| Caroline Knight

Overcoming Fear of Physical Intimacy: Signs, Causes, Treatment

Intimate relationships and feeling comfortable with sexual intimacy are a normal part of life. However, when you become fearful of sexual contact and avoid intimacy, it can result in sabotaging relationships or even not engaging in close relationships at all. You come isolated and alone with your fear of sex. When feeling uncomfortable takes over your life, it’s time to overcome your fear of physical intimacy, so you can truly connect with loved ones.


Signs of fearing physical intimacy

Intimacy issues usually don't develop overnight, and early signs of fearing physical contact vary by person. But some common symptoms may indicate a fear of sexual intimacy. (1)


  • Not believing in yourself or low self-esteem
  • Lack of trust in others
  • Experience panic attacks
  • Bursts of anger
  • Avoiding physical touch at any cost
  • Unable to form or commit to close relationships
  • Decide to live in isolation
  • Experience constant sexual desire
  • History of unstable relationships
  • Explained or unexplained vaginal pain

At times, these signs may seem like they are connected to other issues or relatively obvious. However, when you experience these negative emotions and fears, it's essential to look at the root cause.


Causes of fearing physical intimacy

Sexual dysfunction can have many causes. It may have to do with past childhood trauma or a physical condition that causes fearing intimacy.


Avoidant personality disorder

Avoidant personality disorder is sometimes called intimacy anxiety disorder. It’s an anxiety disorder that runs in families and tends to begin in childhood. Environmental factors also play a role in the disorder creation. It affects men and women equally (about 2.5 percent of the population).  (2) Avoidant personality disorder has many different symptoms, including:


  • Feeling shy, awkward, and unconfident
  • A dramatic sense of forthcoming problems
  • Sensitivity to criticism
  • Fearing judgment from others
  • Afraid of humiliation
  • Avoiding social gatherings and events


The exact reasons for this disorder aren't clear, but rejection or abandonment can trigger the response.


Fear of abandonment


Abandonment fears can happen due to different circumstances. One of those could be a childhood event, such as a parent leaving or a romantic relationship ending badly. Whatever the case, it causes you to become fearful of losing the person, so you avoid physical intimacy.


Past childhood trauma


Your childhood plays a pivotal role in your development and behavior as an adult. If you experience sexual abuse or witness sexual violence, you may become fearful of intimate contact. When this happens, you lose trust. Some of the symptoms associated with childhood sexual abuse include the following:


  • Engaging in inappropriate sexual behaviors
  • Lack of sexual desire
  • Hard time becoming aroused
  • Keeping emotional distance during sex
  • Feelings of guilt, anger, and shame when touched or during sex
  • Trouble having an orgasm or erectile dysfunction (ED)
  • Experience physical pain in the vagina


Fear of rejection


Fear of rejection may cause men and women to fear physical intimacy. It may start because you experienced romantic rejection or grew up in a family where you saw this with one parent. It causes you to avoid engaging in any kind of relationship in fear of being rejected.


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Genophobia is a fear of sexual intercourse. It can begin with sexual trauma or abuse and develop into post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or genophobia.  It can result from a physical condition, such as vaginismus or vulvodynia. Both conditions cause extreme pain for women in their vagina walls and tissue. Some people also develop genophobia out of fear of germs. (3)




Vulvodynia is a condition that causes burning and stinging pain in the female genital area or vulva. The painful symptoms may be constant or come and go. In some cases, touch, gynecological exam, or penetration triggers the reaction. Vaginismus is a kind of sexual dysfunction that causes women to fear physical intimacy.



Vaginismus is one of the most common sexual problems for women. It's the involuntary contraction of the pelvic muscles. For some women, the condition was always present before intercourse, and for others became an issue after becoming sexually active.   


Eating Disorders


According to Psychology Today, an eating disorder causes people to feel depressed, avoid emotional connection, and derive pleasure from intimate relationships. The person views connecting with someone as a loss of control and avoids sexual relationships. (4)


Bipolar disorders


Bipolar disorder causes people to have extreme changes in mood. The person can move from depression to mania within a few hours or days. Mood fluctuation can either create dissatisfaction with sex or an inability to feel desire or hypersexuality (constant desire for sex). Both cause stress on personal relationships and can lead to a fear of physical intimacy. (5)  


Treatment of fearing physical intimacy



Psychotherapy helps you to "talk" about your past traumas and find a source of the problem. You can have in-person therapy or online counseling. It's always helpful to speak to a professional to help you overcome your fear of intimacy. (6)

Believe in yourself


Becoming ashamed or fearful of sexual desires causes you to lose hope. You may also lack the communication skills to explain to those who love you what you're feeling. It may be obvious, but valuing yourself and learning how to communicate helps you overcome your fear.


Vaginal dilators


If the fear of sexual intimacy comes from vaginismus or vulvodynia, vaginal dilators can help ease the painful symptoms. Vaginal dilators or trainers stretch and lengthen the vagina naturally with no side effects. In a clinical trial, 80% of the participants experience less vaginal pain after using VuVa™ magnetic vaginal dilators.


Relationship issues are hard to overcome for anyone. But when you have a real fear of physical intimacy, it may seem like you'll never have a healthy sex life. Physical contact, love, and affection strengthen your well being. Once you overcome the fear of physical intimacy, you'll be able to have sexual encounters you'll enjoy.


Other VuVa Helpful Links:

7 Reasons for a Tight Vagina and How to Loosen 

How to use Vaginal Dilators 

How to Relax Vaginal Muscles, Vaginismus & Sex 

Vaginal Stretching - Keeping in Shape with Dilators 

Do Dilators Really Work? Yes, and They can Improve Your Sex Life!

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  1. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-freedom-change/201504/fear-intimacy-and-closeness-in-relationships
  2. https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/avoidant-personality-disorders#1
  3. https://www.health.harvard.edu/a_to_z/phobia-a-to-z
  4. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/when-food-is-family/201806/eating-disorder-recovery-the-connection-sex-and-intimacy
  5. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324595
  6. https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/psychotherapy

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Well what a surprise!!! A few years back we received an email from the props department on the Sex Education show on Netflix. They asked if we could send them a vaginal dilator set for their show. We couldn't say yes fast enough! 

Checkout Sex Education on Netflix: Season 2 Episode 8