Haphephobia: A Touch Aversion Disorder

Physical contact can be some of the best ways to show affection. Although, you may have run into a particular group of people who do not like being touched. If you’re one of them, it’s natural to wonder why someone does not like to be touched? What does it mean when you don’t like being touched? 

Don’t like to be touched disorder or haphephobia is a condition where one intensely and irrationally fears being touched. The thought of coming in physical contact with another physically causes one distress and provokes anxiety. This anxiety may, in turn, trigger another band of symptoms like nausea or even panic attacks.

Several causes may lead one to develop this condition. Fortunately, many treatment options are available that can be effective. This article will tell you everything you need to know about haphephobia. So, you may want to stick around till the end. 

What is Haphephobia? A Don’t Like to Be Touched Disorder

It’s entirely normal not to want strangers to touch you and can be undoubtedly uncomfortable. But like I’ve already mentioned, people with haphephobia experience significant distress over the idea of being touched. And it may be the case even for closest family and friends. The don’t like to be touched disorder falls under the broad category of anxiety disorders. 

haphephobia-a-don't-like-to-be-touched-disorder

Like most anxiety disorders, this condition isn’t a particular physical sensation. However, the fear itself can feel paralyzing because it’s so intense. Haphephobia is different from allodynia, which is hypersensitivity to touch. People with allodynia experience physical pain with physical contact. 

There are several causes of haphephobia. One may develop it after going through or witnessing a traumatic experience relating to physical touch.

Symptoms

As haphephobia is a phobia, its symptoms persist for at least six months to be a correct diagnosis. The initial symptoms may include the following:

  • Irrational fear when thinking about coming in physical contact with others
  • Avoiding situations where one has to go through physical contact
  • Panic attacks with additional symptoms like accelerated heart rate, chills, sweating, and so on
  • Generally living a poor quality of life with moderate levels of depression and anxiety

Any child who may also be a victim of this condition may display the following symptoms additionally. 

  • Clinging to the primary caregiver 
  • Uncontrollable crying or temper tantrums
  • Freezing when anyone touches them 
  • Social withdrawal

Every case seems to vary, but these are some common symptoms that you may notice. In many cases, people know that their fear is disproportionate to the object of their anxiety. Yet, they still have a hard time managing their symptoms.

Causes 

If you’re struggling with this condition, several questions come to mind. For example, you may ask yourself, “why don’t I want to be touched by my partner?” or “how come I don’t want to be touched?” and so on. 

There are several causes of haphephobia. One may develop it after going through or witnessing a traumatic experience relating to physical touch. So, is there a link between trauma and not wanting to be touched? 

It might be the case if they were young when they had experienced the trauma. In these cases, the person may have a tough time remembering what triggered their condition in the first place.

Besides, haphephobia may develop on its own, particularly if your family has a history of anxiety disorders. It may also develop with other medical conditions such as:

  • Mysophobia or fear of germs
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Ochlophobia or fear of crowds 

Additionally, a reason where one may set the course of this condition is to have an inhibited personality or neurotic tendencies. On another account, some people are simply more predisposed to developing phobias than others. For example, phobias are twice as common in women than in men. 

Phobias are relatively common in the United States population. But having other phobias increases the risk of developing the condition. Besides, in some rare cases, asexuality may be a reason for touch aversion. 

It doesn’t necessarily have to be a full-blown disorder. It could mean that one doesn’t like physical contact, such as hugging. 

Diagnosis

Your doctor may ask you a few questions to make a correct diagnosis. For example, they may ask you when your fears began and what symptoms you previously experienced. The doctor may also ask if these symptoms interfere with your daily activities. 

anxiety

Your healthcare provider may also ask you to take a haphephobia test. These tests ask a few questions to ascertain whether you have the condition and whether your symptoms meet the diagnostic criteria. 

For OCD and phobia, EMDR can be very effective. It’s particularly true for people with a phobia as a product of unresolved trauma.

Treatment Options and Coping 

Living life under the shadows of a mental condition can be truly exhausting. And constantly being someone who doesn’t like being touched can wear you down. So, naturally, you want to look for ways to manage or treat it. Fortunately, there are several options from which you may choose.

Psychotherapy 

One of the most effective intervention plans for phobias is psychotherapy, which addresses traumas deep-seated within. Psychotherapy revolves around identifying the root cause of your case that triggered your condition. 

Several times your therapist or mental health practitioner will combine psychotherapy with cognitive behavior therapy for better results. This treatment plan involves changing your thought process about your phobia through exercises and assignments. 

Exposure Therapy 

Another effective treatment plan is exposure therapy. In this intervention, your therapist may introduce the object of phobia to you in a non-threatening circumstance. The patient will typically consider the environment safe and controlled. 

It begins with a mild introduction of the phobic object, which builds up gradually for several months or weeks. It may start by asking the patient to imagine a scenario where they are a part of a large crowd. The patient may have the courage to be a part of a real crowd by the end. 

Your healthcare provider may also administer exposure therapy in virtual reality. Sometimes this option is preferable because it allows venturing into the phobic situation free of risk entirely. Research evidence supports this notion. Exposure therapy has the highest success rate for treating phobia among those who stick with it. 

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

For OCD and phobia, EMDR can be very effective. It’s particularly true for people with a phobia as a product of unresolved trauma. During the procedure, the patient has to focus on a specific traumatic event while rhythmic eye movements stimulate them. 

emdr-therapy

The eye movement helps process the trauma and leave it behind. Consequently, the symptoms of phobia also go away gradually. EMDR is typically used in combination with psychotherapy for best results. 

Medication

It is vital to remember that you should not take medication unless your doctor prescribes it. Many cases may require medications to manage the symptoms. For specific phobias and anxiety disorders, alprazolam and diazepam may help. 

If you receive a diagnosis of haphephobia, you can also try other coping methods along with your treatment plan. Talking to your significant other helps in more ways than you can imagine. Besides, take charge of your recovery and understand your condition better. 

Focus on breathing exercises, which are very helpful in managing anxiety. But the most important thing to remember is that you are not your mental illness. 

FAQs

  1. Can trauma make you less affectionate?

Trauma makes our body turn on the survival mode, which is the fight, flight, or freeze response. Lingering effects of trauma can alter our physiology with the increased production of stress hormones. You may experience withdrawal, decreasing affections, and disconnection with the people you love. 

  1. Which disorder makes you not want to be touched?

Haphephobia is a disorder that makes you not want to be touched. It causes an individual to experience significant distress with physical contact. Other names for haphephobia are aphenphosmphobia, chiraptophobia, and thixophobia. 

  1. Is it normal not to want to be touched?

Every person has a boundary with physical contact with which they’re okay. However, never wanting to be touched, feeling anxiety when you think about physical touch, and actively avoiding situations that might lead to physical contact is not normal. It may or may not be a case of haphephobia. 

  1. What are the hidden signs of trauma?

Unresolved trauma may manifest in numerous different ways within an individual. Some hidden signs may include flashbacks or nightmares, disproportionate self-blaming or guilt, missing time, difficulty with attachment, unhealthy food habits, conflict avoidance, feelings of worthlessness, and repeated panic attacks. 

Final Words

So, what is it called when you hate being touched? Touch aversion and don’t like to be touched disorder can be harrowing in the lives of the individuals suffering from it. However, the good news is phobias respond surprisingly well to treatment options. If your symptoms persist for more than six months, consider visiting the doctor’s office. 

Eating a nutritious diet, exercising well, and practicing coping mechanisms will make your life easier. Hopefully, going through the entire article has led you to be informed on haphephobia a bit better. Until next time, I wish you all the best.

Munira Binte Hasan

Munira Binte Hasan

Munira is an aspiring psychologist from the University of Dhaka. She loves reviewing and writing content. In her free time, she loves to read or listen to music. She believes in advocating mental health issues and healthy expression of emotions.

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