Fear of touch syndrome (Haphephobia): Solution to overcome

Haphephobia is a very rare condition. This syndrome is characterized by an intense fear of being touched by others. The fear of domination makes the patient avoid meeting with others and gradually develop a psychological isolation, social isolation.

What is Haphephobia?

Some people may be overly fearful and obsessive about being physically touched by others. This condition is called the fear of touch – Haphephobia. People with Haphephobia have an intense, persistent fear and extreme anxiety when someone touches them – except for close family members and some friends. The patient is aware of the irrationality of his or her fear but is unable to control it.

Fear of touch is a group of anxiety disorders (phobias). The common feature of this group of diseases is excessive fear, anxiety and obsession with objects/situations that are not really dangerous.

Usually, we are uncomfortable when someone touches us (especially strangers). However, in some situations, physical contact is perfectly normal. Meanwhile, people with touch anxiety syndrome always feel scared about someone touching them. When this situation occurs, the person becomes panicky, fearful, nauseous, and even vomiting.

Physical contact is inevitable in life. When working, living and checking health, it is inevitable that others will touch the body. Therefore, touch phobia needs to be treated to limit the impact on life. Touchphobia is different from a hypersensitivity to physical contact (also known as an allergy to being touched).

Recognizing fear of touch syndrome

Touchphobia is characterized by an intense, intense, and irrational fear of being touched. Like other phobias, fear will cause the person to avoid contact with other people. This has a profound effect on life and can increase many psychological problems.

fear of touch syndrome

People with fear of touch always feel extreme fear and anxiety when someone touches their body

Early detection and treatment is the only way to overcome your irrational fear. To recognize Haphephobia syndrome, patients and those around them can rely on some of the following signs:

  • Constant feeling of fear, insecurity and anxiety about someone touching you. Even the thought of someone touching the body triggers responses of fear and panic.
  • Always have negative, pessimistic thoughts about body contact.
  • Avoid situations that can be touched by others such as not taking public transport, not being close to others, avoiding regular health checkups, not being in love, etc.
  • When someone touches it, a panic attack can occur. A panic attack is an acute state of fear and anxiety accompanied by physical symptoms such as hyperventilation, nausea, vomiting, uncontrollable shaking, flushing, heart palpitations, angina and chest pain. even fainting.
  • Young children often react with anger, crying, screaming and clinging to their parents when someone touches them.
  • In fact, many patients are aware of the absurdity of their fear but are unable to control their feelings of fear despite their best efforts.

Haphephobia will cause symptoms for at least 6 months and profoundly affect quality of life.

Causes of fear of touch (Haphephobia)

Haphephobia can be found in children and adults. Currently, scientists have not determined the specific cause of this syndrome. However, experts found that the risk was higher in women because women are often more sensitive to physical contact.

fear of touch syndrome

People with agoraphobia are at increased risk of developing fear of touch

Several factors have been identified that are associated with fear of touch:

  • Negative experiences: Negative experiences related to being touched such as being infected, being coerced, being abused, abused, etc. can be factors in the development of fear of touch. These experiences cause the amygdala to become sensitive to physical contact. So when someone touches the person, the amygdala creates a strong sense of fear to warn of potential danger.
  • Family history: The risk of Haphephobia increases significantly if there is a family history of anxiety disorders in general and fear of touch in particular. Children can inherit disease genes or learn from parents’ reactions, leading to an excessive fear response when someone touches someone.
  • Personality traits: Experts have found that people with anxious, inhibited emotions and behaviors have a higher risk of developing phobias than normal.
  • There are psychological and mental problems: The fear of touch can develop from pre-existing psychological and psychiatric problems such as agoraphobia, fear of germs (Mysophobia), post-traumatic stress. coercion, abuse or violence. In addition, people with obsessive-compulsive disorder also fear being touched by others due to fear of catching bacteria.

Is fear of touch dangerous?

Basically, phobic anxiety disorder in general and Haphephobia in particular are not threatening to health. However, long-term avoidance behaviors and feelings of fear and anxiety will cause patients to experience a lot of trouble in life. Therefore, touch fear syndrome requires treatment intervention.

Physical contact is something that cannot be completely avoided. Thus, the person with Haphephobia will face persistent stress, anxiety and fear. Some people even panic and lose control in public.

After panic attacks, patients often experience feelings of shame and distress. If left untreated, people with Haphephobia tend to isolate themselves from society and lock themselves in their homes for fear of being touched by someone.

People with touchphobia rarely have close relationships because of the fear of physical contact. Therefore, when faced with this syndrome, the patient has almost no friends to share with. In addition, the patient is also unable to develop emotional relationships and will have to live alone.

In addition, stress, anxiety and fear also increase psychological and physical problems such as anxiety disorders, depression, physical weakness, etc. Many people are helpless before their own fears and turn to alcohol, tobacco, and drugs to relieve emotions. These cases are almost no longer able to study, work, lose relationships and live dependent on the family.

Diagnosis of fear of touch

People with touch syndrome often do not take the initiative to go to the hospital. The reason is because patients are afraid that doctors and nurses will touch them. This is the reason why most people with this syndrome are not treated early even though the symptoms are very clear.

Diagnosis of touch phobia is mainly based on clinical manifestations. The doctor will assess the level of fear, worry about being touched by someone, see if the fear lasts for 6 months and whether the fear is large enough to dominate avoidance behaviors.

Finally, the doctor will assess the impact of touch fear on quality of life. This syndrome is only diagnosed when it interferes with life and causes a lot of trouble in relationships, work, study, etc.

Methods of treatment for fear of touch

Not all phobias require treatment. With objects rarely encountered such as clowns, wild animals, etc., the patient can avoid completely. However, the fear of touching (Haphephobia) requires treatment. Because human-to-human physical contact is an unavoidable factor.

Physical contact is one of the forms of communication. Therefore, Haphephobia syndrome needs to be treated early to prevent self-isolation and the development of other psychological and psychiatric problems. Treatments used in the treatment of touch anxiety syndrome include:

1. Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy is the main method when treating phobias in general and fear of touch in particular. This method helps to calm negative emotions, reduce irrational fears about physical contact, and help sufferers have a normal response when someone touches them.

For other phobia syndromes such as fear of spiders, fear of cockroaches, fear of cooking, etc., the target set will be lower. In these cases, simply reducing the patient’s fear can significantly reduce the difficulties and obstacles in life. However, with touch phobia, the specialist will help the patient control the fear completely so that it can normalize when making physical contact with others.

What is Haphephobia?

Exposure therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, hypnotherapy, etc. will be applied to improve touch fear syndrome.

Psychotherapy used in the treatment of touch anxiety syndrome:

  • Exposure therapy: Exposure therapy is the most effective solution to the fear of touch. When performing this therapy, the patient will face a situation where someone touches the person through thoughts, images and finally, let the professional touch the body directly. During therapy, the therapist will teach the patient how to manage their fear to avoid panic and loss of control. Once the therapist has adapted to the thought of being touched, the therapist will gradually increase the level until the patient feels no fear of being touched.
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR): EMDR is often applied to patients who have experienced trauma related to physical contact such as abuse, violence, and coercion. This therapy helps ease feelings of distress associated with negative experiences. This can help patients reduce their fear of being touched and respond better to other psychotherapy.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT is the most commonly applied psychotherapy today. This method aims to change negative and inappropriate thoughts with more correct awareness. CBT helps patients realize that physical contact is necessary and not always risky. Through cognitive changes, the patient will reduce feelings of fear and anxiety and stop avoiding avoidance behaviors.
  • Hypnotherapy: Hypnotherapy is rarely used in the treatment of phobias. However, with cases of fear of touch, experts may prescribe hypnosis to help the patient be more open and receptive to correct perceptions of physical contact. This therapy is often done to complement other psychotherapies.

2. Drug use

Medicines cannot control the extreme fear and anxiety of being touched by someone. However, medication can reduce the stress and anxiety caused by touch fear. If the person suffers from frequent panic attacks and fears, certain medications can be used to relieve the accompanying physical symptoms.

Medications used in patients with touch anxiety syndrome:

  • Sedative
  • Antidepressants
  • Beta blockers

3. Self-improvement measures

People with fear of touch are unable to control their fear. However, self-improvement measures can relieve stress and anxiety and help you overcome your fears more easily.


A reasonable diet helps to support the body and reduce somewhat the anxiety and stress caused by Haphephobia

Some self-improvement measures for people with Haphephobia syndrome:

  • Exercise regularly, prioritize subjects of moderate intensity such as yoga, meditation, swimming, walking, etc.
  • Equip with deep breathing techniques to control feelings of fear and anxiety when someone touches you.
  • Make sure to get enough sleep, minimize the situation of staying up late and lack of sleep.
  • Build a reasonable diet, supplement with foods that can improve mood and relieve stress.
  • Stay away from alcohol, tobacco and stimulants.
  • Learn how to share with people to be empathized and understood. When people understand your health condition, they will limit physical contact. Thereby creating a comfortable spirit when studying, working and helping a lot in overcoming your fears.

In case of co-morbidity with other psychological and psychiatric problems such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, agoraphobia, etc., patients need to actively treat these diseases. In this way, the fear of being touched by others can be improved.

Haphephobia is a very rare condition that interferes with relationships and increases the risk of self-isolation and social isolation. This syndrome needs to be treated early so that the patient can normalize life and prevent psychological and psychiatric problems. People with Haphephobia themselves are always worried about being touched by others. Therefore, family and close friends need to encourage patients to visit and persevere in treatment.

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