What is intimacy
Intimacy, in general, refers to the level of proximity between two people. It requires vulnerability, openness, and trust.
Getting intimate with someone else on one level doesn’t necessarily guarantee intimacy in other aspects.
Whether it’s your relationship with your parents, significant other, friends, or employers
What Is Intimacy Avoidance( fear of intimacy)?
Being vulnerable and reaching out to connect with others takes courage and trust. However, for some people, risking the potential pain of rejection or abuse is much more difficult than it is for others, sometimes even becoming pathological. Just as sexual acting out can take over one’s mind and behavior, the compulsive avoidance of intimacy can become an obsession that dominates one’s life.
Due to past experiences, some people have a visceral fear of letting down their walls and trusting anyone enough to let them get close emotionally, spiritually, or sometimes even physically. They avoid intimacy by preventing or sabotaging activities that cultivate closeness and connection with self or others. Intimacy avoidance is described as “behavior that serves to avoid or block sexual, emotional, or spiritual intimacy with others, ourselves, or our Higher Power” (Recovery from Compulsive Sexual Avoidance).
Instead of tuning in to their feelings, for example, a person can disconnect from their emotions by denying, stuffing, or medicating them. Rather than be fully present in their bodies, many prefer to live in fantasy by reading novels or magazines, binge-watching television, or continuously using their imaginations to escape what is happening around them. They may even do this to the extent that they ignore bodily needs such as food, rest, and other self-care requirements. People may avoid intimacy with others by staying at home for days or refusing to answer the phone.
Signs of intimacy avoidance(Signs you have fear of intimacy)
Several signs can indicate that you or someone you know may have (fear of intimacy) intimacy avoidance. Here are some signs to watch out for:
1* Sabotaging Relationships
Someone with a fear of intimacy (intimacy avoidance )may sabotage their relationships with others. Some might avoid maintaining relationships, pull back from conflicts, or hold back from being emotionally close to the other person. Others may react intensely to situations, such as being controlling or overly critical, using guilt on their partner to express hurt, or being clingy.
Perfectionists can find it hard to form intimate relationships. They demand a lot of themselves and sometimes of others. They have extreme concern about how others see them. They may see their partners as holding impossible expectations for the relationship, leading to anger and conflict.
3* You make excuses and seem flaky
You demonstrate a pattern of excuses, and white lies to avoid getting too close. Perhaps you notice that the other person is interested in you, and your response is avoidance. You may tell the other person you “feel sick” or tell them that “something came up”. Over time they will get the message to back away from you even though it’s not truly what you want.
4* prefer to be alone when a situation starts feeling personal.
And not in an introvert, need-some-me-time type of way, to be sure. Rather, when it comes to connecting with other people, particularly through a romantic lens, you have to detach yourself after a certain point to draw a clear “don’t cross” line in the sand when a situation grows too intense for your liking.
5* You prioritize everything besides your relationships
Burying yourself in work or spending an abundance of time on solo hobbies are signs you fear intimacy. You may tell yourself that you are simply hard-working and independent in order to disguise what’s really going on.
6* You fall for the person who is unavailable
Time and time again you end up with a person who is unavailable emotionally. You are again with someone who doesn’t want to commit to a relationship. You may be unconsciously choosing a person like this because they prevent you from having to get close.
7* You avoid situations that could be intimate
Does the thought of a double date scare you? Does the thought of a small gathering with friends make you uncomfortable? Events like these would expose you to a level of intimacy you may be threatened by. Often this is hidden behind the disguise of being “independent” when in reality you are creating distance to avoid intimacy
8* You avoid rejection by “not caring”
You decide from the get-go that it won’t work so you don’t try. This is a common defense mechanism that protects you from possible pain if your partner were to reject you. Instead, you sabotage the relationship before that can happen.
Causes of intimacy avoidance (fear of intimacy)
Fears of abandonment and engulfment and, ultimately, a fear of loss are at the heart of the fear of intimacy for many people, and these fears can coexist. Although the fears are different from one another, both cause behaviors that alternately pull the partner in and then push them away again.
These fears are generally rooted in past childhood experiences and triggered by the here-and-now of adult relationships, leading to confusion if a person focuses on examining the relationship solely based on present-day circumstances.
1* Verbal abuse:
Children who are emotionally abused may grow into adults who fear being ridiculed or verbally abused if they share anything with others, which can lead to an inability to share and be vulnerable in relationships with other people.
2* Fear of Abandonment
Those who are afraid of abandonment worry that their partner will leave them. This fear often results from the experience of a parent or other important adult figure abandoning the person emotionally or physically as a young child.
People who experienced neglect as children may find it difficult to trust and rely on others, including intimate partners, as adults.
4* Fear of Engulfment
Those who have fear engulfment are afraid of being controlled, dominated, or “losing themselves” in a relationship, and this fear sometimes stems from growing up in an enmeshed family
5* Physical or sexual abuse:
Abuse in childhood can make it difficult to form both emotional and sexual intimacy as an adult
What is the impact of Intimacy Avoidance ( fear of intimacy)?
Intimacy Avoidance ( fear of intimacy) can significantly affect a person’s quality of life. After all, philosopher Aristotle described humans as “social animals,” a statement that recognized our need for connection.
Emotional connection is so powerful that its presence or absence can cause physical changes.
Research in 2018 found that touch — such as hand holding between people who share emotional intimacy — can reduce physical pain.
On the other hand, people who are isolated are more vulnerable to the health effects of the stress hormone, cortisol. High cortisol levels can lead to chronic disease, altered immunity, and disrupted sleep.
When someone has intimacy phobia, stress can occur from isolation and loneliness, interfering with socializing and forming friendships.
Intimacy fears affect couples the most because of the impact on multiple areas of intimacy — such as emotional, physical, and sexual. Sometimes, the fear of emotional closeness can expand to include a reluctance toward sexual intimacy.
How to cope with someone who has intimacy avoidance ( fear of intimacy)
Since every relationship is different, it is important to look at the dynamics of your own relationship and identify patterns that seem to trigger a fear of intimacy or commitment. In identifying these patterns, you should also consider your own behavior. Many people, in response to a fear of intimacy, will seek affection more desperately, appearing clingy and needy to their partners. Alternatively, some become angry and resentful, lashing out at their partners
1* Identify the Source
The key to overcoming a fear of intimacy, whether your own or your partner’s, is to find out and understand where this fear is coming from. Paradoxically, most people who fear emotional intimacy are really afraid of rejection, according to Margaret Paul, Ph.D., co-creator of the Inner Bonding® process, in her article “Fear of Intimacy” in “Huffington Post.” Individuals may feel unworthy in some capacity, believing that if they let their guards down, they are open to rejection. Often learned in childhood, avoiding intimacy is a defensive strategy that centers on the principle that if you reject people first, they can’t reject you. In many cases, people who fear intimacy have a history of traumatic relationships, either with an absent or unreliable parent or an early heartbreak. As a result, these individuals become wary of expressions of love.
2* Get Professional Help
Sometimes the hardest people to open up to are those who are closest to you. If the two of you truly value the relationship and are still facing difficulty with commitment issues, you may consider seeing a relationship counselor together. This will help with mediating as well as opening up and facing underlying issues head-on with the insight of an unbiased professional
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