Need help breaking free from addiction?
1-888-993-3112
Call 24/7 for treatment options. Who Answers?

Afraid To Touch People

Question:

I have always disliked being touched, but I never really thought about in depth about it too much until recently at work my coworkers questioned me about it. It made me feel so embarrassed that I couldn’t even give someone an actual hug. I tried and it felt so awkward, like I was messing it up. I never initiate anything physical, but even so, when someone makes a move to hug me, I still ask them if it’s okay for me to touch them. It’s not that I don’t like being touched or touching people, it’s quite the opposite. I just feel like people wouldn’t want me touching them because I’m disgusting. My family has never been overly physical in affection, but I don’t think this is the reason for my fear of touch anymore. This is ruining my relationships and I can’t even understand why it’s happening.

This Disclaimer applies to the Answer Below
  • Dr. Schwartz responds to questions about psychotherapy and mental health problems, from the perspective of his training in clinical psychology.
  • Dr. Schwartz intends his responses to provide general educational information to the readership of this website; answers should not be understood to be specific advice intended for any particular individual(s).
  • Questions submitted to this column are not guaranteed to receive responses.
  • No correspondence takes place.
  • No ongoing relationship of any sort (including but not limited to any form of professional relationship) is implied or offered by Dr. Schwartz to people submitting questions.
  • Dr. Schwartz, Mental Help Net and CenterSite, LLC make no warranties, express or implied, about the information presented in this column. Dr. Schwartz and Mental Help Net disclaim any and all merchantability or warranty of fitness for a particular purpose or liability in connection with the use or misuse of this service.
  • Always consult with your psychotherapist, physician, or psychiatrist first before changing any aspect of your treatment regimen. Do not stop your medication or change the dose of your medication without first consulting with your physician.
Answer:

What you are describing is a symptom of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder also known as OCD. OCD works both ways so that a person may fear being touched or touching other people. Behind this fear lie many thoughts such as the danger that germs may be spread or that another person may be dirty or that you may infect another person with your germs of dirt. It is important to realize that none of these thoughts are realistic but are based on fear.

An obsession is defined as a repetitive kind of thinking that is driven by anxiety. Repetitive thoughts may include the fear that there are germs and other people could spread infections. A compulsion is a repetitive activity such as wanting to avoid touching, kissing or hugging other people based on the fear of germs. Obsessions and compulsions can take many forms and there are multiple examples. For your E. Mail I am simply using the example you have provided.

People with OCD are always aware of their thoughts and behaviors and how irrational or "silly" they are. However, this awareness does not help them to stop the annoying thoughts and behaviors.

Please understand that you are a person who wants to touch and be touched. It is just that this OCD get in your way of enjoying normal social interaction.

Please do not give up hope as this is very treatable. What are the treatments for OCD?

First, there is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in which you are taught methods to stop engaging in these thoughts and activities.

Second, there are anti depressant medications that provide huge help in relieving depression, anxiety and the OCD symptoms.

As you can see from what you wrote in the E. Mail there is low self esteem or depression very much connected to OCD as well as anxiety and that is why medication is so helpful. The best combination of treatment is medication with psychotherapy.

The sooner you enter psychotherapy and see a psychiatrist for medication the sooner you will find relief for this problem.

Best of Luck.

More "Ask Dr. Schwartz" View Columnists

Close

Call the Helpline Toll-FREE

To Get Treatment Options Now.

1-888-993-3112 Who Answers? 100% Confidential

Get Help For You or a Loved One Here...

Click Here for More Info.

Close

Call The Toll-FREE Helpline 24/7 To Get Treatment Options Now.

100% Confidential
Get Treatment Options From Your Phone... Tap to Expand