by Andrea M. Darcy
Do you sometimes secretly wonder if your real problem is that you have a fear of intimacy? Learn surprising signs that mean you might be right.
Scared of intimacy?
It can help to understand what intimacy even really is. Intimacy is mistakenly thought to just be about romance or sex. But intimacy is about all our human relationships and isn’t about sex at all.
Intimacy means letting yourself be closely known, even as you make an effort to deeply know and experience others.
Typical signs of a fear of intimacy
Some signs of intimacy issues are obvious. We find that we:
7 Signs you have a fear of intimacy (that are less obvious)
But what about the less obvious signs? In those of us who grew up learning to pretend we were okay when we weren’t? And still know how to act like what we aren’t as adults? See if the following sound familiar.
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 can be a fear of facing up to ourselves and what we perceive as our ‘weaknesses’. We avoid being close to others because they would then see these apparent ‘flaws’, which can look like feelings of sadness, anger, shame and grief.
Being constantly busy all the time means you can avoid taking such a risk. 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 longlasting 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. It 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 would create a flaw so you could push them away.
6. 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 hide your fear of intimacy behind 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.
But isn’t avoiding intimacy better than getting hurt?
Actually, avoiding intimacy hurts us. It negatively affects our health.
A review of current research on social connection and health found that low social connection has as much of an affect on our mortality rate as not exercising. And it’s twice as harmful as being overweight and raises our risk of death to as much as a smoking or alcohol problem would. 
But if we find ways to develop intimacy, it helps our health, particularly 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%. 
These fear of intimacy signs sound like me
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 ability to work with colleagues, get along with strangers, and your capacity to actually create the life you want for yourself.
Need speak to someone about your fear of intimacy? We provide you with some of London’s top relationship therapists in comfortable central offices. Or try our sister site Harleytherapy.com where you can work with a registered therapist across the UK or by online as soon as the next 24 hours.
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Andrea M. Darcy is a well-established mental health writer, and lead writer of this blog. She also works as a therapy advisor, helping you find the perfect therapy for your issues. Her favourite subjects to write about are relationships, trauma, and ADHD.
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.
 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.