Intimacy issues are common among those suffering from substance use disorders. Alcohol or drug addicts aren’t vulnerable enough to allow you to be intimate with them. Thus, many people that currently suffer from addiction or are in addiction recovery struggle with intimacy issues. Real trust, honesty, and love don’t exist in this mindset, though. During inactive addiction, the walls of defense are up. The person with an addiction must protect his or her addictive habits. This causes a lack of authentic intimacy. Thus, many relationships that involve addictions are built on lies, judgments, and false expectations.
Furthermore, individuals that suffer from addiction become victims of their own intimacy issues and will blame you for their failures and fear of intimacy. This is the alcoholic way.
Intimacy has multiple dimensions, according to Healing Together by Wayne Kritsberg). These dimensions include physical closeness and setting boundaries, emotionally surviving conflict, becoming vulnerable, and sharing feelings. They also include sharing the same mentality, a shared value system, common life plans, and conscious living. Additionally, they consist of shared spiritual awareness, practice, and service. People that suffer from intimacy issues often struggle to get close to others or express themselves in these ways.
Sometimes these types of intimacy struggles can be so overwhelming that they cause individuals to relapse. Thus, to maintain long-term sobriety, it’s imperative that individuals actively work on their various intimacy issues while in addiction treatment and recovery.
How Intimacy Issues Can Help Cause Addiction
Oftentimes there is one or more underlying reasons for why a person starts abusing substances. The most common underlying reason is mental illness. This is because people with mental health disorders often use substances to cope.
While mental illness is a common trigger for addiction, there are many things that can play into why a person develops a mental illness. For one, it’s possible that individuals can develop mental illnesses as a result of their substance use due to the chemical changes that drugs cause on the brain. Other than that, it’s very common for people to develop mental illnesses due to trauma or intense fears and anxieties.
One intense fear and form of anxiety that can cause people to develop mental illnesses is the fear of intimacy. People that fear intimacy don’t necessarily fear intimacy itself, but the possible negative outcomes of intimacy. For example, many people that suffer from a fear of intimacy are afraid of getting hurt by someone that they allowed themselves to get close to. Thus, out of fear, many people with intimacy issues avoid getting close to others altogether.
This is not a good solution to their issues, though, as avoiding intimacy causes people to feel lonely. It also causes people to not have as much support in their lives as they could. Thus, many people with intimacy issues struggle emotionally and mentally through life, which is the reason why many of them may develop mental health disorders that then lead to substance use.
Four Dimensions of Intimacy
There are four major dimensions or types of intimacy. These include physical intimacy, emotional intimacy, mental intimacy, and spiritual intimacy. People that suffer from a fear of intimacy are usually afraid of getting close to others in these four ways.
Physical Intimacy Issues and Addiction
People that suffer from physical intimacy issues have a fear of getting physically close to other people. This fear could cause people to struggle to maintain healthy sexual and non-sexual relationships. Thus many people with physical intimacy issues avoid romantic relationships altogether even though they may really want them.
Many people that struggle with physical intimacy issues also have trouble setting appropriate physical boundaries for themselves with others. As a result, people with physical intimacy issues are often awkwardly standoffish.
Like all intimacy issues, a lack of physical intimacy can cause people to feel alone and isolated, thus opening the door for them to become depressed. Such depressive feelings combined with the anxious feelings that people with intimacy issues already often feel can cause people with physical intimacy issues to then turn to substances to cope.
Emotional Intimacy Issues and Addiction
People that struggle with emotional intimacy issues often struggle with being vulnerable and sharing their feelings. This is because people that fear emotional intimacy are afraid of getting their feelings hurt by others when they do.
People with emotional intimacy issues also struggle dealing with stress and conflict. As a result, many of these people have depressive tendencies that may cause them to use substances to cope, which then causes them to develop substance addictions.
Mental Intimacy Issues and Addiction
People with fears of mental intimacy often struggle sharing their deep inner thoughts, plans for life, and values with others. This is likely because such people fear being rejected if they do. Thus, people with mental intimacy issues keep relationships at a shallow level. This, in turn, leads to a shallow, unfulfilling life.
Feeling unfulfilled can cause people with mental intimacy issues to easily develop mental health disorders. People often cope with these mental health disorders by abusing substances until they form full-fledged substance addictions.
Spiritual Intimacy and Addiction
People with a fear of spiritual intimacy stay far away from engaging in activities with others that can feed their soul. This is because such people are afraid to bond with others on that deep of a level. Once again, such a fear of intimacy can cause people to feel alone and thus, develop mental health disorders that can trigger addiction.
Signs of Fear of Intimacy
People that fear intimacy tend to be vulnerable with others in all the four dimensions of intimacy. In fact, there are some common signs of fear of intimacy that people with intimacy issues often display regardless of the dimensions of intimacy that they struggle with the most. These common signs are listed below.
- Not showing emotion
- Feeling uncomfortable with physical contact
- Not sharing
- Not wanting to socialize
- Being uncomfortable with nudity
- Feeling as if one isn’t worthy of love
- Having a cold disposition
Addressing Intimacy Issues During Addiction Treatment and Recovery
When people with substance addictions also struggle with intimacy issues, it’s best if they address those intimacy issues while in addiction treatment. This is because doing so will help them be better able to cope with these issues while in recovery.
During addiction recovery, people with intimacy issues should take baby steps. By baby steps we mean only entertaining and rebuilding relationships with close family members and friends first. Then, as a person becomes more comfortable being intimate with others, venture into being sexually and emotionally intimate with a romantic partner.
In fact, it’s advised that people that are new to recovery not enter a romantic relationship for at least one year. That way they can work on creating authentic intimacy skills without it negatively affecting their recovery.
To learn more about treatment for intimacy and addiction or any other mental health and substance use issue here at Little Creek Recovery, feel free to contact us. Our staff would love to hear from you!