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.