Do you have intimacy issues? 

Having intimacy issues, also known as fear of intimacy, intimacy avoidance, or avoidance anxiety, is when someone is scared of being in a physically or emotionally close relationship. It can be very confusing to have a fear of intimacy. You may find that you don’t want to avoid intimacy at all. In fact, you may crave and long to be close to others, but continue to push people away or sabotage relationships without truly knowing why.

Intimacy issues can be caused by a number of things, including being neglected or abused as a child. Overcoming a fear of intimacy takes time and work. You need to dive into your past and reveal what’s causing you to feel and act this way. Most people find the patience and effort worth it for the chance to build fulfilling, loving relationships with others.

Defining intimacy

Intimacy is the ability to give your authentic self to someone else, experiencing true closeness and a deep bond in the process. Intimacy can be broken down into a number of different categories:

  • Sexual: Sharing yourself sexually with someone else
  • Emotional: Sharing your deepest, most personal feelings with another
  • Intellectual: Sharing your ideas and thoughts with someone else
  • Experiential: Sharing experiences with another
  • Spiritual: Sharing your beliefs about a higher power or your personal connection to the world and others with someone else

Intimacy issues aren’t clear-cut. You may find that you can share yourself sexually with someone else, but have problems unveiling your personal feelings. A fear of intimacy can involve one or more of the above categories.

What causes intimacy issues?

The primary causes of intimacy issues are:

  • Being anxious about losing someone you care about
  • Worrying about being abandoned by someone close to you 
  • Fears of being overwhelmed and engulfed by the relationship

These issues can exist individually or at the same time. Although they’re all different, all three primary causes can make you push yourself into a relationship and pull back when you begin to feel uncomfortable.

A fear of intimacy often starts in childhood. Things you experienced when you were younger can be triggered by your current relationships in adulthood. This is why it can be so confusing to determine the cause of intimacy issues when only looking at the present-day circumstances. You need to look into the past to determine the root cause.

Here are some explanations of what causes intimacy issues:

Anxiety disorders

Intimacy issues can be caused by social anxiety disorder. If you’re worried about being rejected, valued, or judged by other people, you’re naturally more likely to avoid making personal, intimate connections with another person. Various phobias, such as the fear of touch, can also make it difficult to be intimate with someone.

Modern technology makes it challenging to identify a fear of intimacy. Many people are comfortable in artificial social situations. They may claim to have hundreds of friends online, but no in-person relationships at all.

Fear of being abandoned

The fear of being abandoned is when you worry about your partner leaving you. This is often rooted in childhood when a parent or another important adult abandoned you physically or emotionally.

Fear of being overwhelmed

Intimacy issues can also be characterized by being worried about being overwhelmed, controlled, or losing yourself in a relationship. This fear is often caused by growing up in a family in which there are no boundaries and expectations are confused.

Common signs

The fear of intimacy can look very different in different parts of your life. It can play out in any type of relationship, including between family members, friends, and romantic partners.

It’s important to note that the intimacy issues you experience may be the opposite of what you’re trying to achieve. You may yearn for close relationships with the people around you, but your fear and anxiety cause you to do things that make it difficult to bond with others and maintain relationships.

If you notice the following signs in yourself, you may be struggling with intimacy issues:

  • Being unable to communicate what you need and want from the people in your life
  • Avoiding the discussion of serious topics in relationships
  • Trust issues with your partner when it comes to important things
  • An inability to share your personal goals and dreams 
  • Sabotaging a relationship on purpose when you start to get close to someone
  • Avoiding physical contact with others
  • Abstaining from being adventurous or spontaneous during sex


Seeking therapy is often the best way to overcome intimacy issues. This is particularly true if your fear of intimacy is rooted in a complicated childhood past. Your therapist will help you dive into your history and come to terms with any events from your current life or your childhood that could be causing your fear. They’ll support you while you put together a series of steps you can work through to beat your intimacy issues.

People with a fear of intimacy usually also struggle with anxiety, depression, or substance abuse. Your therapist will be able to help you deal with any of these issues, too, which will help you overcome the difficulties you’re experiencing in your relationships.

If you’re ready to overcome your intimacy issues, it’s time to reach out. Take the first step and make an appointment with one of our Cyti therapists today. They’ll be able to help you find out what’s causing your fear of intimacy so you can conquer it and begin enjoying the fulfilling, loving relationships you deserve.

About the author: Shiva Amin

Shiva is a licensed clinical psychologist providing telehealth services in California. She mostly sees clients who are struggling with anxiety, depression, work stress, relationship issues, and adjustment issues. She uses an evidence based treatment approach such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Solution Focused Therapy. Her goal is to provide each client a safe place to talk about their concerns, while exploring different perspectives and options in managing their difficulties.

Read more about Shiva here >>

The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. If you are in a crisis or any other person may be in danger,  these resources can provide you with immediate help:
Suicide and Crisis Lifeline 988
24 Hour Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1.800.273.8255
Crisis Text Line Text TALK to 741741