Haptophobia (fear of other people's touches): causes, symptoms and treatment


People living in big cities are in a constant state of stress. Such nervous tension is fraught with the emergence of various kinds of phobias and disorders, such as haptophobia. This word, derived from the Greek words meaning “touch” and “fear,” refers to the fear of touch, an obsessive state of fear when a person’s personal space is invaded. This pathological condition is also called gaphophobia or haptephobia. The hostility that introverts experience when their personal space is violated should not be confused with a serious psychological problem, which is the fear of being touched. A common desire to protect personal space can develop into a serious phobia as a result of exposure to minor stress or severe psychological trauma.

Fear of other people's touches can develop after psychological trauma

It is curious that in rural areas such a phobia practically does not occur. This is explained by the small number of people, the presence of free, open spaces and the fact that in small settlements people are more or less familiar with each other. This frees them from constant wariness and mistrust towards each other.

What is haptophobia?

A mental disorder that is accompanied by a fear of tactile contact has several names:

  • haptophobia;
  • aphenfosmophobia;
  • thixophobia.

Aladdinia is also a phobia, which is accompanied by a fear of being touched, but due to the fact that physical contact causes physical pain to a person.

Regardless of what the fear of touch is called, it must be diagnosed in a timely manner, the cause of its origin must be determined, and all necessary measures must be taken to solve the psychological problem.

Ways to overcome

Breathing exercises and various relaxation methods are used to manage anxiety and panic attacks . Focusing on long, deep breaths reduces symptoms of touch anxiety. Mindfulness tactics, that is, understanding your thoughts and feelings at the moment of touch, help you develop individual ways to combat anxiety. Exercise and getting enough sleep are powerful ways to improve your overall mental health.

Patients with aphenphosmophobia generally respond well to treatment. Using daily techniques to overcome fear significantly reduces the negative impact of a phobia on a person’s life.


Causes of fear of touch

Haptophobia often appears in people from dysfunctional, single-parent families. Parents of those suffering from fear of touch are:

  • indifferent, cold people who did not pay due attention to raising a child;
  • “tyrants”, whose perfectionism and constant nagging give rise to a phobia of touching;
  • socially disadvantaged individuals - alcoholics, drug addicts.

Psychological trauma, often associated with physical and sexual violence, also leads to fear. Fear of touching, a phobia, affects people who became victims of a pedophile in childhood or were severely beaten by robbers.


Treatment for haptophobia should begin when the first signs are identified, before the disorder leaves a serious imprint on your life. Since over time it can lead to depression, social isolation, and as a result, degradation.

Fear of touch begins with simply unpleasant sensations; a person is wary of people who come closer than a meter to him.

But in the end it ends with him stopping leaving the house, communicating with loved ones, even by phone. Therefore, there can be no talk of any sexual, romantic, family or friendly relationships with such a phobia.

So contact a specialist immediately as soon as you suspect something is wrong. With the help of a psychotherapist, you will understand the causes of this fear and explore ways that will help you cope with it in critical situations, especially when a panic attack occurs.

A psychiatrist will prescribe medications that will reduce anxiety, improve sleep, and stabilize mood.

Symptoms of haptophobia

The fear of touch does not go unnoticed. People suffering from this disease cannot control themselves in the presence of others. The touches of loved ones and relatives become unbearable for them. They flinch at any attempt to touch them, cannot control their facial expressions and do not hide their displeasure about this. The most common physical symptoms are:

  • trembling in the body;
  • the appearance of cold sweat;
  • hand tremors;
  • breathing problems.

The attacks are accompanied by a surge of uncontrollable fear, which develops into a panic attack, during which the person begins to scream and cry. Quite often, this phobia arises as a result of the presence of other fears: fear of contracting some kind of infection or fear of sexual violence.


The symptoms are, in principle, the same as for other types of phobias. The person experiences anxiety, his blood pressure and pulse rise. The thoughts in my head are confused, my hands are shaking. I want to run away and hide in a safe place.

In some cases, panic attacks make themselves felt. This is when there is not enough air from the horror you are experiencing, it seems that death is about to come, and there is nothing more terrible in the world than this moment.

The heart is pounding very quickly in the chest and there is a feeling that it is about to have a heart attack, or it will simply stop from fatigue. Because of this, dizziness occurs, even to the point of loss of consciousness.

In rare cases, a person experiences an urgent need to go to the toilet, only the stool will be liquid. I am worried about stomach pain and nausea.

You will learn more about what a panic attack is, how to cope with it, and what signs of phobic disorders exist in general from the article devoted directly to this topic.

Stages of development

Stage 1 is the easiest. It is easier to correct and treat than others, and quite quickly. A person experiences quite tolerable hostility if a stranger touches him. He treats his loved ones calmly, but does not take hands or hug with much enthusiasm.

Stage 2 – middle. Here it is already necessary to be wary, since the manifestation of aversion to touch extends to friends and family members.

A tactile phobe experiences stress throughout the day if he had to endure someone else's touch in the morning. This will affect your appetite, the quality of your sleep, and your overall well-being and mood.

Stage 3 – severe, so to speak, advanced. There is a refusal of any form of contact with the environment.

How to identify a haptophobe

Fear of being touched by strangers is easily identified. Such individuals constantly keep their distance. They don't like to let people into their lives. It gets to the point where family relationships become more and more difficult. Such a person diligently avoids hugs; he does not want to communicate with his loved ones. Sexual relationships gradually cease, as they instill disgust and fear in the owner of the phobia.

Touch phobia makes a person more aggressive and irritable. When attempting physical contact, he reacts sharply, can shout at other people, hit them, if only his personal space has been violated. A haptophobe does not always do everything consciously. Such people wear closed clothes, try not to be in crowded places, and practically do not use public transport. Before going out into the world, they need to prepare themselves psychologically and emotionally.

Consequences of the disorder

Philophobia - what kind of disease is it?

Such a person cannot feel comfortable in society. An elementary ride in an elevator with other passengers makes you nervous every time. Psychologists note that to build trusting relationships, people need physical contact. Trainings to increase the level of trust in a team are popular, in which colleagues lead the subject blindfolded through an office building or street. Letting someone become your eyes is very difficult, just like falling backwards into the arms of your colleagues.

Such exercises make healthy people who are not afraid of being touched nervous. Such trainings exaggerate life situations, revealing the essence of relationships between people, last no more than an hour, after which all participants return to their normal lifestyle. For a patient with haptophobia, everyday life in society is more difficult than collective sessions with a psychologist, which raise the level of confidence.

Such people most often have no personal life. Only a union of two people with a developed fear of hugs can be ideal. However, a person with such a diagnosis does not at all strive to start relationships, even friendly ones.

Haptophobes tend to be alone

Important! Not only physical touch, but also emotional invasion of personal space drives the patient crazy.

Anyone who knows from personal experience what haptophobia is does not even have the desire to build a personal life together with someone. Only living alone, without outside interference, can provide emotional peace and peace of mind.

A person with this disorder will not be able to build a career as a successful doctor, dancer or manager. Any profession that involves direct contact with people becomes torture for a person with a mental illness. The same applies to situations in which such a person needs medical assistance, but he cannot survive the examination procedure. There are often cases when a patient chooses physical suffering from illness instead of qualified medical care. Therefore, haptophobia is considered by doctors as a phobia that threatens human life and health.

What problems can be confused with haptophobia?

In some cases, haptophobia may be hiding other problems. Fear of people's touch may be part of autism, psychasthenia, or mental retardation.

What else could be hiding behind the mask of haptophobia:

  • paranoia and schizophrenia,
  • avoidant disorder
  • agoraphobia,
  • psychosis,
  • asexuality.

However, fear of touch is not always masked or part of other psychological problems. Sometimes it can be confused with personality traits, for example, when a person has too wide a personal space. Authoritarianism and perfectionism can also look like haptophobia.

Occupational deformation

There are a number of professions where a person has to constantly deal with disgust. For example, police officers come into contact mainly with people who lead an immoral lifestyle.

That is, they smell like vomit, urine, feces. Over time, all this becomes so boring and becomes habitual that for some, disgust simply disappears. But for others, on the contrary, it becomes more active, and even with disturbances.

Or dermatologists, knowing how dangerous the touch of strangers really is, will, over time, also begin to try to avoid contact even with loved ones and relatives.


Haptophobia is revealed during a conversation between a doctor and a patient. Very often a person himself cannot understand why he does not like the touch of strangers. The psychotherapist must help the patient understand the causes of his phobia. It is necessary to carry out a differential diagnosis of haptophobia and other human fears. The patient should tell the doctor about traumatic situations in his childhood.

When to see a doctor

Particular concerns can be extreme, especially in children, but they often go without medical attention.
Fear of touch is a crippling fear that is difficult to overcome due to the cultural and social expectations of touch that are constantly surrounding us.

If this fear persists for more than six months and leads to a distorted perception of everyday situations in the mind, beginning to negatively affect personal or work activities, a person should definitely contact his doctor.

Phobias are highly treatable. Using daily coping mechanisms can reduce the impact on the patient's life and help them cope with the phobia in the long term.

Tsygvintseva Anastasia · 01 Feb, 2018

What can you do yourself?

  • All alone, take a sheet of paper (use an electronic notepad, Word) and write down all the traumatic situations. Starting from early childhood.
  • Reassess each situation and explain the reasons for what happened. Rethink.
  • It is necessary to attach positive images and memories to each event. You must understand that what happened was an experience, and the reaction could have been softer, without injury. Find the positives.
  • After that, look at each situation again. Emotions must change.
  • Tear the paper or erase what you wrote. This is not in the present, these situations are in the past. And they won't happen again. Forget about them.

Remember that a lot of baggage from the past will slow you down on your path to the future. Let go of everything unnecessary. And think positive.


Psychotherapy is based on individual and group tactics. During the first, provoking factors and characteristics are identified, then the specialist moves on to group classes that promote personal growth and self-development.

Much attention is paid to eliminating internal fears, the consequences of psychological trauma and complexes. In the process of behavioral therapy, such personal qualities as self-control, blocking fear, and the ability to resolve conflict situations are instilled. Certain conditions allow the use of shock therapy, in which the patient is placed in the company of strangers and forced to contact them. All this happens under the supervision of a psychotherapist.


Medicines such as beta blockers or antidepressants may also help relieve symptoms of anxiety and panic in haptophobia. These drugs are often used in combination with psychotherapy.

There are contraindications, consultation with a specialist is necessary!

Haptophobia and other phobias

Despite the fact that haptophobia in its manifestation may be similar to anthropophobia, fear of touch is an independent disorder. Haptophobe, unlike anthropophobe, is not afraid of a person as such and does not experience negative emotions as long as there is no tactile contact or the likelihood of its occurrence.

In some cases, haptophobia can be a symptom of mysophobia. With mysophobia, the patient regards the people around him only as carriers of various pathogenic microbes. Sometimes haptophobia can provoke a persistent fear of crowds - demophobia.

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Haptophobia gets its name by merging two Greek words, the first meaning “touch” and the second “fear . This disease has a number of synonyms, which are called aphephobia, haphephobia and haphophobia. These terms are used as a name for pathological fear, which manifests itself in the form of an obsessive fear of being touched by others. This disorder is one of a number of isolated pathologies that are characterized by a complete loss of control over one’s behavior.

The presence of this disorder may be evidence of the development of a more dominant disease, among which psychasthenia, autism and neurosis should be highlighted.

In the first stages of its development, haphephobia has a strong resemblance to increased disgust or specific character traits. However, in reality, a person does not at all want to cause harm to others. Hugging and other forms of touching can be really painful for a haptophobe.

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