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Why some People avoid Touch

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Most of us love to have someone reach out and pat our shoulder or give us a hug when we are feeling down. Touch is one way we tend to show affection for each other. There are some people, however, who stiffen their bodies or actually move away when we reach out and touch them. The very thought of being touched can upset some people greatly. Hopefully, I can explain some of the more frequent reasons for this aversion in a way that creates understanding in those who do not feel this way.

People are born with a basic need to be loved and touched. Some babies, however, do not have regular physical contact with a caretaker. Maybe the child is an orphan who has gone from one foster home to another, never having a chance to bond with any particular person. It is possible the childs parents were emotionally distant and never taught the child the thrill of being touched. Another possibility is the child was born in a home where alcohol or drug addiction kept his parents away from him, either physically or emotionally.

In these cases, a child can learn to enjoy being held if he is given the chance early enough. The longer he is in such a situation, however, the harder it is to let go of the feeling that a touch is somehow wrong. Adults who never had an opportunity to enjoy a normally affectionate relationship simply wont know how to respond to touch or affection, and will naturally step back from what he doesnt know.

Another group of people who find touch and affection almost painful are those who have been physically or sexually abused. In their experience, people they trusted to love them and keep them safe actually hurt them, or allowed them to be hurt. They mistrust anyone who shows any sign of getting close to them.

Physical abuse causes scars that are far deeper than those others can see. When a person knows nothing but pain from those who claim to love him, he learns to mistrust any signs of affection. These people have been on guard most of their lives, ready to defend themselves from attack. Any physical touch can cause an automatic defensive reaction in their bodies, often without the person even realizing what is actually happening.

Sexual abuse does much the same thing. Those who have been abused sexually can often have flashbacks, when touched in an intimate way, to the event or events that caused the initial pain. They view touch as a prelude to pain and try to stay away from it. These people may want touch and affection, but their bodies have learned to respond in a way that prevents this. Many of these people my never be able to get completely through the pain their pasts have created.

There is a small group of people who suffer from obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). In one of its many forms, this disorder makes the person fear germs that they feel are everywhere. These people truly fear, that if they are touched, some germ may cause them to become ill or die. This group is the hardest to convince that touch can be a wonderful thing. In most of these cases, only a professional can help rid the person of their fear.

Before making any assumptions about a persons unwillingness to be touched, it is always best to talk with the person about what you see. It may be a simple case of the person feeling ill or tired and just wanting to be left alone for the time being. Allow the person a chance to talk about what the touching makes them feel and let them know you are there for them. If the reason does go back to abuse or some other deeply embedded problem, discuss the possibility of the person seeing a professional to help them work through the causes. In any case, do not force touch upon someone who does not want it. This not only is a violation of their wishes, but it may only further deepen the problem. This is definitely the last thing you would want for someone you care about.


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