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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.

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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.

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Comments
  • Anonymous-1

    I too do not like to touch other people. I don't think that it is from being scared of germs as much as when I touch other people it just makes me feel gross for some reason. What is really strange is that I don't mind touching some people like my husband or son. Other people even close family members I can not touch without feeling gross.

  • Morgan

    Yeah, I know what its like to feel uncomfortable to touch people. The only people I'm ever able to touch are my boyfriends, and even then only when we are close. This behavior has never really interfered in my life, which seems strange, but I get by. I don't have a fear of germs or dirtyness though. I think mine is self-esteem related. I feel like I don't deserve to touch them. I never really had very much physical contact when I was a child, and if I did it was negative. I guess I just sort of get this feeling like if I touch someone, I'm going to get reprimanded.

  • Anonymous-2

    since i was 16 i felt like there was a strain to hold my bf's hand in public. it was so hard because I didnt want anyone in public places to see me.woried theyd judge me, and this feeling came and went. but now that im 20 IV NOTICED A SIGNIFICANT CHANGE in me. i HATE hugs and i dnt like family hugging me or anything, no touching of any kind! it hurts and its almost painful to me like a bee sting.. iv jst started with my therapist and she thinks it is a form of ocd. i aso have ADD. i dont think my mom understands this issue.. i knw its new to both my parents. my relationships have suffered and i feel lost. like im in limbo. i was watching a program called secret families. kids who have OCD and there was a gurl who had a fear of touching anyone. i am fighting a war but the enemy is me..

  • Anonymous-3

    im 2o and i stilll am suffering from the fear of touch. i had a breakdown that sent my to the psych ward.. i have scary nighmares, and there are voices in my mind. i can have a three way conversation by myself. and the doctors say its a severe phobia of touch. i was told by doctors that ocd is linked to schitsophrenia. well i have it deff. im tired and sad because im afraid that people will jst look at the label and not me.. im on meds so things have gotten better. i am fine with little kids and dogs thats about it. i got scared casue i thought i saw a figure in my room and it was trying to touch me. i got soo sczared i didnt want to stay in my room. so my family re did my room so itl look diffrent. i know theres help, and i want to find people like me who are going through this pain and suffering... im only 20 and yet iv delt with this since i was 16. im adopted and i dnt really know my background. iv started to write a story called Serene. where this gurl goes through wat i go through. and only music like me will help her.its now my fav word! its not lile ill get contaminated or something from touching its that itl hurt me so bad. i actually tense up alot and my thoughts go racing and i can stop. hugging is bad, and kissing and holding someones hand... its tearing my family apart i know it is. how scary to think ur in the hospital and u here a voice saying their coming to get you. their after you. i am tired of this! all i want is peace.. i want to have a bf but its to hard.. i even had to drop out of school// have you ever fought a war but its you yourself thats fighting with? have you ever fought something no one elsle can see? i am still fighting my "bad" thoughts. but wen i write my story things r ok.. i can escape my mind and dissapear before the storm rolls in..

  • Aircraft Maintainer

    I simply do not like being touched. When someone does it, I wipe off the area. This does not make me OCD. God knows what they have on thier hands. It is not a disorder to be careful. I have been called OCD by many people and it is starting to piss me off. Please understand that just because someone has a habit to keep off people does not make them messed up in the head. Only if it starts to disturb relationships should one even consider that they need help for something like that.

  • Allan N. Schwartz, PhD

    Hello Air Craft Maintainer,

    I fear that you misunderstand OCD. It has nothing to do with being "messed up in the head." It is anxiety, something that tens of millions of people all across the globe struggle with. I regret that it is hard for you to understand your self just because you have the false belief that it is "being messed up in the head." As Churchill said decades ago, "there is nothing to fear but fear itself." Try not to fear knowledge. Kowledge can empower you.

    Dr. Schwartz

  • Dave

    Although I'm sorry to hear others are suffering, it is relieving to know that I'm not alone. I'm 22 and got diagnosed with OCD when I was 17. I'm usually fine with touch, in fact with close friends a hug or a hand on a shoulder really helps me to relax. However I get times when suddenly I feel like it would be inappropriate to touch somebody, and that they might think I was a sex offender, and that I might even try to commit a sexual offence. I know it's completely daft but it really stresses me out, and then I'm stressed and want a hug, but I can't, so I get more stressed.......it's a bloody horrible cycle! Suddenly a few hours have passed, the person who went to shake your hand has vanished, and you're left wondering if you need to go to a police station in case you are going to do something terrible to somebody, when all you want is a damn hug! Has anybody found an effective way to deal with this particular 'though' yet?

  • :(

    i hate touch too. i always have felt it to be degrading, as if hugging were only meant between a boyfriend and a girlfriend or a husband and a wife. Maybe its just the quaker in me ) I'm fine hugging my boyfriend, and i've gotten used to hugging family and friends, but i only like very quick hugs with them, preferably not at all. I think it might just be a personal preference though.

  • Daniel Kimbril

    As much as I like touch I don't like someone behind me...oxymoron? But I found that it is healing to touch and be touched. There are studies that show and are being practiced that prove that touch helps in the healing process. High blood pressure, pre-mature baby growth, and anxiety (such as OCD) are among the reaason to use to use touch therapy. Gotta love that touch!

  • Kratos

    I'M NOT A PROFESSIONAL but I fear the advice given to be a generalization. Although the word "disgusting" is used, I don't believe that is substantial enough to suggest the subject has a fear of being physically unclean. What's more is, they say they feel "awkward" which seems indicative of their personality type rather than a psychological disorder. As an INTJ, I can relate. People interested in learning more about themselves would do well to google "MBTI test". Good day and good mental health.

  • Bekah

    This article makes things so much clearer for me! I was diagnosed with PTSD and OCD at 13 or so and have never really understood how I'm OCD. I'm 17 now.

    I am not afraid of germs, only rarely do I need things to be perfect, and I feel normal except with touching others. I used to freak out on the inside when I was touched. I tried not to show it and infact have gotten over it somewhat. I have forced myself to hug others as a daily routine, but have not really gone any further. Still, pretty good?

  • HoneyB

    I have anxiety disorder and depression. I am in my early 30s, a virgin because I do not like being touched. the older you get like this, the more of a freak other adults consider you and forget about 'dating.' guys complain all time about 'head cases' and girls that don't 'put out.' I get very angry and sometimes sad about it. nothing can be done for smoene like me. as far as i am concerned i would be better off dead, what point of living in a world like this? CBT is a joke and have not worked for me. basically life's a dead end far as I can tell. ty

  • Eric

    Hey,

    I myself too, seem to possess this fear of being touched, however, it seems to be covered by superstition. For example, whenever I touch, see or hear something strange or unexplainable I have a feeling some type of "curse" gets into me. It was not that big of a problem last year but now, it has gotten to a point where whenever I touch, hear or see something odd, I gain the compulsion to open the tap a specific amount of times and wash my hands and draw a cross on my forehead to "rid myself of the curse". This even to myself seems ridiculous since I do not even consider myself religious and I was a completely normal person a year ago. I am sure I have OCD but this seems to be on another level.
    This "obsession" seems to be affecting my grades as a first year university student and I really want to find a remedy.


    Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks!

  • Allan N. Schwartz, PhD

    OCD and superstition have a lot in common. For example, the coils ion to touch something a certain. Number of times cannot be resisted for fear of being cursed. What you are experiencing is typical of OCD. Cognitive Behavior Therapy is the way to go for this disorder.

    Dr. Schwartz

  • Anonymous-4

    Fear of touch is not usually OCD, although it can be part of fear of infection as related above. I have seen it more commonly with victims of sexual abuse.

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