What Happens When You Suffer From Intimacy Anxiety Disorder?

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Intimacy anxiety disorder pushes people to avoid to completely shun physical closeness that could potentially cement a loving relationship

Many of you may have heard about sex addiction, especially because so many celebrities are often reported to go to rehabs that are specially created for its treatment. But its polar opposite — intimacy anxiety disorder is never discussed that openly, even though it is as shattering as the former.  

Intimacy anxiety disorder pushes people to avoid to completely shun physical closeness that could potentially cement a loving relationship. Unfortunately, it can also be an underlying sign of anxiety.

Issues such as performance fears, depression, being upset or sexually abuse could also lead upto it. Let’s delve into this less-talked about subject to better understand how to help a partner who you may suspect has this disorder. 

What Is Intimacy Anxiety Disorder? 

Generally speaking, intimacy anxiety disorder is almost like a self-defence technique. When a person with this disorder thinks about sex, they are overcome with panic or may feel nauseated or unwell.

They might even look for excuses to avoid getting intimate with their partners. 

You can equate this disorder to being anorexic. Just as a person suffering from anorexia shuns and avoids food, a person with sex anxiety may shun intimacy.

However, it is not to say that they may never indulge it. Even if they enjoy it, they would never initiate intimacy.

While this is a layman’s understanding of the subject, the American Psychological Association (APA) has actually defined this as the sexual aversion disorder. The association defines it as a condition where a person avoids any type of genital touching, including check up by a doctor. 

Now, as mentioned performance anxiety, abuse, or depression could be some of the reasons for this disorder. But they are not the only ones. 

Why Somebody Suffers From Intimacy Anxiety Disorder? 

intimacy anxiety disorder

It is a condition where a person avoids any type of genital touching, including check up by a doctor. | Image courtesy: Unsplash

Typically, a trauma could trigger this type of disorder, but that’s not the only reason. Anxiety in itself is also responsible. When a person suffers from anxiety, it could potentially trickle down to hinder other activities including intimacy.

If you often feel the following and have been avoiding getting intimate with your partner, chances are you are going through intimacy anxiety disorder as well. 

  • Heart palpatations
  • Anxiety 
  • Insomnia 
  • Fatigue 
  • Muscle ache
  • Irritable bowel syndrome 

These symptoms, although physical, can easily affect mental health. When you indulge in the act of intimacy, your heart rate goes up, you breathe heavily and might sweat. All of these feel like a panic attack for somebody with this disorder and so they would shun it completely in order to avoid feeling panicked at all. 

Additionally, some people may shun intimacy because it may add to their list of concerns including low self-esteem and shame. 

However, avoiding of sex in addition to any of these symptoms is not a sure shot way to identify intimacy disorder. But they can reveal the underlying issue and therefore, you must consult with a doctor at the earliest.  Which brings us to the final part, and that is its treatment. 

How Doctors Treat Intimacy Anxiety Disorder? 

If you are diagnosed with intimacy anxiety disorder, worry not. Like any other anxiety disorder, this is also treatable and doesn’t require you to visit the rehab. Based on the level of your situation, your doctor might recommend the following:

  • Cognitive behavioural therapy. Also called psychodynamic therapy, this type of treatment can help greatly reduce fear and crippling negative emotions. Depending on what the doctor recommends, you may get a one-on-one therapy or a group therapy.
  • Medications. You may be recommend medications for sexual performance and/or for your anxiety. This really depends on the level of your disorder and its best to consult your doctor about it.

It is true that physical intimacy can create vulnerability and even string negative emotions. But this is not to say that somebody who suffers from intimacy anxiety disorder cannot be friendly, but may not share much about their personal lives. 

If you or your partner are suffering from this disorder, its best to stand your ground and communicate openly. You should try to understand that when a person avoids a conversation, it is probably because it makes them anxious. 

So give yourself and your partner some space and reconnect in some time. Typically, an avoidance person may have other attractive qualities but you may not know much about this disorder until you form a relationship.

So if you are now in this relationship where you or your partner avoid sexual contact, be patient and realise that it takes years to overcome such emotions. 

Source: American Psychological Association, Centre For Anxiety Disorders 

Also read: Is your man gay? Don’t be so sure!

(Feature & lead images courtesy: Unsplash)

Written by

Deepshikha Punj