couple in bed with intimacy problems

Symptoms & Signs of Intimacy Disorders

An intimacy disorder is a condition that makes it difficult to establish close or intimate relationships with other people. These relationships may be strictly emotional in nature, but they may also include various types of sexual contact. In some cases, the symptoms of a fear of intimacy may qualify as a diagnosable condition called social anxiety disorder. However, you can also experience intimacy problems without meeting the criteria for diagnosing this condition.

What Is Society Anxiety Disorder?

Social anxiety disorder (also known as social phobia) is officially recognized by the American Psychiatric Association as an anxiety disorder. All anxiety disorders produce strong forms of certain unwanted or disruptive emotions (e.g., fear, dread, worry or apprehension) in situations that don’t normally trigger these responses in the average person. A person with social anxiety disorder experiences these emotions in social situations that have the capacity to produce embarrassment or bring about the judgments of others. Fear of embarrassment or judgment may lead to a significant fear of intimacy.

Symptoms of Social Anxiety

Social anxiety can manifest in a number of ways. Symptoms experienced by you or your loved ones may include:

  • Worries about interacting with other people, even when the interaction is desired
  • Extreme self-consciousness
  • Intense fear of the opinions of others
  • Avoidance of locations or situations that involve contact with others
  • Difficulty establishing or maintaining relationships
  • Worry that begins far in advance of an upcoming social situation or event
  • Stomach upset or nausea
  • Muscle tremors
  • Facial reddening (blushing)
  • Excessive sweat production

People with social anxiety disorder have persistent fears, worries and other symptoms that are strong enough to disrupt their daily routines or relationships. These fears, which usually provoke physical symptoms as well as emotional symptoms, are recognized as irrational or unreasonable by affected individuals. Despite this self-knowledge, the fear remains. Symptoms of the disorder must last for at least half a year before doctors will make an official diagnosis.

Research has shown that people affected by social anxiety disorder can develop serious problems with intimacy. In turn, these problems can lead to difficulties with sexual communication and reduced sexual satisfaction.

Fear of Intimacy Symptoms

A person currently involved in a close emotional and/or physical relationship may experience a broad range of fear of intimacy signs and symptoms. The list of potential issues includes:

  • Feelings of unease or discomfort when expressing emotional truths
  • Fear of revealing deep feelings
  • Fear of showing concern for a distressed or upset partner
  • Fear of discussing unpleasant personal experiences
  • Fear of discussing emotionally painful personal experiences
  • Fear of committing to long-term relationships
  • Unease or discomfort when expressing affection
  • Fear of learning about a partner’s serious personal issues
  • Difficulty trusting a partner with important personal information
  • Difficulty being or feeling spontaneous in the presence of a partner
  • Fear that a partner needs you more than you need him/her
  • Unease or discomfort expressing personal need
  • Fear that a partner will start viewing you as a source of emotional support
  • Unease or discomfort about open communication in a relationship
  • Fear of discussing relationship problems
  • Unease or discomfort about sharing personal goals
  • Fear of discussing past situations that triggered feelings of shame

You or your loved one may also have had past relationship experiences that point to significant intimacy fears. Possible indications here include:

  • Having a reputation of being hard to know
  • Having a reputation of being afraid of personal closeness
  • Avoidance of opportunities to deepen a relationship
  • Use of specific behaviors or actions to avoid the possibility of developing closeness

The term intimacy disorder is not officially used by the American Psychiatric Association. However, this does not mean that intimacy-related problems can’t seriously interfere with the ability to enjoy life or experience relationship satisfaction. In fact, the presence of multiple intimacy issues can seriously decrease life enjoyment and relationship stability.

Resources

National Institute of Mental Health: Social Phobia (Social Anxiety Disorder) – Always Embarrassed          http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/social-phobia-social-anxiety-disorder-always-embarrassed/index.shtml

Andrew Kukes Foundation for Social Anxiety: Social Anxiety and Intimacy
https://akfsa.org/social-anxiety-and-intimacy/

University of Washington: Fear of Intimacy Scale http://depts.washington.edu/uwcssc/sites/default/files/hw00/d40/uwcssc/sites/default/files/Fear%20of%20Intimacy%20Scale.pdf

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