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Fear of being touched

Dear Sam, Whenever someone touches me I jump away, flinch, (one time) I just started shaking and/or freeze tensely. I haven’t experienced any trauma or anything like that. It isn’t just strangers. My best friends, parents, sister. There is this one person in my class who is always asking me why I don’t like it or they pretend like they are going to touch me (I still jump, shake, freeze and/or flinch when they are about to touch me). I don’t think it is a fear. I don’t know what it is, but my dad also asks me why it happens. What do I do?

Ask Sam


Hi there,

We’re all comfortable with different levels of touch or physical contact. There's no right or wrong way to feel about touching – you get to decide what’s right for you. But if you're finding your reaction to being touched is affecting things like your friendships then it might be something you want to change. If you do then there are a few things to think about.

Physical touch is something most people need or want, but we all want it in different ways and different amounts. If you're comfortable with someone touching you then it can be a sign that you trust them and want to be close to them. If you don’t like being touched, or react badly to it, you can still have close friendships but you might show how you feel about the person in different ways.

It's okay and normal for people to touch each other, so long as it's appropriate. What's appropriate changes depending on what a person is comfortable with, what they’re doing, how they’re feeling and where they are.

Some types touching are only appropriate in certain situations. It's not okay for someone to touch your private parts (genitals) or other parts of your body that are not normally touched unless you want them to and feel comfortable with it. You can consent to this type of touching if you want to explore this with someone your own age – but it’s never OK for an adult or someone older to touch you here unless they’re a doctor medically examining you.

Appropriate touching can become inappropriate for lots of reasons - like where and how often it happens. It's always okay to say when you think touching has become inappropriate. It's okay if you don't ever like being touched - even when it's appropriate touching for other people. It’s your decision and you have the right to feel comfortable and safe.

If you want to become more comfortable with being touched then one way of doing this is to start small and build up slowly. You might want to first share this problem with a few close people that you trust so that they can help you. I’d suggest that you start by trying to touch those people in an appropriate way - such as a touch on the arm or a hand on their shoulder. If you are the one touching them then you get to be in control and can start to get used to physical touch.

Once you do feel comfortable with this, you can ask those people to begin to touch you in a way you agree on together - like linking your arms together when walking. Eventually you can ask them to start doing it in a more natural way, without you knowing ahead of time. Starting small and building up allows you to get used to touch before moving on to bigger things.

It's important to remember though that no matter what, it's okay for you to not want to be touched and this isn't something you have to change about yourself if you don't want to. This technique is a good first step but it's only worth doing if you want to become more comfortable with everyday physical contact. If you find that this isn't working or it's something you think might think is a deeper problem, you could always talk to a therapist or counsellor - your GP should be able to recommend someone.

Childline counsellors are always here to listen if you want to talk to someone first, or you can email or chat online. You can also get support from other young people on our message boards.

I hope that this has helped, thanks for writing to me.

Take care,


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