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Fear of Sexual Intimacy: Recovery and Resources

The fear of sexual intimacy or any physical intimacy can have a massive negative effect on your romantic relationships. Fear and anxiety are also extremely challenging to regular life and can interfere with all-around health and wellbeing.

This blog post will answer frequently asked questions about the fear of sexual intimacy, its causes, and how you can begin recovering from it.

Is it normal to be scared of sexual intimacy?

It is common to be scared of sexual intimacy and touch when inexperienced or because of another condition that impairs the ease of intimacy. Although, usually fear dissipates with experience, reassurance, and often therapeutic techniques.

Avoidance of sexual intimacy is not the best way to cope with your fear of sexual intimacy. If you find that sexual intimacy causes you a great deal of distress it may be interfering with your mental and physical wellbeing.

Fear of any normal activity such as sexual pleasure inhibits you from enjoying pleasurable experiences, possibly depriving you of connection with your partner and your own sexuality.

What is the fear of intimacy called?

There are a few ways of categorizing and titling different types of fear, avoidance, and anxiety around sexual intimacy. Let’s begin with the easy ones.

Performance Anxiety - Although it is not necessarily a fear of sexual intimacy, performance anxiety gone untreated can spiral into an accumulated dismissal and panic around sexual performance. See this blog post for more on performance anxiety, causes, and treatments.

Genophobia or Erotophobia are often used interchangeably to underscore a critical condition that causes someone to have extreme fear and panic surrounding sexual intimacy. Sometimes to the point of feeling fear just thinking about sexual activity. This is not a simple “dislike” or sexual intimacy, it is a serious mental illness causing severe negative emotions and impacting regular life. Some related conditions could include:

  • coitophobia: fear of intercourse

  • gymnophobia: fear of nudity (seeing others naked, being seen naked, or both)

  • heterophobia: fear of the opposite sex

  • nosophobia: fear of getting a disease or virus

  • haphephobia: fear of being touched as well as touching others

  • tocophobia: fear of pregnancy or childbirth

What causes genophobia?

There are many reasons why someone can develop a fear of sex. It can range from medical conditions like Vaginismus, the involuntary clenching of vaginal muscles which prevents insertion of any type causing extreme pain.

There are a few other chronic reproductive disorders like polycystic fibrosis, endometriosis, and vulvodynia. These conditions are all chronic and can cause painful sex. It is possible that repeated failed efforts to enjoy sex can lead to fear and aversion to sexual pleasure.

Other medical conditions include Erectile Dysfunction or Delayed Ejaculation. ED has many causes, but persistent and untreated ED can negatively affect performance to the point of complete distress and fear surrounding penetrative sex. This is likely the same for Delayed Ejaculation which can lead the sufferer to be completely dissatisfied and find sexual intercourse anxiety-inducing due to their inability to orgasm.

More commonly, the fear of sexual intimacy to a severe degree is often caused by non-consensual sexual experiences and child abuse. Rape, molestation, and other instances of sexual assault can be incredibly challenging mentally and physically for victims of abuse.

Survivors often develop PTSD or CPTSD and other chronic mental illnesses due to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Sexual assault is prevalent amongst women and feminine presenting people, so it is likely that most survivors have experienced a fear of sexual intimacy at one point in their lives.

Outside of sexual dysfunctions, chronic illnesses, and trauma, it is possible to fear intimacy because of Body Shame or Body Dysmorphia. Body dysmorphia is a condition that causes someone to see their body as malformed or ugly even when that is not necessarily true.

Low self-esteem due to Body shame or Body Dysmorphia can cause panic and fear of sexual intimacy due to the vulnerable nature of the act. It can also be challenging for someone with any type of body shame or dysmorphia to feel turned on or interested in receiving pleasure.

How can I stop being afraid of sexual intimacy?

There are many ways you can access care to overcome your fear of physical intimacy. To begin, you should find the route or cause of your aversion and panic around intimacy. This could be anything from the fear of becoming extremely vulnerable physically and emotionally with someone, or it could be related to a traumatic event.

After this, you should seek therapeutic measures, such as self-help techniques, talk therapy, or even app-based mental health care. For instance, the Lover App helps address issues of sexual shame, low desire, and issues with orgasming.

Depending on the severity of your fear, you may want to speak to a medical or mental health professional. If your fear of intimacy is creating many problems in your life, you should seek help.

For a blog post that directly addresses how to have your first orgasm, click here.


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