Mental Health Monday–Phobias: Are They Catching?

Natasha Hanova asks:

What is the difference between haphephobia and chiratophobia? Is it believable that a child with such a parent might exhibit symptoms too?


I had to do some research to find the answer…

HAPHEPHOBIA, simply put, is the fear of being touched. This can happen particularly in the cases of sexual assault whereby the victim becomes phobic of being touched by a member of the opposite sex (or the sex of whomever assaulted them, I’d guess).

A bit of lit trivia: Christian Grey from Fifty Shades of Grey apparently suffers from this phobia…though I didn’t really get that vibe from reading the book. He had trouble with casual touch, but when it came to, well, BDSM, he had a grand old time. *ahem*

Moving on…

Other names for Haphephobia include:

  • aphephobia
  • haphophobia
  • hapnophobia
  • haptephobia
  • haptophobia
  • thixophobia
  • chiratophobia

(Thank you, Wikipedia, for that info!

Phobias are considered the most common Anxiety Disorder. Most suffers are women (90% of phobia sufferers are women, in fact). Phobias often start from some sort of childhood incident that incited fear, dread, fear of death, or panic. Once someone equates fear with an object or situation (and the incident is extreme enough for that person), then they develop symptoms of anxiety and panic whenever presented with said object or situation. No one likes how anxiety/panic feels, so then the object or situation is avoided. MOST kids outgrow these fears (like the fear of the dark), HOWEVER, some people retain these phobias into adulthood.

There are several theories of how phobias work. It appears to include a combination of genetic inheritance (people with anxiety are likely to pass it off to their offspring genetically AND behaviorally), learned behaviors (I’m repeating myself, in a way, but it comes down to the Nature vs. Nuture debate), and individual experiences with scary things.

So, to answer Natasha’s second question, I’d say:

Yes, children can develop similar symptoms to their parents if their parents exhibit a phobia. They would likely be genetically prone to developing an anxiety disorder and symptoms can emerge based on how their parents interact with them.

For instance, a parent who is phobic of touching probably wouldn’t engage in much hugging, kissing, or general affection, etc with their kid and so the child would learn that it’s not okay to touch or that touching isn’t part of how people interact.

The good news is that phobias ARE treatable with therapy and/or medication.

Ok. Enough of my rambling. I hope that was helpful, Natasha!

Remember, these posts are for writing purposes only and are NOT intended to be medical/psychiatric advice or treatment.

Please don’t hesitate to ask a question–I’d be happy to host your Mental Health Monday question any time! Just leave a question in the comments, email me, tweet me, or find me on Facebook–links are on the sidebar.


(photo credit)