Want to be touched but can't bear it

by Kris
(Ireland)

Thanks for a great site! It has been really amazing to read all the entries. So comforting to realise I'm not the only person with this problem. I knew I had this problem for many years but didn't know even what to call it until in the course of my work (I work in Health Care) I happened to hear it mentioned on a training-course and recognised that it explained my problem.


My main issue seems to be related to the touch sense. Thankfully, I have no problems with labels on clothes or different textures or clothing. I do like deep pressure and prefer heavy blankets, but I can live without them too. That's why I always wondered was it somehow psychological as I have no problem touching myself, it's only when other people touch me.

I CAN bear to be touched from my knees down to my feet,from my elbows to my hands and on my face/scalp and upper back.... anywhere else I CAN'T BEAR to be touched... it's just an automatic reaction. As an adult I can control my response.. I try to hide my reaction, if I have a second's anticipation I 'grin and bear it' - well, it's more like I 'dissociate' so as not to suffer the feeling. But I go tense all over. I feel an awful feeling like I'm being attacked. This happens for example at doctor visits when for example the doctor was checking for swollen neck glands - it was torture, or checking my hip joint - absolutely awful. Or my Granny is very fond of showing her affection by squeezing your thigh as you sit beside her - the pain of it for me is awful, I squirm inside but try to hide myself cringing, I bear it because I don't want her to feel rejected.

Also because inspite of it, I desire to be touched. I actually greatly crave touch. I daydream about being hugged and touched. I crave it up to the point of being touched but then my body reacts. If someone touches me unexpectedly outside of my 'safe' areas and I have no time to hide my response, I could actually cry out and jump away or bat their hand away. This has been an embarassing reaction a few times - in other people's eyes totally disproportionate to their touch. I am concerned about how can I have an intimate relationship with the opposite sex? I have a huge desire for physical closeness but my body acts up.. The other person would inevitably feel rejected. My Mom mentioned that she felt rejected by me as an infant and child as I resisted her touch.

I still wonder at whether there's an overlap with psychological issues and which causes which? I also have issues with 'rejection' and thinking about it wonder how these two areas may relate... When someone hugs me (I've learnt to tolerate this, not enjoy) I still feel rigid inside and feel a part of me not trusting the other person really means the hug, therefore question can I really 'accept' it. 'Maybe they are really going to reject me?' is my feeling inside. If that makes sense. But also, I'm thinking now, maybe I learnt as a child that other people were 'dangerous' by that sense of being attacked when touched. I don't know. I don't remember being bothered by other children touching me as a child. I enjoyed rough and tumble and play-wrestling as much as others around me. I'm a bit confused! Didn't mean for this to be so long. I've never explained all this before even to myself. Just looking into it now because there is someone special on the horizon and I realise this is a real problem. Going to look into this brushing technique that was mentioned a few places. If anyone else has any thoughts about psychological elements I'd be really interested to hear. Thanks a million.

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Mar 03, 2014
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Very familiar
by: Anonymous

Hi, I'm 25 and live in Ireland. This looks awfully familiar actually. I have TS, tardive dyskinesias and possibly OCD, and now I've come to understand my 'natural' response to touch. It's not that I don't want to, or that others are unwilling, but I still have to deal with it comfortably.

People around me are very friendly anyway, but this is very good to know. Another step forward!

It still gives a distant impression of me to others, as in: he doesn't want to, he's not interested. I can understand that from their point of view as well. It's not anyone's fault, just an irreversible fact. TS is hard enough on its own, I'm very ticcy, but I can understand SPD and how it feels. I must have an extreme reaction to being touched. When someone rubs a dry towel in front of me, for example, it is awful for me to hear. I can't have certain clothes, no collars, lots of clothes are often uncomfortable (e.g. wool). When somebody does touch me, it's like that feeling sticks to my skin. Sunglasses are necessary to wear in nearly all kinds of weather. Sitting down in a chair is difficult enough, also no thanks to my spasms, takes me 15 minutes to get to sleep for me to feel comfortable enough to lie down. Sometimes I can't even walk on my own feet, they're too sensitive. Still, I don't give up. I've been through worse and even though this may never go away, I'll still have to cope with it. I must be very resilient. Hard enough though to see others be affectionate and not me. Then again, I'm sure there's a coping strategy. A website like this is useful enough for me to understand. Appreciated.

Sep 20, 2013
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Issues possibly related
by: Anonymous

I am nearly 40, a successful professional, with a graduate education. I was born two months early and spent my first month bonding with wires and lights in an incubator. I am also diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and ADD. As a child my parents would giggle and call my "goosy" due to my sensitivity to touch, distractibility with noises, challenging appetite, poor sleep, and funny things like falling out of my chair at the dinner table or falling off the couch if a family member touched me, having a horrible sensation to people touching dry, paper or wood --my father would tease me and lick paper napkins to watch me squirm and I couldn't stand to watch my teachers use paper flashcards as it made my mouth and teeth hurt. I needed many heavy blankets and a pacifier (very specific kind) to sleep.

As an adult I adapted but often find my professional clothes to be exhausting to wear, having overly sensitive skin, I thought. If I am stressed I fail to feel hungry. I am a smoker yet can smell things many others never notice. I often go through 2 or 3 towels to find one that although clean, doesn't smell too bad. But the absolute worst part is the sensitivity to touch. I have a fairly normal libido for someone with my psychiatric diagnoses; however, every time my husband tries to touch me in a sexual way I feel like I am grimacing on the inside and react in my typical "goosy", startled manner--which I cannot seem to help. Even though I explain to him that it must be a problem with just myself, he gets his feelings hurt, pouts, and allows me to feel terribly guilty for not being able to reciprocate.

That's a bit of my story. I do think that these issues undoubtedly do not occur in a vacuum. I have recently learned that sensory issues are common with certain psychiatric or NOS disorders, in my case Bipolar, but may also be related to outside environmental triggers too like exposure to toxins as a fetus/baby. There is a big correlation with premature births and some syndromes. It is closely linked to Autism Spectrum Disorders. Psychosis and other psychiatric conditions can also produce sensory problems. See the DSMV ...PTSD, etc.
I have not read of any link to childhood abuse per se but am sure there may be cases like that of the Wild Boy of Averon...in which human contact was not available and the child also developed hyposensitivity to things like temperature. As a child and young woman I did experience abuse but can recall having these symptoms far before that and they have continued post therapy. I feel these a mainly biological but can be exacerbated by other issues. If your gut keeps telling you that psychological problems need to be addressed as a holistic response to sensory issues, I would not ignore that. Trust your instincts, they may be telling you something very important. Best Wishes!

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