The fear of intimacy phobia is known by several other names such as Aphenphosmphobia (which is the fear of being touched) as well as Philophobia (which is the fear of love). As the name indicates, the person suffering from the fear of intimacy phobia dreads intimacy (shared between lovers or other close relationships with parents, siblings and friends). Since most close relationships are based on deep emotional bonds, the person suffering from this fear is unable to share a meaningful association with any person.
Causes of Aphenphosmphobia
Abandonment and engulfment are the two main factors that are likely to cause Aphenphosmphobia. The sufferer is likely to fear getting intimate with a partner thinking s/he would leave eventually. (In case of the fear of engulfment, the individual dreads ‘losing his/her individuality’ owing to the relationship).
Generally speaking, the roots of the fear of intimacy phobia are embedded in one’s childhood though painful romantic relationships in one’s adulthood can also lead to such a phobia. As a result, the phobic tends to draw in a partner towards oneself only to eventually push him/her (the partner) away. As a result, the relationship is filled with friction that, in turn, affects the physical intimacy between two individuals.
Clinical psychologists also blame tumultuous relationships between parents (owing to extra marital affairs on either parent’s part) for the fear of intimacy phobia in a child/adult. Emotional, physical and sexual abuse victims are also likely to suffer Aphenphosmphobia as it is difficult for them to trust anyone enough to get emotionally or physically intimate with.
Symptoms of Aphenphosmphobia and the fear of intimacy
There are several physical, emotional and cognitive symptoms and signs that are indicative of the fear of intimacy phobia.
The physical symptoms include muscle pain, gastrointestinal distress and nausea, sweating, increased heart rate and shaking/trembling at the mere thought of getting intimate with someone. Often, these signs are mistaken for some other illnesses when they are actually the body’s way of preparing itself for a fight or flight response to intimacy.
Full blown anxiety and panic attacks are also likely in the person suffering from the fear of intimacy. S/he is likely to feel scared and confused and is unable to distinguish between reality and unreality.
The phobic associates the feeling of vulnerability s/he has experienced in the past with weakness and inferiority and tries to either control people or avoid them completely.
Treatment of Aphenphosmphobia
Self help is the best known treatment for overcoming the fear of intimacy phobia. Becoming aware of this fear is the first step in the healing process.
Experts recommend making a list and writing down thoughts about the events that may trigger the aforementioned symptoms. Patients must write down their subjective assumptions, along with their beliefs, judgments and predictions. This can help the individual look for subjective evidence of the fear provoking thoughts. Patients must also write down answers to the following questions:
- What is the worst that could happen if I get intimate?
- What good might come out of the situation?
- How tolerable would the consequences be?
These questions can help one confront the situation in a step-by-step manner. Deep breathing and conscious stopping of negative thoughts can also help one overcome one’s fear of intimacy phobia.
Apart from these, there are many other treatment options such as Cognitive behavior and behavior therapy, Hypnotherapy, Counseling and Psychotherapy, group therapy as well as drugs to overcome the fear of intimacy phobia.
A fear of intimacy can definitely affect one’s quality of life and also impact one’s day-to-day functioning. If your fear of intimacy phobia is causing you distress or depression, then you should not hesitate to seek help for it.
I don’t really have a romantic relationship, I had a few crushes in high school, but they were unrequited. I was kind of sad about it, but also really relieved.
I have a lot of people in my family who have dated, and their relationships always end up in disaster. It was always bad, and they would always tell me how their partners would be controlling or how they would fight and yell at each other.
Every time I think about having a close relationship, I think it would be nice, but I would probably mess it up in some way because of all my problems, and it would be too much to handle. Or maybe the person would be too controlling and tell me what to do or make me do things I don’t want to do, and I would hate that. And every time I think about that possibility, I stop wanting to have relationships altogether.
I can’t trust my therapist, my friends, or my family. I try to be nice to them and listen to their problems, but I can’t talk about mine, and if they are too pushy, I get aggressive and storm off. Sometimes even when someone wants to touch me, just thinking about how they would react if I told them about my problems makes my stomach turn, and I try to get away, or I tell them not to touch me. Because I know for certain that if they really knew me, they would feel disgusted or uncomfortable by me, or they would scream at me.
Still, sometimes I fantasize about opening up to someone about everything and them telling me it’s ok, that they love me, and that it’s safe. But that’s just a dream. And even though I try my hardest to think love is unconditional, it is not. Probably it is not.
Jeffrey Curl says
Mine is long, but I will cut it up the best I can: when I was a kid, I saw female students like all the time. But then there was one day in grade school that changed everything. My ears bled, and I had to be taken to the hospital. That’s not the worst part. I had to undress not in front of one girl but TWO girls. My mom and a nurse. I wasn’t wearing underwear that day, and they saw practically everything. So, we got in the room, and no one told me this, but I was on the table, lying on my back. Suddenly I hear “breathe this.” I was like NO. But then I was gassed. Later in life, I felt a disconnection from life and friends. Because A, literally no friends (except a few guys, then they left), and B, I’ve never felt happy during my time in school, and I tried so hard to find happiness and couldn’t find any. Because C, I always avoided intimacy. I would talk to someone about my environment rather than my feelings. So, I’m 25 now, and I still have trouble with intimacy. I’ve opened a little (which is like on FB mostly), but I always try to hide my feelings, especially in person. Younger girls, IDK, they seem so scary but beautiful all the same. But most of my life, I tend to talk to adult women more (for a bunch of obvious reasons, and none of them have anything to do with sex because I never want it) because I want to open up more, but it’s so hard! I just wish I had never faced this issue. Taking Estrogen injections might help, but I’m going to try to sloth my way forward to get the help I need. I need a lot of happiness in my life. I never liked being a guy, ever.
Please leave your comments down below if you can. I know my typing can be a little off at times because I’ve had this issue for YEARS, and it just isn’t going away.
Not sure how it’s not classed as a serious condition with the symptoms listed? Anyone who has panic attacks knows it’s serious. Unless only physically debilitating illnesses are classed as serious?
Hi, I’m 20 years old and I’m a female. From the time I was 4 up until I turned 18 I was mentally, emotionally and physically abused by my mother who has narcissistic personality disorder and bipolar. Now anytime I get into a relationship I can touch and kiss and hug at first but as it goes on I get less and less comfortable with being touched to the point where I push my partner away because it makes me so uncomfortable and anxious, which leaves him thinking there’s something wrong with him but I know it’s just me. I also Nitpick and try to control him, I know I’m doing it but I just can’t stop myself. I get irritated whenever he wants to touch me. I feel like I’m being smothered and can’t breath. I get the strongest feeling of being uncomfortable. Also I deal with a fear of commitment again feeling like I’m being swallowed up and can’t breathe when I think about it. After all this I feel guilty and broken like I’ll never be right or be able to be close to someone without feeling anxious. I want to be able to be close but every time I try I almost have a panic attack.
john jackson says
My girlfriend was abused very badly sexually by her ex-husband for years, he belong to the mob. He said to her he would kill the kids if she did not play along with his sick game and that he would kill her sister and then herself. She became a drug- and an alcoholic. She went to rehab and is out. She owes a lot of people a lot of money big time and is paying them back. It has been 7 years and i am trying to hang with her but i hardly see her because of work schedules and her phobias. I love her very much but it is getting very very hard on me. Please give me some advice. Thank you, John.
Mel Neo says
Actually, fear of intimacy can be lead to one night stands and nymphomania where people throw each other away like garbage, and fear of intimacy isn’t always about fear of being touched. I think it’s important not to throw fear of intimacy and philophobia in with Aphenphosmphobia that much.
I don’t have an issue with being touched. My issue is letting myself get close to anyone. I was emotionally abused as a child and when the one person ( my grandfather) that I felt the safest with passed away 9 years ago that’s when it all started. I pushed my husband away and end in divorce and I been single since. Anytime I attempt to get close to someone i end up withdrawing closing myself off. To what may or may not end in happiness.
I struggle with this too, I was molested once aged 11 and managed to run away, I ran immediately to my father who told me I was lying and never believed me until I had a nervous breakdown a decade ago, and even then he couldn’t even remember it. Now whenever I feel I’m getting close to someone I run away from it or shut down mentally, this has undoubtably unintentionally hurt others. I’m 36 now and the last time I was intimate with someone I was 19. I’ve never had sex and frankly the thought of it terrifies me now. I recently tried engaging in a romantic relationship but only got so far before I shut down again and now whenever I see that person I can barely even look at her. It’s pathetic and it’s gone on for so long now I don’t know what to do about it. I feel stupid, useless angry and impotent. I’ve recently started having anxiety attacks too, it’s killing me and I don’t trust anyone to talk to about it.
Unreality should be Fantasy
The word you’re looking for is counterdependency.
I really don’t like being touched. I just feel weird and awkward when someone is really close to me. I have never been in any relationship in my entire life and I am in my 20s, the idea of a guy kissing me or holding my hand or cuddling just makes me really uncomfortable.
Alex Novak says
Best to deal with this by getting a dog. Then let the dog sleep with you. Find a mate with fear of touching. Also make a checklist to include sex and foreplay do’s and donts.
opara nkiruka says
this is a wrong answer to the question asked.
opara nkiruka says
rather than to sleep with a dog, you seek professional help maybe from a counsellor.
Have you considered you may not be attracted to the opposite sex? I had the same feelings when I was in high school and it was only when I had my first intimate encounter with a girl I liked, that I realised.