Why People Fear Intimacy And What Can Be Done

Updated March 21, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

No Matter What You've Experienced, You Can Grow Comfortable With Intimacy.

There's an astounding amount of people worldwide that are experiencing less intimacy and developing a fear of it. The numbers are on the increase. More people are choosing casual sex and flings over a stable relationship with intimacy. People find it easier to be in a relationship that is not on a personal level. This can become unhealthy for the individual's mental health, and they also don't get the opportunity to connect with others on an emotional and interpersonal level. Online therapy can help you work through your fear of intimacy and find healthy solutions.

What Exactly Is A Fear Of Intimacy?

The fear of intimacy is a feeling that lingers in an individual's subconscious. A person who has a fear of intimacy will never allow others to get close to them on a personal level. In some cases, they fear getting intimate in a physical manner. They don't allow anyone to touch them and avoid sexual relationships. They may also refrain from other types of physical activity as well.

Essentially, a fear of intimacy is the fear of any form of closeness with another individual. According to Carol Descutner and Mark Thelen (the developers of the Fear of Intimacy Scale), the fear of intimacy can also be defined as "the inhibited capacity of an individual, because of anxiety, to exchange thought and feelings of personal significance with another individual who is highly valued." A fear of intimacy can develop from any form of dysfunctional bonding experiences ranging from early childhood parental attachments to relationship failures experienced as an adult. For example, one person who fears intimacy may do so because of childhood trauma, such as sexual abuse from child molestors or neglect by their parents, while another may fear intimacy due to being cheated on at some point in an adult relationship.

 In clinical psychology it is also known as "avoidance anxiety," because people who fear intimacy have a constant urge to remove themselves from situations that require emotional closeness.

Accepting a fear of intimacy can be difficult. Sometimes, those who have it aren't aware that they have it and people who don't have it are branded with the term by others. For example, not being interested in intimacy is not the same as fear of intimacy, though some will say so. Sorting through these feelings can be difficult but hopefully, this article can help.

Signs And Symptoms Of A Fear Of Intimacy

These are the fear of intimacy signs. Have a look at these signs if you suspect that you or your partner might have a fear of intimacy:

  • Fearing long-term relationships and breaking them off before reaching that point.
  • Avoiding serious conversations by making jokes about serious subject matter.
  • Discomfort when expressing your feelings or listening to your partner's feelings.
  • Lack of communication in your relationship.
  • Not wanting to know about your partner's feelings, emotions, etc.
  • Having difficulty with trusting your partner with anything, especially important matters.
  • Not allowing yourself to be spontaneous and adventurous with your partner in the bedroom might lead to a sexless marriage.
  • Not showing concern for your partner when they are stressed or feeling emotion.
  • Not having the ability to speak your mind and emotions to your partner.

Fear Of Intimacy Scale

The fear of intimacy scale is a psychological assessment that is performed to determine an individual's level of fear of intimacy and the prominence of their anxiety. It contains 35 self-evaluation questions. Scores are usually between 35 and 175. A high score usually means that there's a great fear of intimacy. Men typically have higher scores than women.

If you'd like to work on your intimacy issues, then the fear of intimacy test is advisable before working on your problems. You can find the various fear of intimacy tests and quizzes online, which are free. If you feel uncomfortable with taking online tests and quizzes, you can consult a marriage counselor to run an evaluation test. On that note, while taking the tests and forms, keep in mind that they are free quizzes on the internet. If you find anything shocking, talk to a professional before worrying too much or taking any drastic action on your own.

Why Do People Fear Intimacy?

The fear of intimacy can be caused by a number of things, some of which we will discuss here. Many people are unaware of why they have a fear of intimacy. Some of these reasons are rooted in their childhood. Here are a few reasons that could trigger a fear of intimacy:

Abuse During Childhood

Children who have been abused both sexually and physically during their childhood have a difficult time with trusting and getting close to others. If an individual who was abused during their childhood did not receive the help and treatment that they require, these problems can have a negative impact on them as teens and adults. Children that are experienced abuse also have a difficult time with expressing their feelings.

Not Having Any Role Models in Childhood

While this fact might not apply to all adults, some children are brought up in homes where intimacy is not present. We learn a lot from our parents, and children who grow up in homes where intimacy is not expressed may not learn how to express it. They may also think that intimacy is somehow wrong or inappropriate when they encounter it as adults. This is another factor that can contribute to the fear of intimacy. It also occurs in homes where the child is brought up by only one parent, especially if the parent was too busy working or taking care of other responsibilities to spend time with the child. After all, not all intimacy is romantic. Children from single-parent homes can have healthy approaches to intimacy if they had a close and trusting relationship with that parent.

Low Self-Esteem

This is a number one reason for fearing intimacy. Low self-esteem has become a common issue for both teens and adults. Low self-esteem can be damaging to a relationship with yourself and others too. People with low self-esteem have trouble with accepting themselves, and this makes it more difficult for them to connect with their partners on an emotional level. Apart from the emotional side of things, it also becomes difficult to have sexual relationships, as they are conscious of their appearance, perceived self-worth, etc.

People with low self-esteem first need to work on their own issues before seeking help with their marital issues. A counselor can help you with dealing with your feelings and building up your confidence. A counselor can help you with making peace with yourself and also teach you how to love yourself. Once this has been resolved, then you can start tackling your intimacy issues with your partner.

You Have Had Some Bad Breakups in the Past or You Have Been Cheated On

This is another top reason for fear of intimacy. People who have had their heart broken usually find it difficult to trust and connect with their current partners. A broken heart is never easy, and it can have long-term effects on an individual. These effects then creep into their current relationships. In some cases, people avoid and reject long-term relationships because they are afraid of experiencing the pain that they have felt during their breakup and because they are too afraid to commit. 

A fear of intimacy can occur if you have been cheated on but decided to stay and work things out with your partner. It's normal for you to find it difficult to trust your partner or to have sex with them. In such cases, marriage counseling may be necessary to work things out.

The Disadvantages Of Fearing Intimacy

While it is possible to survive without intimacy, most people crave close relationships with others. If you're one of those people that tends to want relationships with others, at some point in your life you will crave intimacy - no matter how fearful you are about it. Here are some disadvantages of fearing intimacy:

  • Lack of Libido and Living in a Sexless Relationship.It's not easy to make a relationship work when there is no physical interaction between you both. Especially when the other wants to have a sexual relationship, this can cause major issues in the relationship. Some people have no problem maintaining a sexual relationship without intimacy but this lifestyle isn't for everyone. You and your partner should understand one another's attitudes toward sex before you take this step in your relationship. That way, it's less likely to become a problem.
  • Feeling Alone and Isolated. Feeling alone and isolated can lead to depression. A fear of intimacy can also push your partner away, which also has a negative impact on the relationship.
  • How To Overcome A Fear Of Intimacy

How To Overcome A Fear Of Intimacy

There are a number of ways to try to overcome your fear of intimacy by focusing on your own needs and by working with a partner.

Start Slow

There's no need to rush the matter and pour out your feelings at once or take drastic steps in the bedroom. Start with general talk to your partner. You can start off by allowing them to speak about their feelings first before you begin speaking about yours. Another great way to start warming up to your partner is by planning some fun activities to do together. It can be as simple as going out for dinner, or even cooking dinner together. You can pick any activity that you would both enjoy. The point of this is to get comfortable with each other; it's a stepping stone to overcoming your fear of intimacy.

No Matter What You've Experienced, You Can Grow Comfortable With Intimacy.

heading off to work in the morning and by giving a kiss when you return home. Hug your partner during the day and cuddle at night. These little things will help you ease into a more physical relationship, and will help to bring you closer together.

Spend More Time with Your Partner Alone

Then spend this time with your partner. If you and your partner both work on different schedules, then try and take a little time off or work out a day and time that would suit both of you. Spending more time with each other will help with breaking your fear.

Discover the Roots of Your Fear

As mentioned above, fear of intimacy often results from an earlier personal experience. Dealing with the feelings relating to this experience can help you grow closer to your partner - even if dealing with those feelings is something you have to do on your own.

Seeking the Help of a Counselor

Using the tips above, some people are able to work through their intimacy problems on their own or with the help of a partner. However, everyone's story is different and some people may need a little more help.

Seeking the help of a counselor will not only be beneficial to you but also for your relationship. You might need to schedule some sessions with your partner and some alone. A counselor can address the cause of your fear and work with you on overcoming it. They will also try and break the barriers of your fear and help you with speaking about your feelings. With the help of a counselor, you can also tackle the communication issues that you might have in your relationship. When seeking a counselor, choose one that specializes in marital issues. You can attend face to face sessions with your counselor, or you can choose online counseling. Online counseling is more affordable and its more convenient but it can also seem new and strange. Below are some reviews of BetterHelp counselors, from people experiencing similar issues.

Counselor Reviews

"Joseph has been of great help and has helped me work on a few different aspects of my life. I've struggled with intimacy related issues that have caused my self esteem to dip, as well as career path anxiety. He's been a great help in guiding me to feel better about everything which has allowed me to continue to improve and get better. I'll definitely be coming back to him in the future if needed."

"He's not only provided me support but insight and encouragement to let me know I'm on a good path to self improvement and discovery. Furthermore, Mark has provided me valuable insight on my romantic relationship, specifically with learning more about the relationship dynamics and how to build a stronger, healthier relationship."


A fear of intimacy can make it feel like you are all alone in the world. However, this is really a situation that you are putting yourself in by not dealing with your problems. Once you realize that you don't have to face your problems alone, it can become so much easier to life a happier and healthier life with someone else by your side. Take the first step today.

Below are some commonly asked questions on this topic:

How do I know if I have a fear of intimacy?

What triggers fear of intimacy?

Can fear of intimacy be overcome?

Why does intimacy make me uncomfortable?

Why do I get the ick so easily?

How do I help my partner with fear of intimacy?

How do you fix intimacy issues?

Can a fearful avoidant fall in love?

Why do I not want to be touched by my husband?

Why do I get irritated when my husband touches me?

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