Hafephobia: how to overcome the phobia of being touched?

We can all become uncomfortable when a stranger hugs us or when others invade our living space. Generally, there is an adequate interpersonal distance depending on the type of bond we maintain with others and if it is not respected, we can feel overwhelmed.

Nevertheless, For those who suffer from haphephobia, a simple handshake or the kiss of a loved one is a source of intense discomfort.

Haphephobia is characterized by an irrational and pathological fear of touching or being touched by others. The anxiety triggered by physical contact is such that the person can become isolated almost completely in order to avoid such situations. Since humans are social beings, this phobia can seriously interfere with the individual's day-to-day life.

What are the related symptoms?

Anyone can experience tachycardia. In fact, its origin can be both pathological and psychological.

Haphephobia falls within the category of specific phobias, so their symptoms are shared with the rest of them. The main ones are the following:

  • Intense and disproportionate fear of touching other people or that these touch us
  • Exposure to the feared situation (in this case, physical contact) triggers a strong anxiety reaction
  • The individual is probably aware that their fear is irrationalbut can't control it
  • Situations involving physical contact are avoided at all costs with others and, if not possible, they endure at the cost of enormous discomfort.
  • The disorder lasts over time and interferes with daily life of the person (personal, social, work …).
  • At the idea of ​​physical contact with other people physiological symptoms such as tachycardia, sweating, a feeling of suffocation or muscle tension appear. Irrational thoughts and beliefs about the danger of touching are also likely to exist.

Causes and origins

The cause of haphephobia has not yet been fully established and it is likely that various factors coalesce at its origin. There may be a certain biological component related to ancestral fears inherited from our ancestors.

Generally, specific phobias are acquired after experiencing related traumatic events either in the first person or by witnessing how others experience the negative consequences of what subsequently generates fear.

A) Yes, For example, having been sexually abused in childhood can lead to haphephobia. Likewise, knowing that some people have caught a virus when they come into contact with others can trigger this extreme fear of being touched by others.

Risk factor's

Not all people react the same to the same events. Therefore, what may be the origin of haphephobia for one person will not cause a greater impact on another. Even so, There are several factors that increase the risk of developing this disorder:

  • Present family history of hafephobia or other anxiety disorders. In the first place, because of the possible inherited genetic component, but also because of having grown up observing close people reacting with fear to these situations.
  • Have an inhibited temperament and a neurotic or anxious personality
  • Being a woman doubles the risk of having a situational phobia like this.
  • Having other psychological disorders such as germ phobia, fear of crowds, or social anxiety.

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How is it diagnosed?

Psychological consultation is essential to obtain a timely diagnosis and treatment.

The diagnosis of haphephobia is made based on compliance with the established criteria. That is to say, a psychologist or psychiatrist should evaluate the symptoms (thoughts, emotions, sensations and behaviors) that the person shows before social contact.

This can be done through a clinical interview, self-records, or the use of some tests and appropriate tests. This information will not only help to identify haphephobia, but also to establish the most appropriate individualized treatment plan.

How can it be overcome

Fortunately, specific phobias respond very well to cognitive-behavioral treatments. These are mainly based on three objectives:

  • Provide the person with strategies to regulate or reduce their level of anxiety. Relaxation techniques and systematic desensitization are the most commonly used options.
  • Identify the irrational thoughts that are at the base of the fear and help the patient reevaluate them. In other words, their veracity is questioned and they are replaced by others that are more functional and adjusted to reality.
  • Get the person to gradually expose himself to those situations that he fears. When the avoidance ends, it is verified that the stimulus is really harmless and the associated anxiety levels are reduced.

Other alternatives like the mindfulness o acceptance and commitment therapy also show good results. In addition, sometimes it is possible that the use of drugs to support psychological intervention is recommended.

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Haterophobia affects everyday life

Some phobias do not create a big problem in everyday life, since it is easy to avoid the feared stimuli. But, in this case, Haphephobia can limit life at a personal, social, work and emotional level and cause great discomfort.

For this and for the good results obtained with psychotherapy, seeking professional help is highly recommended. Without a doubt, it is the best option to gain quality of life.

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