Q: I’ve been married to my wife for a few years now, and for as long as I’ve known her, she’s had this inherent fear of being touched in a small spot in the center of her trunk-the area directly below the center of the rib cage. She has no problem with touch anywhere else, but absolutely recoils and grimaces if I happen to brush her there. She claims that it’s a “creepy” feeling to be touched in that certain spot. It’s only about a 1 inch x 1 inch spot, but I’m constantly thinking about avoiding it, and it interferes with intimacy. From what I understand of her childhood, there wasn’t any abuse in her household, but just no love. She said that there was rarely any hugging or kissing at all. There were three children, and she claims to be the only one with this problem. She doesn’t fear intimacy at all, and enjoys being close to me, however she does suffer regularly from generalized anxiety. I know she is deeply troubled by this–please help us!
A: It would be my guess that your wife has suffered some sort of trauma in that area. It could have been in utero or when she was very young in which case she would not have memory of the trauma. I have treated and studied types of trauma for years and we are now finding that we can have body memories of abuse without a cognitive framework to understand or even remember it. I would suggest that you both do some research in this area and find a therapist who works with this. You may have to step outside mainstream psychotherapy and find someone who does EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) or some sort of body work or energy work such as Healing Touch. The book The Body Bears the Burden may be helpful as well. It is wonderful that you are concerned enough to write in and I hope you find some answers. Good luck to both of you.
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 16 Mar 2007
Counts, H. (2007). My wife fears touch in the center of her chest. What could cause this?. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 4, 2015, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2007/03/16/my-wife-fears-touch-in-the-center-of-her-chest-what-could-cause-this/