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Reach Out And Touch It – Haphemania – OCD

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.

6 Comments

  1. At last, a name and an explination. Thank you for sharing this. My son does this and I couldn’t figure out if it was a tic or ocd. He mostly uses the back of his hand to touch objects. I have never brought it to his attention but if he ever askes me about it, now I can point him to this word.

  2. Frank Hatton says:

    Visited a psychologist 2 years ago a few times about my tic. The guy was relentless in trying to get it out of me what triggers it. Finally, I had to tell him how to do his job and said it’s subconscious. From that point, things went off the rails and I never made another appointment. I have found relief in CBD oil.

  3. I feel like this didn’t cover everything, or address the severity it can have. But none the less, I am very thankful someone made this article. I just wish there were more. Everyone mistakes it for Turret’s and I can barely find anything about it.

  4. Thank you!! I had no idea why I did this. I knew I had OCD but most of my obsession was with numbers and the direction I’ve walk in. I never connected this in my head. It always felt like just a bad habit but would always make me feel better.

  5. ferxxani says:

    thank you for this.

  6. Krishna Raju says:

    Thank you so much for this simple clear explanation. Now i know how to search further for next steps.
    My son is in specteum and he had this urge to keep thing bak in the way it was or it has to be. In rwcent days he has started to touch things,corners and person, was worried what is this new behaviour.
    Any one have any suggestion to address this,pls advice.

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