When we touch

Posted: August 7, 2011 in autism, medicine
Tags: , ,

One of the aspects of autism is a problem with personal space and affection. Either the person avoids touch and has a large personal space or the complete opposite, guess which one defines me?

I hate being touched, hugged, tapped on the shoulder, or having someone put their hand on me. It brings up a feeling of anxiety and a need to escape that overwhelms my consciousness. For example, if someone is talking to me and puts their hand on my shoulder I can’t think straight. I lose track of the conversation and all I can think about that feeling of something foreign invading my sense of comfort.

The closest I can describe the feeling is “pain like”. Bolts of electricity are sent to my brain as the physical contact continues. It’s like a molten red piece of metal pressing on my skin. The feeling demands to be acknowledged and requires to be on the forefront. It does not fade but instead stays present.

I have learned on some level how to lessen my visible repulsion to touch. The reason neurotypicals do this came to me as a teenager. I realized that they are actually comforted by such motions and are hurt/offended when I do not seem to return the same response. This is why I started to limit my response and I have come a long way.

When I was a teenager and people hugged me I stood straight like a piece of lumber. I kept my arms and hands flat against my sides and did not move them during the interaction. I could tell by the way people reacted that they found my response very uncomfortable. Then in my early twenties I started moving my hands, giving the other personal taps on the back in a very mechanical way.

Now as a physician I have advanced even further. I will initiate contact such as a touch on the shoulder or even in certain situations a hug. They seem more fluid and almost natural but they are still painful for me and overwhelm my senses. To help deal with this I count to 5 and release, this helps me deflect some of the pain and gives me and endpoint to look to.

In the end physical contact still brings on that burning feeling but I have learned to push thru it to achieve the objective, comforting the other.


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