By: Melissa C. Water
There is an aspect of OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) where a person may feel an overwhelming need to reach out and touch an object or a person. While this compulsion may sound strange to some, to others, it’s a reality they face on a regular basis. Those who have this obsession may not understand why they do it, and they probably don’t realize that it has a name; haphemania.
If you type haphemania into Google, you will find a lot of dictionary-like lists which include a very brief definition of the compulsion but few articles that actually speak about it in depth. Not many people know about it, which is something that needs to change.
A person who presents with this aspect of OCD might need to turn, step, or walk, in specific ways. They might need to pick up a certain object and place it back in a set manner. It could include touching a door frame before walking through it. It could be a need to reach out and touch the arm of the person nearest to them, or walking out of the way to touch a specific person in a certain place, like on the top of the head.
There can be a few motivations behind touching objects or people. One reason is a form of magical thoughts in which the person feels they are making things come to be with their rituals. They might complete a compulsion in a specific way, repeatedly.
Another reason for this presentation of OCD is simply to relieve the associated anxiety that comes with the thoughts of needing to touch an object. It may be a simple urge to complete an action and succumbing to the impulse in order to ease the stress.
Because haphemania consists of movements, it can be mistaken for tics. The simple act of reaching out and touching someone’s arm could be a tic. Some may not notice a difference between the two, though a tic is spontaneous, whereas OCD is motivated by anxiety relief.