A reader recently asked: How do I know if I have a fear of intimacy?
It’s a complicated subject.
Plus, intimacy is personal, making it difficult to discuss with friends and family.
But don’t worry; we’re here to help you make sense of things.
First, we’ll answer a handful of common questions about the fear of intimacy.
Then, we crafted an intimacy issues test to help you gauge where you fall on the scale.
What Is a Fear of Intimacy?
People with intimacy fears find it challenging to open up and share themselves with others.
More than just a physical condition, fear of intimacy can also affect people emotionally, intellectually, spiritually, or experientially.
For example, “Anne” may not live up to her academic potential because she’s afraid to participate in class and is overlooked. Or take “David.” He finds it challenging to participate in group activities due to a crippling fear of socializing.
Some individuals only encounter challenges with one type of personal fear, but others may be saddled with all five.
Underneath it all, however, most folks who deal with the condition are afraid of loss. As such, they push people away before they get too close. Sometimes it’s a conscious decision; other times, they don’t realize what they’re doing.
Fear is rarely a welcome emotion (when it’s not serving as a shield). And the fear of intimacy can make people feel lonely and confused, especially when emotions are internalized, ignored, and fester.
What Causes Fear of Intimacy?
Are you scared of intimacy and wondering why? It’s not a one-size-fits-all answer.
Everyone’s life unfurls differently, and many circumstances, events, and experiences can lead to intimate fears. Common reasons include:
- Childhood trauma
- Sexual abuse or attack
- Naturally low hormones
- Body dysmorphia
- Fear of abandonment
- Fear of engulfment
The good news is that treatments and tools are available. Counselors, psychologists, and psychiatrists understand how fears operate and how to beat them.
Incorporating mindfulness into your lifestyle is an excellent place to start.
Is It Normal to be Scared of Intimacy?
Is it normal to be scared of intimacy? To answer that question, we first need to address “normal.” Specifically, what is “normal?”
When it comes to living life, there’s no such thing as “normal.” While people may have similar upbringings, no two journeys are identical — not even for twins.
That said, most people deal with some sort of intimacy issue at some point in their lives. Reasons differ, but the symptoms share homogenous contours. Individuals coping with intimacy fears are prone to:
- End relationships before someone can dump them
- Sabotage friendships for stupid reasons
- Brush important subjects, conversations, and conflicts under the carpet instead of dealing with them constructively
- Shut themselves off from other people
Remember, though, that we have personal freedoms, including a right to “clam up.” Nobody is obligated to share their life or space with everyone.
We’re all entitled to healthy boundaries that don’t belittle or demean another individual’s personhood. For example, it’s perfectly acceptable to:
- Ask someone to step away if they feel uncomfortably close
- Say no if someone asks you for a hug, but you don’t want to give one
- Request that someone cease talking suggestively in your presence
- Not share your religious or spiritual beliefs on demand
Rudeness is never necessary. But politely standing up for your personal and mental space is comfortably within the Overton Window of acceptable behavior.
Why Do I Crave Intimacy But Fear It?
Are you in emotional limbo? Do you wonder, “Why am I afraid of intimacy” — while simultaneously craving it?
It’s common to be curious about intimacy while harboring a healthy fear of it. In a way, it’s the classic struggle between instincts and contextual social mores.
For example, people raised in more traditional households are often taught that intimacy is a scary-but-sacred thing. As such, many of them develop complexes around physical touch, the human body, and spiritual respect.
If you both crave and fear intimacy, you’re not weird. It’s a common mixed emotion.
If you find yourself in an awkward situation, slow down and assess the situation, let your gut be your guide, and only do what you feel comfortable doing or saying.
Remember William Ernest Henley’s famous words from his poem Invictus: You are the master of your fate and the captain of your soul.
Fear of Intimacy Test: Learn Where You Fall on the Intimacy Scale
Ready to figure out if you have a fear of intimacy? The quiz below will help you determine the answer.
Your exact response may not be listed as an option. Simply pick the one that most closely matches your stance.
Note your answers, then score yourself using the key that follows the questions.
Do you feel uncomfortable when other people talk about sex or intimacy?
1. If intimate topics arise, I leave the room immediately — no matter who is there! I cannot even talk about intimacy with my best friend.
2. I love talking about intimacy with anybody and everybody. In fact, just the other day, I had a long talk with my work interns about their favorite sexual positions.
3. Sex talk makes me blush. And yes, I fast-forward through egregious scenes in films and television shows — even when I’m alone. But my spouse and I have a healthy sex life.
4. Intimacy and sex are a natural part of life for consenting adults. I enjoy learning about it, talking about it with friends, and I don’t believe in abstinence before marriage. But I’m also not talking about my sex life with colleagues in professional environments.
Is it difficult to trust your partner?
1. Nope. I never care where my partner is if they’re not with me. I never ask questions and expect the same amount of freedom.
2. I trust my partner implicitly. They’ve never given me a reason not to. Do I occasionally feel a tinge of jealousy? Sure, but that’s normal. Besides, I never make it a big deal.
3. Sometimes, I don’t trust my partner, and occasionally I’ll voice my concerns. But it’s not something that has a huge negative impact on our relationship.
4. Trust is not my strong suit. I check my partner’s phone frequently, and I do not like when they do anything without me.
What is your relationship history?
1. I believe in courting, not dating. That means no intimacy — including front hugging — until my wedding day. No kissing. No sexual intercourse. Nothing. Intimacy should only exist between married couples.
2. I started dating in high school. (Middle school crushes don’t count.) Over the years, I’ve had a few serious relationships. However, I don’t believe in casual sex and judge people who do.
3. Gosh, I can’t remember when I started dating. But since then, I’ve had several serious relationships and am not ashamed to admit I’ve had a one-night stand or two — especially when I was young and having fun.
4. I’ve never been in a serious relationship, but I started having sex very young. I cannot get enough and usually end up ruining relationships because I can’t keep my sex drive under control.
How do you feel about cuddling with friends, family, and romantic partners?
1. I love to cuddle with everyone who wants to cuddle. It’s nice to feel warm and safe.
2. It feels wrong to touch other people, but I appreciate cuddling with my partners.
3. Cuddling is disgusting and wrong. Nobody should ever do it. The only time people should touch is in service of making a new life.
4. I’m always cuddling up with people. Some people say it makes them uncomfortable, but I just ignore them. They’ll learn to love it.
Are you fearful of rejection?
1. I live my life to avoid any and all rejection. It’s a sign of failure, and I never, ever fail.
2. Rejection is a part of life. It’s unpleasant, but it happens, and I usually take it in stride.
3. I hate rejection and usually don’t take it all that well. Once, I holed up for six months over one.
4. I’m a [writer, artist, actor, musician, etc.], so rejection is an integral part of my life, and it no longer bothers me — whether work-related or romantically.
Who is the last person you hugged?
1. I hugged my [kids, partner, roommate, family member] this morning.
2. I hugged a stranger on the subway this morning — without asking.
3. About ten years ago, I hugged my grandmother.
4. It was probably a few months ago, though I don’t remember who it was.
How do you feel about yourself?
1. I hate questions like this. Please don’t ask me about myself.
2. I adore myself. I’m a high-value person in the top percentile of people.
3. I have healthy self-confidence, work hard, and genuinely like who I am.
4. I’m worthless.
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Are you highly judgmental?
1. If someone does something immoral, indecent, or highly inappropriate, I judge them and their behavior.
2. I’m human. Do I have opinions and judgments about people and things? Of course. But I try to avoid gossiping and talking about people behind their backs.
3. Of course, I judge people — especially those with different belief systems.
4. I’m way too busy judging myself to worry about others.
How do you handle intimate scenes in movies and shows?
1. I get up and leave the room if I’m with other people. If I’m alone, I turn off the program and vow never to watch anything like it again.
2. I may squirm and blush if I’m with other people. If I’m alone, I may use the opportunity to go to the bathroom, check out my phone, or fast-forward through it. Who needs to see other people having sex?
3. I watch them. Intimacy is part of life and part of the story I’m watching.
4. I created a compilation of intimate movie scenes and play it on a loop in my house. It’s art. I love to watch people’s reactions when they walk in for the first time and see it.
Do you purposefully stay away from other people?
1. Yes. I never go out. For all intent and purpose, I live the life of a shut-in.
2. No. I love being around other people. I invite myself to places and events all the time. People don’t mind.
3. I’m your average “loner.” Don’t get me wrong: I have friends I see occasionally, and I communicate with them electronically, but I also spend a lot of time at home alone because I enjoy it.
4. I feel like I have a good balance between public and private time and easily make new friends.
What’s your position on public displays of affection?
1. I find them uncomfortable. There is no need for couples to touch in public. I can’t stand couples that hold hands.
2. I’m not big on public displays of affection, but holding hands is fine if done in moderation.
3. To each his own. So long as someone is not having intercourse in front of me, I’m okay with whatever.
4. I love them! People are way too uptight. I’m a true libertine who thinks public intimacy — at all levels — is acceptable.
When a stranger smiles at you, what is your reaction?
1. I smile back. Unsolicited smiles are lovely and can brighten a day.
2. I turn my head. Why on earth would they be smiling at me? I don’t know them!
3. It makes me uncomfortable, but I usually manage a return smile — though I may blush.
4. I run up to them and thank them for smiling at me. Then, I typically dive right in for a hug without asking.
What’s Your Position on Book Clubs?
1. In theory, I love them. In practice, I hate them. It’s just another excuse to gossip and drink wine.
2. I love book clubs! I love getting together with people I genuinely enjoy, like my book club members.
3. They intimidate me. What if my contributions to the discussion are sub-par? What if I’m much less intelligent than the rest of the people? For that reason, I avoid them altogether.
4. I’ve been running a book club for over 20 years. I’m very picky about who is allowed to participate. Smart people only! And by smart, I mean people who think and act like me.
Have you ever been to a spiritual or religious service of another faith?
1. Yes. While I have my belief system, I enjoy attending different events at my friends’ places of worship. It’s good to learn about other traditions and cultures. Besides, their beliefs are just as valid as mine.
2. Never. I would never observe or attend a religious service outside my faith. It’s too scary.
3. Yes, I’ve been to a service outside my faith. But if I’m honest, I felt a bit uncomfortable and don’t think I’ll do it again soon.
4. Yes, I do it all the time! I usually show up uninvited. If there’s a meet and greet after the service, I use it as a time to introduce myself to people and immediately start debating with them about their religious views.
Intimacy Quiz Scoring Key
Look up your points for each answer. Then, add them up and see where you fall on the fear of intimacy scale.
|Question||Answer 1||Answer 2||Answer 3||Answer 4|
|Do you feel uncomfortable when other people talk about sex or intimacy?||0||3||1||2|
|Is it difficult to trust your partner?||0||2||1||3|
|What is your relationship history?||0||1||2||3|
|How do you feel about cuddling with friends, family, and romantic partners?||2||1||0||3|
|Are you fearful of rejection?||0||2||1||2|
|Who is the last person you hugged?||2||3||0||1|
|How do you feel about yourself?||1||3||0||2|
|Are you highly judgmental?||1||2||3||0|
|How do you handle intimate scenes in movies and shows?||0||1||2||3|
|Do you purposefully stay away from other people?||0||3||1||2|
|What’s your position on public displays of affection?||0||1||2||3|
|When a stranger smiles at you, what is your reaction?||2||0||1||3|
|What’s Your Position on Book Clubs?||1||2||0||3|
|Have you ever been to a spiritual or religious service of another faith?||2||0||1||3|
Where Do You Land on the Intimacy Fear Scale?
What did you score on our emotional intimacy test? Keep reading to see your analysis. And don’t get too upset if it’s not what you expected.
Deep Fears: 0 to 12 Points
If you scored 12 points or less, there’s a significant chance you’re battling some intimacy issues. For whatever reason, you have trouble getting close to people on several levels.
Your closed nature may be a product of your upbringing, a personal experience that severely impacted how you interact with other people, or simply a neurological difference.
If you want to become more open to people and ideas, consider enlisting a therapist or life coach to work on the matter.
Luke Warm: 13 to 20 Points
If you fall between 13 and 20 points, you probably aren’t terrified of intimacy but may still have some work to do. You’re able to get close in some areas but not all.
Doing intimacy worksheets, meditations, and journaling may help you cross that last proverbial mile and figure out your remaining blocks.
Well Balanced: 21 to 30 points100
Wow! With your 21 to 30 points, you’ve landed in the intimacy warrior sweet spot. According to our calculations, you know how to connect deeply with those you love and yourself.
Even better, you have a great capacity for compassion and understand how to respect other peoples’ boundaries.
Too Hot To Trot: 31 to 42 Points
Everything has its limits, and if you scored between 31 and 42 points, you’re likely crossing the intimacy line in some situations.
While we don’t all need to be uptight androids, some social boundaries make sense. To wit: Everyone has a right to their personal space.
If you fall into this range, it’s probably time to assess how you interact with other people and think about holding back a bit in certain situations.
How to Overcome a Fear of Intimacy: 7 Actions You Can Take
A fear of intimacy isn’t a permanent condition. Millions of people have overcome their worries in this department.
Some people need the help of a professional to conquer their issues. Others, however, use the tools and tactics described below.
Process Past Traumas
What happens to us when we’re young can stay with us for…well…the rest of our lives — if we let it.
Many people’s intimacy fears are rooted in past traumas. Pinpointing them and working through the requisite emotions may also erode your conscious and subconscious concerns about getting too close to other people on various levels.
Make Peace With Your Upbringing
Is your fear of intimacy directly connected to how you were raised? If you no longer hold the values that stand between you and strong physical and emotional bonds, release them.
How is up to you. Some people opt for cord-cutting ceremonies; others choose to move far away and start anew.
Work on Being Vulnerable
Being vulnerable isn’t easy for many people. But learning how to open up is vital if you want to enjoy deeper connections with yourself and other people. Learn to understand that exposing your feelings or emotions isn’t always dangerous.
How? Read books on the topic. Journal about it. Do vulnerability worksheets and exercises.
There are even online message boards where people discuss issues related to vulnerability. Participating in such a community is very helpful for some personality types.
Here’s the bottom line: If you don’t know how your body reacts to certain stimuli, how will you ever convey it confidently to someone else? It’s your body — don’t be afraid of it!
Read Up on the Topic
The more we know about a topic, the more comfortable we become with it. Reading about intimacy issues may help you pinpoint and overcome your specific problems.
Silence Your Inner Critic
That Inner Critic who lives in your head is always causing problems. It can be deafening when it comes to matters of intimacy. Do yourself a favor and stop listening to that monster. Get rid of it through meditation, self-confidence exercises, and shadow work.
The sooner it’s silenced, the happier you’ll be.
Mindfulness is the act of living in the now. Instead of stressing about the past or worrying about the future, people who practice mindfulness concern themselves with the moment.
Mindfulness helps with intimacy issues, which are often anchored in hypothetical concerns that already happened or may occur.
Thanks for sticking around to the end, and we hope we answered your questions regarding the fear of intimacy. Again, don’t beat yourself up for having conflicting feelings about intimacy and appropriateness.
Do what feels right for you, and be confident that you’ll learn and grow with each passing day.