Have you ever stood in line at the grocery store and thought, “I wish the person behind me would back up! They are in my personal space.” Some people don’t like to be close to others. You could call it encroachment on your bubble. And if you feel this way, then you’re not alone. Many people have issues with being close to people and having people touch them. But the concerns become serious when you allow these fears to overtake your life. This can be referred to as Haptephobia, which is the fear of being touched.

Symptoms of Haptephobia

  • Panic
  • Anxiety attacks
  • Dry mouth
  • Trembling
  • Muscle tension
  • Numbness
  • Hyperventilation
  • Feeling out of control

Causes of Haptephobia

As with many phobias, this fear could have derived from a variety of circumstances. Perhaps the victim had a traumatic experience in their past where they witnessed someone being abused physically or sexually. Or maybe they were abused themselves. The person suffering with Haptephobia could have experienced a lack of touch and nurturing from their parents when they were young and therefore, are accustomed to not being touched. So when they are touched, it induces a great fear. Whatever the case may be, there is always a root to the problem as the fear developed from a specific event in the patient’s life.

Cases of Haptephobia are mostly self-diagnosed, but can be confirmed through a licensed therapist. Many people with this phobia feel that there is a risk of becoming contaminated from another person and so the fear develops. These people have wider circles of personal space than normal and they simply have an exaggerated fear that something catastrophic will happen if they are touched by someone else. People with Haptephobia have the urge to greatly protect their personal space as well. Sometimes, this phobia is restricted to specifically being touched by the opposite sex. In women, this specific fear is often associated with fears of sexual assault, although young boys who have been sexually assaulted can have Haptephobia.If you suffer from this phobia, there is treatment and you can overcome this fear.

Treatment of Haptephobia

It is important to speak with your doctor so that they can refer you to a mental health specialist. There are several different treatment options including talk therapy, exposure therapy, hypnotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy or desensitization therapy, support groups and in extreme cases, anxiety medication. Visiting with a mental health professional also allows for the use of neuro-linguisting programming, or NLP. NLP is the study and practice of how we create our reality. In this setting, the therapist can recreate constructs and obtain a resolution to the phobia. Whichever method you choose, know that you can live a normal, healthy life.

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