Haphephobia: A Fear of Being Touched

Fear – A four letter word that captures our mind, frightens the soul and dictates the body. It creates hurdles, invokes inability and even triggers frustration. Since the inception of humankind, we have fought our fears. As we have evolved, we have learned to deal with our fears and found ways to overcome them. Precisely all the fears are associated with the core senses that develop, as life begins its journey in the womb. The five core senses that humans have are sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch. An interesting fact is that any phobia can be virtually avoidable, except one related to “Touch.”

Yes, out of all the weird phobias you have heard of, Haphephobia – A fear of being touched is very rare and grim to deal with and digest. A person who has Haphephobia feels highly uncomfortable and intensely petrified on being touched, mainly (but not limited to) a person of opposite gender. This discomfort, of course, is more than that of a usual physical reaction of being touched – it can lead to nausea, panic attacks, hyperventilation and even fainting or hives. A patient might feel more insecure when being touched or by the fear of being touched and would sense discomfort due to the feeling of being intruded upon by another person.

A fact which can make this phobia more worrisome is, a person having Haphephobia, does not only get uneasy by a stranger’s touch but it can be triggered due to being touched by someone close to them such as a romantic partner or family relative. This does not mean they have no sexual drive or feeling of being in love or being loved. They do not necessarily have a lesbigay sexual orientation; it’s just that they cannot voluntarily go ahead and hug, cuddle or shake hands with somebody to express their emotions.

Haphephobia may turn into an anxiety disorder as it becomes immensely difficult for a sufferer to firstly understand this kind of rare reaction of their own body. The most challenging part is to accept this behavior, deal with it socially and make others realize how they feel. Touch and affection are considered the most effective emotional medicine on the planet that helps to relieve stress and pain, and so for a Haphephobic it often feels like the pain is doubled.

There appears to be currently no specific cause of Haphephobia, which makes it even more difficult to avert. Some research reports have found that it is an in-born phobia that changes the way the brain reacts to specific otherwise normal behaviors.

Haphephobia is treated similarly to the treatment of other phobias. Its treatment is largely divided into three categories: Exposure Therapy – a safe environment is created under the observation of a well-trained practitioner to expose the patient to a fearful situation. This gradually helps the patient to become more comfortable with the fear. Repeated positive therapy may eventually lead to the acceptance of the way the patient’s brain perceives touch. Medications – As Haphephobia can lead to an anxiety disorder or depression, individual cases can be treated with antidepressants. Behavioral Therapies – This includes cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy or hypnosis, which at times helps people improve control over their fears and phobias.

Most of the times, phobias are situational and can heal over time. It is always advisable to consult a medical consultant to seek appropriate help if it continues for a significantly longer duration as this can cause interruptions in your day-to-day life. If the treatment is started in early stages most of the people with Haphephobia can overcome their fears and lead a healthy normal life.