Aphenphosmphobia (Fear Of Intimacy)

People suffering with Aphenphosmphobia (Fear Of Intimacy) generally isolate themselves in order to avoid being intimate with anyone and the subsequent anxiety it induces.

What is Aphenphosmphobia?

Although Aphenphosmphobia relates to a fear of intimacy, the term can also be used to indicate a fear of being touched. In many cases, people with Aphenphosmphobia fear being intimate with another person, as well as being touched.

Whilst some people with Aphenphosmphobia may not want to be touched at all, others may be comfortable with some form of touching, such as shaking hands. When in an intimate setting, however, the thought of being touched may trigger a fear response.

When individuals have a phobia, they have a distinct and irrational fear of a particular object, situation or environment. Aphenphosmphobia (Fear Of Intimacy) is classified as a social phobia and affects the individual’s interaction with other people.

Aphenphosmphobia is often used to refer to a fear of physical intimacy but it may also indicate that an individual has a fear of emotional intimacy. In either case, people with Aphenphosmphobia tend to isolate themselves so as to avoid intimate scenarios. As well as choosing not to engage with sexual partners due to their fear, people with Aphenphosmphobia may avoid close friendships or caring relationships with family members.

What are the causes of Aphenphosmphobia?

People with Aphenphosmphobia may display similar symptoms but the cause of the condition may differ. There are numerous situations which can give rise to Aphenphosmphobia and these can include:

  • Fear of being abandoned
  • Fear of engulfment
  • Witnessing traumatic relationships
  • Suffering abuse

In some cases, individuals fear being intimate with another person as they feel unable to cope if the person subsequently decides to end the relationship. In order to avoid being rejected, patients develop a fear of intimacy. Although this may sound counterintuitive, the individual’s subconscious mind is effectively preventing them from being from abandoned by eliminating the risk of a relationship starting.

Alternatively, individuals who fear losing their own identity when in a relationship may also suffer from Aphenphosmphobia. Although Aphenphosmphobia may be a secondary phobia in this instance, it still causes very real symptoms.

If Aphenphosmphobia is rooted in childhood, it may be because the individual witnessed difficult or traumatic relationships. If the child’s parents are abusive to one another or if one parent is abusive to the other, this can be deeply traumatic for the child and may lead to an on-going fear of intimacy. Even non-abusive relationships can cause people to develop Aphenphosmphobia, particularly if they end in divorce or separation. Whilst an adult may be deeply affected by the breakdown of a relationship, they are generally able to rationalize the situation in a way that a child can’t. If the child witnesses the breakdown of a relationship or loses a previously stable environment, they may develop Aphenphosmphobia (Fear of Intimacy).

Similarly, if a child or young person is subject to abuse themselves, it can have a devastating effect on their attitude to intimacy. Even after the abuse has stopped, individuals may feel unable to trust anyone and will often fear being intimate with another person, due to the harm caused by their abuser.

As Aphenphosmphobia can be caused by various different factors, it can be important to identify the precursor to the condition before or during treatment. If a person is experiencing PTSD as a result of abuse, for example, Aphenphosmphobia may be a symptom of this. Different treatment may be required in this scenario, as opposed to Aphenphosmphobia which is prompted by a fear of abandonment or engulfment.

What are the symptoms of Aphenphosmphobia?

If an individual has a phobia, they are likely to experience intense anxiety when they are presented with the subject of their phobia. If someone attempts to become intimate with an individual with Aphenphosmphobia, for example, the person is likely to exhibit a phobic response. Generally, the Aphenphosmphobic person will shut down the possibility of intimacy occurring before this point and will attempt to leave the situation as quickly as possible.

If they are unable to do so, a panic attack is likely to occur. Depending on the severity of the individual’s condition, acute anxiety attacks may take place without the possibility of physical intimacy. For some individuals, seeing other people behave in an intimate way is enough to trigger their fear response. Similarly, some patients will experience increased anxiety simply by thinking about intimacy.

When panic attacks take hold, they can be extremely debilitating. Although they are caused by a psychological condition, in this case, Aphenphosmphobia, they cause physical and emotional symptoms. When panicking, individuals may experience any or all of the following symptoms:

  • Feelings of terror
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Tightness of the chest
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Weak muscles
  • Hypervigilance
  • Sweating
  • Dizziness
  • Trembling
  • Dry mouth
  • Light-headedness
  • Inability to think clearly
  • Desire to escape
  • Lack of control
  • Nausea
  • Shaking
  • Rapid breathing

How is Aphenphosmphobia treated?

Counseling, psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and hypnotherapy are all routinely used to treat phobias, including the fear of intimacy. Group therapy may also be used if the individual feels that meeting other people with similar issues will help them to overcome their Aphenphosmphobia.

As well as helping to increase the patient’s confidence, treatment aims to change the thought patterns of the patient and prevent them from having a negative response to intimacy. In addition to this, patients are often taught how to reduce or eliminate their fear response altogether.

If necessary, patients with Aphenphosmphobia can be prescribed anti-anxiety medications. Although these do not target the fear of intimacy directly, they can help the patient to reduce their level of anxiety. Often, patients use anti-anxiety medication as a short-term measure in order to help them gain confidence and engage in other forms of therapy.

With treatment, patients are often able to identify the event or situation which caused their Aphenphosmphobia. If there does not appear to be a particular incident which caused their condition, this does not necessarily mean that the patient cannot be treated. Calming techniques, hypnotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy and psychotherapy can still be used to successfully treat the patient, even if the cause of their condition is not found.

Preventing Aphenphosmphobia (Fear Of Intimacy)

Aphenphosmphobia has numerous, complex causes so preventing the condition can be difficult. If the patient’s Aphenphosmphobia has been caused by previous trauma, abuse or abandonment, their condition may only be prevented if the abuse and abandonment is dealt with when it is occurring. Similarly, traumatic experiences should be dealt with when they occur in order to reduce the risk of Aphenphosmphobia occurring.

If people have been subjected to numerous risk factors for Aphenphosmphobia, their risk of developing the condition will increase. If an individual is aware that they are prone to Aphenphosmphobia and similar conditions, they can reduce the chance of these conditions developing by seeking help. Working with a therapist to overcome feelings of neglect, for example, may help to prevent Aphenphosmphobia.