many people, and in different ways from physical intimacy to emotional intimacy.

For me I was dating a man for three years when he proposed to me. We had talked about it. I knew it was what I wanted. Yet, when he proposed to me I was incredibly uncomfortable. I was not terribly old, I was 21, so I was not terribly young either.

We broke it off a six months later and I was horrified. I thought if I can't be comfortable with the idea of marrying this man that I loved then I must have fear of commitment issues.

We tried and tried to keep talking and figure things out but nothing ever truly surfaced that brought us crashing back together. He actually ended up getting married 2 years later. I was sad, but I was also relieved that I had not put us both through the emotional trauma for nothing.

In the end my fear of commitment was from something being "just not right" and I married seven years later and am happy to say I did not have a single uncomfortable thought about being married.


Some guys claim to have a fear of intimacy, but what they really have is a disinterest in you and their sights set on someone else. I learned this the hard way.

I was completely in love with a guy who claimed he had emotional intimacy issues because his fiancee had broken his heart. He said he never got over the hurt, and he would never let anyone get close again.

I thought I could make him learn to trust me. I persisted at trying to form a relationship with him, but he remained at a safe distance.

All that time, I really believed he had intimacy issues. Then, I found out through a mutual friend that he was seeing someone else, and he had been in love with her for quite some time. However, they couldn’t bring the relationship to light, because she was his brother’s ex-wife. So much for fear of intimacy!


@wavy58 - I used to hate being touched also. The good news is that I recovered from this, and so can you.

I used to dread going to church every Sunday, because several people would hug me or put their arm around me as a greeting. I started getting to church late after everyone had already sat down, and I would rush out the door before anyone could touch me after the service.

I talked to a therapist about this. He helped me immensely, and though your reasons for resisting touch are probably different than mine, I believe you could benefit from therapy as well.

One thing that he told me to do was to start hugging people before they hugged me. That way, I would feel in control of the situation, rather than feel assaulted or violated by unwanted embraces. It worked wonderfully.


I think I might have a fear of physical intimacy. Whenever someone pats me on the back or tries to hug me, I cringe involuntarily. I’ve never been beaten up by anyone, so this isn’t brought on by bad experiences.

Both of my parents are this way, though. While I was growing up, they never showed me much physical affection.

My sister noticed this as well, but she said it affected her in the opposite way. She longs for a touch and an embrace, and when she gets a boyfriend, she clings to him tightly.

Does anyone else here have an aversion to physical touch? Is there a way to get over it, or am I stuck like this?


Though I’ve had my heart broken many times, I never have a fear of intimacy when it comes to romantic relationships. I give my whole heart away, and if it gets returned to me in poor condition, I know that it will heal eventually.

However, when it comes to friendships, I do have a fear of intimacy. I used to long for close friendships as a teenager, and I had about three people I considered great friends.

Once we graduated, they never had time for me anymore. They got married or got jobs, and I was left alone, rejected, and in a lot of emotional pain at being abandoned by not one but three people simultaneously.

To this day, I back away from people who try to become close with me. I am fine with acquaintances and casual visits, but if you want to start going somewhere with me every few days, I will run away, because the pain of that triple rejection was too great to ever endure again.


My sister-in-law really struggles with fear of intimacy. It seems like many times you see this from the standpoint of a man who has a hard time, but it is not uncommon for there to be a fear of intimacy in women as well.

For her this is more of a social phobia and anxiety problem. She has a really hard time in groups of people - even if she knows them well.

I can understand this if you are in a big group of people and you don't know anybody, but for her, this even means simple family gatherings.

It is rare to see her at any family events. I was always surprised by this because when you talk with her one on one, you would never know she struggles with this.

She had two bad marriages and I think a lot of this problem stems from those marriages. Even though she is in a good marriage now, it seems like the older she gets, the worse the problem becomes.


This reminds me of a relationship one of my good friends has been in for years. She had never been married and began dating a man that was divorced with no kids.

They have been dating for 10 years and she would love to be married and he doesn't. His first marriage didn't work out very well and he has a big fear of intimacy in relationships.

As an outsider it is easy for me to say just quit seeing him, but when you have strong emotional feelings for them that is much easier said than done.

She enjoys having the friendship and companionship and is still willing to see him even though he can't get past his fear of intimacy.

I really don't think I would be that patient, but unless you are the one in the situation, it is hard to know for sure how you would react.


It seems like I have dated more than my share of men who had a fear of intimacy. Most of them had not been married before so I don't know why they had such a hard time committing to a relationship.

I have found that it is best to just move on and quit trying to change them or hope they will change their mind some day.

I would say one of the biggest signs of fear of intimacy is not being able to make a long term commitment to the relationship and being very uncomfortable to even talk about it.

Some of the men I dated didn't even seem to be aware there was a problem. I just hope if they ever do decide to get married they will work through some of the issues before they do.

I would feel bad for the woman in a committed relationship like that and never really feel like he was emotionally close.


Do you think that it's necessary to go back to childhood experiences to deal with this problem?

I have a problem making friends. I'm very distant to people and don't want them to be very close to me. I've been hurt by many people in my life that I cared about deeply. So becoming close to people feels like a vulnerability and I want to avoid that to protect myself.

Whenever I talk to my counselor about this though, he goes back to my childhood and my relationship with my parents and sibling. He thinks that this is the root cause of my fear. I understand and agree, but it's very painful to go through childhood memories.

Isn't there another way to work on this fear?

How are some of you dealing with it?


A close friend of mine recently told me that she has intimacy problems with her husband. They fell in love and married one year ago. She doesn't have a difficulty forming romantic bonds, but I guess she is not okay with the sexual part of it.

I talked to her about it several times and asked her what might be causing it. She thinks it's because of an abusive relationship she was in many years ago. She hasn't admitted it, but I think one of her boyfriends might have raped her or was really abusive to her physically. She never went to therapy or sought professional help after this incident and now it's affecting her relationship with her husband.

I'm trying to convince her that it's never too late and that she needs to speak to a psychologist right away. I hope that she can gather the courage to do it so that she can start to overcome the fear of intimacy she's experiencing.


@Sunshine31 - Sometimes the fear of commitment in men stems from prior divorces. A divorce can be really rough and many men may not want to come close to having the same thing happen again. I think that sometimes men are afraid of settling down because they think that they may miss out on someone better that may be around the corner.

I don’t think relationships are easy and in order to have a really meaningful one you have to be honest and be vulnerable and many people would rather keep that wall up instead of having their inner feelings exposed like that.


@Moldova - What I can’t understand is the fear of intimacy in men especially when they have the same partner for years, but refuse to get married. I don’t understand that.

Take Gene Simmons, the lead singer of the group Kiss. He recently married his live in girlfriend that he had two grown children with after living with her for 26 years.

She is really a patient woman, because I would feel a little insulted that he did not want to marry me within a year or two of dating. They seemed really happy, so I don’t understand why he didn’t want to marry her sooner. He must have had a fear of commitment and thank goodness his partner was patient.


I think that a lot of people are afraid of intimacy in many points of their lives. I think that a lot of this has to do with a fear of rejection.

Having been rejected by a romantic partner could cause a person to really be afraid to take a chance on love again. Many songs have been written about this very topic. If the breakup is traumatic enough it can cause a person to discount other potential romantic interests under the guise that they are “Too picky”.

If I had a nickel for every time that I heard this I would be rich by now. It is really a sad situation. My sister- in-law is going through this right now because she had a traumatic break up a few years ago and never fully recovered from that. I also think that her parent’s turbulent marriage and her sister’s multiple divorces don’t help her situation.

She recently bought two dogs to help her ease her loneliness. She has dated some men, but after a few dates she always finds something wrong with them.

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