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Haphephobia[1] (also known as aphephobia,[1] haphophobia,[2] hapnophobia, haptephobia,[1] haptophobia,[1][2] thixophobia[1]) 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.[medical citation needed]

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 or same sex. This is often associated with a fear of sexual assault. Michel 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.[3]


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:[4]

  • Discomfort and perspiration;
  • Nausea;
  • Heart palpitations;
  • Dry mouth;
  • Feeling dizzy;
  • Panic;
  • Numbness;
  • Heightened senses;
  • Breathlessness;
  • Feeling trapped;
  • Muscle tension and rigidity;
  • Trembling;
  • Hyperventilating;
  • Feeling out of control;
  • Feeling of impending doom or disaster.
  • Hives[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Charles Harrington Elster (1996). There's a Word for It!. Scribner. p. 160. ISBN 0684824558. 
  2. ^ a b Laurence Urdang; Anne Ryle; Tanya H. Lee (1986). -ologies & -isms. Gale Research Co. p. 557. ISBN 0810311968. 
  3. ^ Michel Dorais (2002). Don't Tell: The Sexual Abuse of Boys. McGill-Queen's Press — MQUP. p. 84. ISBN 0773522611. 
  4. ^ McGoldrick, Daniel P. (November 22, 2010). "What Is Haphephobia?". Health Guide Info.