| Tara Langdale
Fear of physical intimacy can cause havoc in a woman’s life. It has a detrimental impact on her self-esteem and her romantic relationships, and if not dealt with, it can become a serious problem that hampers the quality of her life. Fear of sex (genophobia) is actually quite a common thing, but it can be overcome.
Overcoming fear of physical intimacy may require more than one form of treatment, and this could be psychological or physical in nature depending on the root of the issue. Our recent article on the root causes of fear of sex and physical intimacy addresses some of the most common reasons for this issue.
This article will take a look at what you can do to overcome fear of physical intimacy.
How to overcome fear of physical intimacy
Firstly it is necessary to determine whether your fear of intimacy stems from a physical or psychological issue. Fear of physical intimacy generally does have psychological origins, however for some women this results in a physical manifestation that can worsen the fears of intimacy.
Let’s take a look at the most common causes of fear of intimacy and how to address them:
Physical conditions can lead to fear of sexual intimacy because of the pain or embarrassment they cause. For example, if you have vaginismus you are dealing with a physical issue, but the condition itself is likely to have psychological origins. In this case you may need a combination of counseling or sexual therapy and some form of physical therapy (for example, pelvic floor physical therapy) to help manage the physical symptoms.
Lots of women have success with vaginal dilators, which allow them to practice penetration in the privacy of their home, in their own time. Eventually fear of penetration is likely to subside. Dilators can also help train your mind to release the anxiety you feel around intimacy.
If you have vulvodynia, you’re going to experience painful sex (dyspareunia), which tends to lead to fear of physical intimacy because sex becomes associated with pain. Vulvodynia is unlikely to have psychological causes, and will need to be treated with the help of an experienced practitioner. Typical vulvodynia treatments include pelvic floor therapy, natural self-care techniques, medications and vaginal dilators. As is the case with vaginismus, vaginal dilators can help your vagina get used to the feeling of penetration.
If your fear of physical intimacy stems from a history of sexual abuse, poor self image or performance anxiety, a professional counselor of some kind will be best equipped to help you overcome your negative associations with sex, or self esteem issues.
Psychotherapy comes in many forms, and the treatment required is unique to each person, but long-term therapy is generally beneficial in managing fear of intimacy. The most common types of psychological therapy are:
- CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy)EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing)
- Somatic Experiencing (SE)
- Other traditional psychotherapy for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
It may be necessary to have a consultation with more than one type of therapist to see if they are right for you. For example, a CBT therapist might introduce different ways of thinking or techniques to help you overcome triggers, whereas a sexual therapist might address your feelings and teach you strategies for reframing sexual activity. A counselor might be able to help you work through the underlying issues that caused your negative self-perception or performance anxiety.
If you think you may have a vaginal pain condition or you get severe phobic reactions to sexual intimacy, a proper diagnosis is important. Your doctor should be able to provide you with some helpful resources and where necessary, give you a referral to the right type of therapists for your problems. Overcoming fear of physical intimacy can sometimes be a long road, but it is certainly worth the effort. Make the commitment and you will get there!
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