A caress from a loved one.
The feeling of a worn cotton tee shirt.
A tickly kiss from a child.
The spring of dough being kneaded.
The soft petal of a rose.
But some people have aversions to one or more types of normally enjoyed or tolerated touch. If you find your aversion to touch interferes with your personal life, relationships, happiness, it’s not too late to seek answers.
Tactile sensitivity is found in both children and adults. A sensitivity to touch can be due to sensory processing disorders, emotional and mental health issues, and physical conditions.
Symptoms may include, but are not limited, to the following:
Being overly sensitive to touch and sometimes movement
Avoiding hugs and other affectionate touch–finding this kind of touch unpleasant, may even find it painful
Dislike and avoidance of tastes, smells, sounds, sights, or textures that are normally tolerated by most people within age-group and culture
May be “hyper-active” or “hypo-active”
Finds it hard to relax, calm down, de-stress
Physical awkwardness or clumsiness
Dislikes some types of movement such as roller-coasters
May dislike climbing stairs, hills, rises
Can find it hard to transition, especially waking up and starting the day
Anxiety, depression, anger management issues
May use substances to relax in intimate moments or to be comfortable in groups
Whether you are an adult, adolescent or parent of a child with tactile sensitivity, getting an evaluation and exploring possible reasons for the issue is the first step towards healing. While today sensitivities are more likely to be addressed in children, if you are an adult don’t hesitate to explore your treatment options. Begin by finding the primary cause.
Is It A Sensory Processing Disorder?
If your dislike of touch is due to a sensory processing order (see the symptoms for various age groups, at the SPD Foundation) occupational therapists are trained to help.
If you are dealing with a child who has an aversion to touch that’s due to a sensory processing disorder, you can learn more from occupational therapist Miriam Manela.
Is It Due To Trauma or Abuse?
If your aversion to touch is due to an emotional issue, such as trauma, such as abuse, I recommend that you get trauma counseling with a therapist who has experience in this area. I also recommend spiritual counseling if possible. Working with an occupational therapist who has experience working with abused or traumatized clients can be an essential part of your treatment plan.
Is It Due To Mental Illness?
If you have been diagnosed with a mental illness, such as depression, bipolar disorder, or anxiety, you might find some kinds of touch intolerable. I recommend working with your therapist on this issue, preferably having one or more sessions with spouse, family or friends so they can gain an understanding of what you are experiencing, and you can work together on this and other issues. Occupational therapy may also be helpful.
Is It Due To An Ongoing Physical Condition?
Some conditions, such as neuropathy, meralgia parasthetica, old injuries that appear to be healed, and other physical illnesses can also lead to an ongoing aversion to touch. Some of these conditions have to be managed (neuropathy and other nerve issues); others may be treated and “cured.”