Haphephobia (also known as aphephobia, haphophobia, hapnophobia, haptephobia, haptophobia, thixophobia) is a rare specific phobia that involves the fear of touching or of being touched. It is an acute exaggeration of the normal tendencies to protect one's personal space, expressed as a fear of contamination or invasion, and extending even to people whom its sufferers know well.
Some people are born with haphephobia, while others may develop it, predominantly after a bad experience. More rarely, it is caused by an extreme reaction to their environment. Sometimes, the fear is restricted specifically, or predominantly, to being touched by people of the opposite sex. This is often associated with a fear of sexual assault. Dorais reports that many boys who have been the victims of sexual abuse have a fear of being touched, quoting one victim who describes being touched as something that "burns like fire", causing him to freeze up or lash out.
As with various other phobias and anxieties, the symptoms experienced by sufferers of haphephobia can vary on the individual; however, a non-exhaustive list of symptoms includes:
- Discomfort and perspiration;
- Heart palpitations;
- Dry mouth;
- Feeling dizzy;
- Heightened senses;
- Feeling trapped;
- Muscle tension and rigidity;
- Feeling out of control;
- Feeling of impending doom or disaster.
Society and culture
In the 1962 movie David and Lisa, Keir Dullea portrays a teenager committed to a mental hospital for the treatment of aphephobia. While there, he falls in love with Lisa (Janet Margolin), and begins to realize why he has been institutionalized.
The Fifty Shades Of Grey trilogy portrays Christian Grey as a man who has a very deep and intrinsic fear of being touched. Christian is said to have haphephobia, bred of his desperately ambiguous infantile years. Christian experiences panic, pain and unworthiness when touched.
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