In this brief guide we will discuss Aphenphosmphobia.
What a dangerous-looking term! If you have heard of the expiration stranding game then you have likely come across the term Aphenphosmphobia or commonly known by the gamers as the expiration stranding phobia.
Well… Phobias can actually be very dangerous as they disrupt your daily life and this one is specifically going to harm your interpersonal relationships.
But as I do not want to scare you away before you even get to know what this phobia is about, let’s keep the mood a bit light and get started with the informative part of this article.
So, if you want to truly understand Aphenphosmphobia the very first thing you need to know is what exactly defines a phobia.
The answer to your first question is that phobia is an anxiety disorder as DSM 5 classifies it, which also gives you the answer to your second question as DSM 5 classifies panic disorders as distinct from phobias but under the same category.
Both disorders share similar symptoms but yes, they are different!
Is there any difference between a fear and a phobia?
Although we define phobias as fearing something (an object or maybe a situation) but there really is a basic difference between both.
Fear is an emotional arousal caused by a perceived or real threat and so is a phobia, both can be irrational but it is about the intensity which defines a phobia.
The fear nay anxiety caused by a phobia is so intense and disturbing that the person may go to unrealistic lengths to avoid the thing or situation that he/she fears, far beyond the level of the actual threat that specific object or situation may even present.
The intensity can be so high that it may even cause panic attacks.
So you immediately know if a person is phobic rather than afraid of something by his/her immediate disproportionate reaction on exposure.
The most important question among all of the above is what makes up a phobia? How to diagnose it? Don’t worry!
DSM V provides us a solution by giving these guidelines or criteria;
What makes up a phobia?
As this phobia is specific in nature, it would be covered under specific phobias;
- Marked anxiety or fear about a particular object or condition (e.g. flight, heights, animals, getting an injection, seeing blood).
- The fear or anxiety may be conveyed in children by screaming, tantrums, freezing, or clinging.
- Almost always the phobic object or circumstance provokes acute anxiety or terror.
- Intense fear or anxiety actively prevents or endures the phobic entity/object or circumstance.
- The fear or anxiety is out of proportion to the actual danger posed by the specific object or situation and to the socio-cultural context.
- There is chronic terror, anxiety, or avoidance, usually lasting for 6 months or more; causing significant psychiatric distress or disability in social, professional, interpersonal or other such critical functioning areas.
- Symptoms of another mental disorder, including fear or terror, anxiety and avoidance of panic-like symptoms or other debilitating symptoms: obsessive things or circumstances; reminders of traumatic events; being separated from home or an attachment figure; or social situations (as in a social anxiety disorder) does not explain the condition.
Aphenphosmphobia is the fear (now that you know the difference) nay phobia of being touched!
Yes! And that is exactly why it is specifically disrupting interpersonal relationships.
Aphenhosmphobia is also known as haphephobia, chiraptophobia, and thixophobia (just so you can learn easier spelling).
The word ‘hapte’ has its roots in Greek (meaning touch), and ‘phobia’ is Greek (meaning fear).
Aphenphosmphobia is the dark, irrational fear of being touched or touching.
Individuals with this phobia completely scorn any kind of physical contact.
It can make many people uncomfortable being contacted by strangers specifically without consent or permission.
However, even when it is someone from family or friends touching if the fear is strong, it persists and if it causes significant pain, it may be haphephobia or (as we’re referring to it) aphenphosmphobia.
Aphenphosmphobia is often confused with one very specific disorder called allodynia which is the hypersensitivity to touch.
An allodynic may also avoid being touched, but they do so because it causes them to feel more physical pain than fear.
In case I haven’t mentioned it clearly enough already, the physical presence of a trigger is not necessary when it comes to phobias.
The emotional response may be triggered even in the absence of someone touching the person suffering from this type, just by the thought of being touched.
Not just this, It also involves a fear of being touched emotionally.
Yes! engagement, commitment, being intimately accepted or loved, human contact, in general, is enough to disturb a sufferer.
So, now it may be way more clear to you how bad a person suffering from it will be affected in his normal life (which, to be honest, is not going to be normal).
The person would not be able to carry out so many activities. Having thousands of moments worth having is literally going to be impossible.
Have you ever heard of oxytocin?
Oxytocin is the hormone that is released when a mother comes into first physical contact with her baby after delivery which helps them develop a love bond and prevents the mother from developing postnatal depression.
Now better not imagine the following scenario if you are the one suffering from this phobia!
How hard is it going to be for a person to love someone and then get married and start a family and later go through all the birth process and rear children and all! It even sounds impossible!
That person is going to end up having severe anxiety and probably panic attacks even imagining all that.
And depression comes as a bonus when you realize that you’re going to miss so much in life, that you can’t have things that normal people do.
You see, this is the problem with most of the phobias.
We really should realize the mental pain these people suffering from such dark disorders go through.
Now that you know enough about what makes up aphenphosmphobia, it’s time that we describe its symptoms.
What exactly happens to the person when this phobia is triggered?
What happens when Aphenphosmphobia is triggered (symptoms)?
The following symptoms may suggest aphenphosmphobia;
- Sudden fear or anxiety to touch someone, or when considering being touched by someone
- Panic attacks that include a rise in heart rate, sweating, hot flushes, tingling and chills
- The fear is irrational, unreasonable and disproportionate, and the individual behaves or responds in inappropriate or in extremely awkward ways
- Avoiding circumstances in which an individual may be contacted physically
- Owing to phobia, general anxiety, depression and poor quality of life
But aren’t you wondering one very important thing that Why does it happen?
How does this phobia develop and cast its life-long evil, dark shadow on someone’s life i.e. what are the causes of aphenphosmphobia?
The Causes of Aphenphosmphobia
Aphenphosmphobia may be caused by a traumatic event that involved being touched.
The individual may not even remember the event that has been the seed planting this phobia into the personality of that individual, particularly if the triggering event had happened when the individual or person suffering from aphenphosmphobia was at a very tender or young age.
So, negative past experiences even if perfectly repressed, can cause such severe phobias.
The second major cause might be the presence of any similar phobia (specifically the same one) or any other anxiety disorder in the family.
An individual may learn to be affected by the fear of touch if they observe a loved one expressing a similar fear or avoiding touch.
Another important thing that you’d want to know is prevalence right?
So, The National Institute of Mental Health (NIH) reports that at some point in their lives 12.5 percent of people in the United States experience a phobia.
Ever heard of Shriya Saran or Kelly Osbourne? These celebrities also have aphenphosmphobia.
Did you know? Women are more sensitive and actively respond to touch!
No wonder women are more prone to aphenphosmphobia…
Having a neurotic personality or a propensity to suppress behavior is also considered as another important risk factor.
According to the DSM-5, more than one phobia can occur in about 75 percent of people with a particular phobic condition.
So the next thing that comes to our head is Comorbidity!
- Mysophobia (fear of germs) – A person can avoid touching because of a fear of contamination or uncleanliness.
- Ochlophobia (fear of crowds) – A person who has ochlophobia may be nervous about being approached in crowds by strangers.
- PTSD (Post-traumatic Stress Disorder) – Aphenphosmphobia, as we discussed earlier, may come from an earlier traumatic experience involving being touched, such as witnessing an attack or experiencing sexual violence.
- OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) – A person with an OCD can fear certain circumstances outside their control, such as being touched by others.
The last but one seriously important point – Can it be cured? Well… Yes!
Here are some common cures for phobias like this;
The major symptom that the treatments devised for phobias target are anxiety caused by exposure to the feared object or situation while the avoidance of such exposure becomes a major hindrance in cure.
Phobias are usually treated using such behavior therapies that involve exposing the individual to triggering situations gradually such as systematic desensitization.
Other such therapies include;
- Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) – one of the most commonly devised treatments, which help individuals, alter their cognitive distortions and develop new behaviors that would help them cope with anxiety coming out of being touched.
- Exposure Therapy – as the name suggests, involves exposing the individual to feared situations gradually as in systematic desensitization. This is another most widely and commonly used therapy for the treatment.
- Virtual reality exposure therapy – allows healthy, guided exposure to phobic stimuli or scenarios, without the possibility of being near to the object or being actually in the situation.
- Medicines such as beta-blockers or antidepressants are also used which may help soothe acute symptoms of anxiety and panic. Such medications are often used along with psychotherapies as an aid.
- Different exercises such as relaxation training, breathing exercises, mindfulness techniques, are also used to cure the majority of phobias such as this one. These exercises help soothe anxiety and its other immediate symptoms and also help manage panic attacks.
Hence, it can be cured although it requires a lot of effort.
But remember one thing; taking the first step towards betterment is always the hardest and the scariest!
So, I believe that’s all you need to know about aphenphosmphobia for now.
Side Note: I have tried and tested various products and services to help with my anxiety and depression. See my top recommendations here, as well as a full list of all products and services our team has tested for various mental health conditions and general wellness.
FAQs about Aphenphosmphobia
Q1. What does Aphenphosmphobia mean?
It simply means ‘untouchable’, the fear of Intimacy.
Q2. Why did ‘Sam’ in “expiration Stranding” had Aphenphosmphobia?
Probably because the character has been depicted as kind of a loner in childhood.
Q3 What is Athazagoraphobia?
This one, also being scary, is related to the fear of forgetting and being forgotten.
Q4. What is Latrophobia?
This phobia may not let you get yourself treated as it is the phobia of Doctors!
What we recommend for Phobias
- If you are suffering from Phobias then ongoing professional counselling may be your ideal first point of call. Counselling will utilize theories such as Cognitive behavioural therapy which will help you address the fears you are facing.
- Phobias and anxiety go hand in hand and in the end they result in Panic. A panic course such as this may help you alleviate those feelings of fears as it has with over 50,000 people.
- Weighted Blankets may help you sleep better if your phobias are affecting your quality of sleep. Weighted blankets apply enough weight on you that they make you feel much more relaxed and calm at night.