There are some people for whom touch causes real pain and horror. There are those who don’t need hugs to feel warm and safe; on the contrary, they instead experience touch as something like a terrible nightmare. These are the people with haphephobia.
Haphephobia is a psychological disorder characterized by a fear of being touched or touching others, even close friends or loved ones. Haphephobic people find the touch of others to be extremely annoying and sometimes unbearable, which is very different from misophonia: when sound, not touch, causes personal distress.
Hephaphobia is a very rare disease and its most important symptoms are:
- Fear and anxiety when being touched
- Increased heart rate
- Panic attacks and a desire to escape
Most of the causes of hephaphobia are:
- A particular event in childhood (such as PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder) that may develop later in life
- Lack of self-confidence
- Fear of germs and uncleanliness
There is no single treatment for hephaphobia but there are many options to help control the condition:
- Exposure treatment: Patients are slowly exposed to slow contact positions under the supervision of a therapist
- Behavioral treatments: helping the patient to know the roots of their fear, and trying to get rid of it
- Exercise, meditation, and breathing exercises.
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