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7 Surprising Signs You Suffer Fear of Intimacy

by Andrea Blundell

intimacyIntimacy is mistakenly thought to just be about romance.

But intimacy is about all our human relationships. It means letting yourself be closely known, even as you make an effort to deeply know and experience others.

Why is intimacy a big deal?

Connection is a human need. Psychologist Abraham Maslow, in his famous ‘hierarchy of needs‘, places love and belonging third only to basic needs like food and then safety.

It protects our mental health. A study on men and depression found that even joining just one social group lowered chances of a depression relapse by 25%. [1]

And connection has now been shown by research studies to even protect our physical health and longevity.

A review of current research on social connection and health by researchers at Brigham Young university in America found that low social connection has as much of an affect on our mortality rate as not exercising, and is twice as harmful as being overweight. The review also suggested loneliness affects morbidity as much as a smoking or alcohol problem. [2]

[Really down and lonely and need to talk to someone, fast? Book phone and Skype therapy from wherever you are in the world, and talk to someone who really gets it.]

7 Signs You Suffer Fear of Intimacy

Not sure if your problem is or isn’t anything to do with fear of intimacy? Take a look at these surprising signs.

1. You never sit still.

Always busy, your life full to the maximum? If you do have down time, do you immediately think of what you can do to fill it? Or are you known as a workaholic?

Behind a fear of intimacy is a fear of facing up to yourself and what you perceive (erroneously) as your weaknesses. We avoid being close to others because they would then see these apparent ‘flaws’, which can be feelings of sadness, anger, shame and grief.

Being constantly busy all the time means you can avoid such feelings. And you have the perfect excuse to to avoid anyone wanting to get too close… you are busy! 

2. You are known as someone who is very positive.

Do you come across as someone who never gets upset, is always strong, and in a ‘good’ state of mind?

The truth about human nature is that we don’t bond over strength, but over weaknesses. Sure, we can bump chests and high five over group wins, but we form long lasting bonds when we see each other vulnerable, and have a chance to share empathy.

So always being forcefully upbeat is often a tactic to hide parts of ourselves and avoid deep connection.

3. You are the strong one others turn to.

Are you always listening to others talk about their wants and needs? If they try to ask about you, do you change the conversation back so that they are the subject again?

This habit of deflecting any focus away from yourself might see you come across as a ‘real friend‘.

But deep down, you are left feeling terribly lonely .Your constant focus on other people’s problems is being used as a shield for you to hide behind.

4. You always appear perfectly put together.

Do you always seem perfect and flawless?

The more perfect you appear externally, the less others can see that you are human and weak just like they are, and the less they will dare get close.

Your perfectionism acts as a way to intimidate others.

5. You are sure you know exactly what you want in a partner, you just haven’t found him/her yet.

Do you keep a ‘list’ of exactly what you want in a partner?

Another form of perfection, the ‘ideal mate list’ is usually something that nobody can live up to, and is a convenient way to brush off connecting with others by claiming, “I am sure of what I want and you just aren’t it.”

Of course, as an intimacy phobic person, even if you did stumble across your ideal partner, you wouldn’t choose them. Intimacy phobes are after one thing, and that is to avoid being hurt.

So you will pick someone who is emotionally unavailable (already taken, not looking for love, still hung up on someone else).

Or you’ll find someone codependent – wanting to find their happiness through another, and willing to manipulate and also hide their real selves to get it. Intimacy phobic people are in fact often called ‘counter-dependent‘ . This is the other ‘half’ of the codependency pattern, the aloof one to match the codependent’s voracious need.

social anxiety intimacy6. You are many different things to many different people.

Do you secretly have no idea how to be your real self? Are you so used to hiding the parts of yourself that you don’t like that you mould yourself to be what you think others want?

This could be called ‘Marilyn Monroe syndrome’. Everyone who claimed they knew her well had a different take on who the ‘real’ Marilyn was. The girl next door, the siren, the secretly intelligent woman. The real truth was that she was lonely, and felt that nobody knew her.

If someone falls for an image of you they want to see (but which you willingly provide), how can you be hurt if they decide they don’t like the image? You can just laugh at them and claim, “Well you didn’t really know me, anyway”.

7. You have very strong opinions.

Strong opinions can be like a way of pushing others back. If you offer enough of them, or become known for them, others are scared off, or tiptoe around you. You thus avoid any real intimacy.

This sounds like me. What do I do?

There are ways to learn how to connect, if you are willing to put in the time and effort into what can be quite a learning curve.

The first step is to get out of denial about your fear of intimacy and admit that there is an issue.

Then you need to learn about what connection is or isn’t. This might mean a few good books on the subject, or reading our other articles, including:

But a fear of intimacy runs deep, right back to traumatic or difficult childhood experiences, so we often need help to overcome it.

Therapy and overcoming a fear of intimacy

Therapy, at heart, is a relationship. For many, the therapist-client relationship is also their first time trusting another, and can be a place to try out ways of relating you can then take out into the world.

The wonderful thing about learning not to fear intimacy is that not only your intimate relationships improve. So, too, will your friendships, your ability to work with colleagues, and your capacity to actually create the life you want for yourself.

Need speak to someone about your fear of intimacy? Our new booking site Harleytherapy.com means you can be talking to a therapist by phone or Skype in the next 24 hours, and no matter where you are in the world. 


Has this article inspired you? We’d love it if you shared it. We are committed to making emotional health as important and normal as physical health so help us get the word out. Or leave a question or comment in the public box below, we love hearing from you.

 

Andrea BlundellAndrea Blundell is a well-established mental health writer and lead writer of this blog. Her favourite subjects to write about are relationships, trauma, and ADHD. Find her on Linkedin and Twitter

 

 

FOOTNOTES 

[1] Cruwys T, Dingle GA, Haslam C, Haslam SA, Jetten J, Morton TA. Social group memberships protect against future depression, alleviate depression symptoms and prevent depression relapse. Soc Sci Med. 2013 Dec;98:179-86. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2013.09.013. Epub 2013 Sep 25. PMID: 24331897.

[2]Holt-Lunstad J, Smith TB, Layton JB. Social relationships and mortality risk: a meta-analytic review. PLoS Med. 2010 Jul 27;7(7):e1000316. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1000316. PMID: 20668659; PMCID: PMC2910600.

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