Hafephobia: causes, symptoms and treatment

Phobias are anxiety disorders, Which means that they cause great discomfort to people who suffer from them, who experience anxiety symptoms in the face of the phobic stimulus or imagine it. While there are almost incapacitating phobias, except in specific cases, due to the infrequent frequency with which the phobic meets the stimulus, in other cases the reverse occurs and it is difficult to lead a normal life for those he suffers from.

In this sense, one of the most complex phobias is hafephobia, which is the irrational fear of being touched. Fortunately, phobias can be treated and the patient can overcome this disorder, and this is no exception. In this article, we explain what this disorder is and what is its treatment.

What is hafephobia?

Haphophobia is a specific phobic disorder (Unlike agoraphobia or social phobia) which causes great suffering in the person who suffers from it.

It is an irrational fear of great intensity that manifests itself when the individual suffers from a phobia. it comes into physical contact with other people and is affected. It produces a series of cognitive, physiological, or behavioral responses, including extreme anxiety and the attempt to avoid the dreaded stimulus to reduce the unpleasant sensation.

Haphophobes suffer from serious social problemsAs they fear to interact with other people in case they might come into contact with them. Therefore, a simple greeting or a hug from your own parents or spouse becomes a situation that produces intense feelings of fear. These subjects can avoid situations in which they may come into contact with others, even acquaintances.

the causes

Phobias usually have their origin in the most ancestral part of the brain, and according to some experts we are biologically programmed to suffer from fear of certain stimuli. What has worked so well for us for centuries to preserve the existence of human beings sometimes causes this kind of mess today. This is why phobias do not respond to logical arguments, and the alert reaction takes precedence over the subject, who feels in front of a real danger.

Phobias therefore develop through one of the most basic forms of human learning, a type of associative learning called classical conditioning that was initially discovered by Ivan Pavlov, a Russian physiologist who performed a series of experiments. with dogs.

Its initial objective was to measure the salivation of dogs and therefore to feed these animals, because saliva is a reflex act that occurs to promote digestion. Over time, Pavlov realized that although dogs initially salivated when food was presented to them, after several tries, the mere presence of the researcher triggered salivation, as the animals had learned that when it appeared, they would receive food. Classical conditioning causes an association between a stimulus which provokes a reflex response and another which does not, but which in the end the latter ends up producing the same response as the other stimulus with which it is associated.

Later it was John B. Watson, an American scientist, and confirmed that classical conditioning also occurs in humans. In fact, he was able to teach a child a phobia of a white rat that previously did not bother the little one.

You can read more about this study in the following video:

Other origins of phobias

Phobias are therefore learned by classical conditioning because the person suffers a significant traumatic event. But phobic disorders, and in particular in the case of hafephobia, vicarious conditioning can also be a domestic cause of this pathology.

Vicarious conditioning is neither more nor less than observational learning, For example, that the person has seen a movie in which the main actor is infected with a disease to come into contact with the skin of others. The phobic may suffer from irrational fear and unrealistic beliefs due to the emotional impact they have had on an observed event, in this case the film.

Symptoms of fear of contact with other people

Phobias, as I mentioned earlier, produce cognitive, physical, physiological, and behavioral symptoms.

They are as follows:

  • cognitive: Anxiety and distress, lack of concentration, nervousness, thoughts of contagion, thoughts of near death, terror and fear, thoughts of running out of air.
  • Physical and physiological: Headache, tremors, upset stomach, rapid heartbeat, hyperventilation, etc.
  • behavioral: Avoidance of the feared stimulus.

Treatment and therapy

Phobias are one of the main reasons people need counseling, and although they cause great discomfort, they respond very well to psychological treatment. In extreme cases, pharmacological treatment is indicated, but always with psychotherapy.

One of the most widely used therapeutic models is cognitive behavioral therapy, which aims to modify internal events (thoughts, beliefs and emotions) and behavior of people to improve their well-being. The techniques of relaxation, cognitive restructuring or exposure are among the most used for this type of pathology.

Within the latter, systematic awareness stands out, With which the patient performs a series of exercises that gradually expose him to the phobic stimulus while learning more adaptive strategies to cope with fear and anxiety.

In recent years, new therapeutic methods have shown their effectiveness in various scientific studies. These include Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). New technologies also apply to therapeutic sessions, because virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality are useful tools which are increasingly used to expose the patient to a phobic stimulus.

Indeed, it is now possible to find “apps” for the treatment of phobias and for the treatment of anxiety disorders. You can find more information at the following links:

  • 8 apps to treat phobias and fears from your smartphone
  • 15 apps to treat anxiety

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