I Don’t Like Being Touched

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

I have never liked being touched. Massages, pedicures, etc. are fine, but I don’t like hugs or kisses, even from my husband. When he touches me I stiffen up and feel very uncomfortable. In order to have sex I have to have at least a glass of wine to relax enough just to stand it. This is particularly a problem right now because alcohol is off-limits (I’m pregnant). There’s also no incentive to have sex because I don’t get any physical gratification whatsoever. We’ve been married a few years and there’s been no improvement. I really don’t understand what’s wrong because I fantasize about sex with him, I’m attracted to him, and I REALLY want physical intimacy (not to mention an orgasm) , but when the time comes, I just want run. Is there anything I can do to become more comfortable with touch? I’m so frustrated!

A: There is something called “sensory defensiveness.” This is when people react negatively to sensory stimuli that generally don’t bother other people. Some people overreact to sound; others to bright lights; still others to being touched. There are a number of possible causes, some genetic and some the result of early experiences. I suggest you talk to an occupational therapist about whether you are sensory defensive and if so what to do about it. There are therapies that can gradually help you reduce your reactivity.

Your inability to enjoy sex may be another expression of sensory defensiveness. It’s also possible that your inability to orgasm is hormonal. It’s always a good idea to check out whether there is a medical issue behind what looks like a psychological problem. Talk frankly with your gyno and and an endocrinologist about the lack of physical gratification with sex. They may have some suggestions.

Congratulations on your pregnancy. I urge you to deal with these issues while pregnant. If you are sensory defensive, it may get in the way of enjoying nursing and cuddling your baby. You both deserve to have the sweetness of that closeness.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 5 Oct 2012

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2012). I Don’t Like Being Touched. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 31, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2012/10/05/i-dont-like-being-touched/