13 Things People Don't Realize You're Doing Because You're Hypersensitive to Touch
Some of those with chronic pain conditions like fibromyalgia or migraine may experience a unique type of pain called allodynia, or sensitivity to touch. This heightened sensitivity can cause even the slightest breeze or the softest fabric to feel excruciating against the skin – making many parts of everyday life more challenging to navigate.
It’s important to note that hypersensitivity to an external stimulus, such as touch, is physiological in nature. It is a result of the person’s pain condition or other health issues – not a result of them being “too sensitive” mentally or emotionally. (But hey, it’s absolutely OK to be a “highly sensitive person” when it comes to emotions, too!)
Those with allodynia or hypersensitivity to touch may often find themselves doing certain things to avoid or manage a pain flare, though the reason behind their behavior isn’t always obvious to those around them. To help others better understand what it’s like to have this type of chronic pain, we asked our Mighty community to share something people don’t realize they’re doing because they’re sensitive to touch. If you see yourself in some of the following behaviors, know you’re not alone.
Here’s what our community shared with us:
1. Avoiding Hugs
“I’m not a hugger. I have back and shoulder pain and actually prefer people don’t touch me because I’m afraid they’ll unintentionally hurt me. I don’t coil back to be rude and sometimes I’ll give a lighthearted hug but generally hold back.” – Allison M.
“I don’t hug hello or goodbye if I can help it, way too overwhelming and I don’t want the memory of company clouded with the memory of stabbing pain.” – Rebecca M.
“I take a step back if I anticipate a hug. I’ve even been known to put my hands up to stop someone from touching me or getting too close.” – Elizabeth T.
“Refusing hugs. Some of my family members can hug me if they are super careful, but most people can’t. It just hurts waaay too much.” – Vanessa S.
2. Breathing Deeply
“Inhaling deeply, coming across as mad or annoyed when really I’m just trying to cope with the level of pain I’m in and whatever is causing it.” – Lola L.
3. Always Wearing Pajamas
“Dress in ‘pajamas.’ I am always in slouchy comfy clothes, it’s become a bit of a joke between my friends that I am always in jammies! I would love to dress the way I used to, in clothes, but when soft denim feels like pulling velcro across your skin, and shoes are like bear traps, it’s easier to dress a bit slobby!” – Melissa M.
“I have to wear loose comfy jammies all the time. Clothes with low friction.” – Amy M.B.
“When flaring, I wear my comfy PJs and clothes inside out so seams won’t irritate me.” – Jennifer B.
“Jumping or twitching when certain sensitive areas are lightly touched, accidentally, lovingly or trying to tickle (which is excruciating).” – Ginger V.
“When something brushes past my skin and my whole body flinches in pain when it shouldn’t. People don’t think about why I flinch so much over something so little.” – Abi S.
“Just because I flinch away from intimacy, doesn’t mean I don’t wanna be held. It just means being held hurt.” – Janell W.
“I can’t stand being touched. Even by my husband, I have to prepare my senses first. If someone comes up behind me and tries to startle me or grabs me, my whole body shutters and goes into overdrive. It takes about 10 minutes for my body to calm down. Hugs are a definite no-no.” – Marisa P.
5. Staying Inside When It’s Windy
“Not go outside when it’s windy. The wind hurts my skin.” – Cassidy S.
6. Being ‘Picky’ About Fabrics
“I am super picky about the clothes I buy and the blankets I use because I hate fabric that irritates me all day. Same with socks and sock seams. I cannot stand them under or in between my toes.” – Sara N.B.
“I touch all the clothes before I buy them because it can be super cute but if it isn’t soft then I can’t wear it!” – Heather S.
7. Maintaining a Short Hairstyle
“I cut my hair short partly because my arms hurt too bad to style my hair and keep my arms up long enough to dry it, but also because the hot air from the blow dryer can hurt if I have to use it long enough that long hair requires it for. It still hurts, but I don’t have to have it on as long, or my arms up as long.” – Rachel P.
8. Wearing Protective Clothing
“Always wear sweatshirts as the air conditioning, wind and movement of air hurts, and I wear sweatshirts through the summer too. People are always wondering why I am wearing a sweatshirt when it’s hot!” – Cassidy S.
“I bundle up more and sooner in the winter months because the cold air hurts and causes more pain.” – Rachel P.
“Gloves, long sleeves, covered 24/7.” – Melanie C.
9. Working From Home
“Working from home: I’m lucky enough to have a semi-flexible work schedule, but many colleagues still work at work from 9-5 and I get the sense that they think I’m either not working as much as they are or pulled some strings to get my schedule. In all honestly, I just am not at work when I don’t have to be because when I work from home I have control over the environment (no AC blowing on me) and can work in PJs.” – Sara A.
10. Avoiding Crowds
“When people start to crowd I back out of it because I’m afraid of the unexpected bump or nudge. At sports functions or any other school function, I’d rather sit on the opposing side (less people) or stand at the fence line. Less chance of an unexpected touch that can ruin my night.” – Sarah M.
“I have a very large ‘personal space bubble’ when out in public so I don’t get touched. My body goes into fight or flight mode if I’m touched. It takes like 20 minutes for my body to right itself after being touched.” – Amy M.B.
“I stand just outside of arm’s reach and avoid crowds. I hate it, but can’t handle the jostling.” – Becky M.T.
11. Not Taking Showers
“I sometimes avoid a shower because the water hitting my skin can hurt. I still clean up by taking a bath or a shower, but not letting the water hit me in certain areas of my body.” – Rachel P.
“I used to take long showers. Now it’s a rush to get as much done as quickly as possible to get out of the overstimulated environment. I dread toweling off.” – Krista I.
12. Only Wearing Comfy Clothes
“I used to wear cute clothes. Now I can only stand loose cotton anything.” – Krista I.
“I have completely changed how I dress. I rarely wear anything but soft comfy yoga pants or leggings.” – Heather S.
“Wearing leggings to every occasion! Doesn’t matter if it’s pub or job interview, I’ll be in my black leggings! With anything else I run the risk of it pressing too much on my tummy, or irritating my legs with the fabric.” – Kelly W.
“I basically only wear sweats and T-shirts. Jeans and most blouses/tops are so uncomfortable that they hurt. I have to dress comfortably or else the pain and irritation will drive me insane, sometimes causing pain flare-ups or anxiety.” – Abby A.
13. Avoiding Touch
“I avoid a lot of touching and hugging in general. My family always made fun of me growing up because I hated to be touched, so they always tried to poke at me and touch me to pick at me. It wasn’t until years later I was diagnosed with fibro, but looking back, this was definitely why I hated it. Even then the pain of flare-ups was real to me. I hated that they made fun of me for it, and made it worse… but they didn’t get it. Today people know me as ‘the one they don’t touch.’ Even people who know I have fibro don’t seem to get it and it hurts to be known as that – but I guess it’s better to be alienated than be in more pain than necessary?” – Molly D.
“Touching. While in a flare I avoid welcoming hugs. Sometimes even sitting shoulder to shoulder with someone on the train can be painful.” – Amy R.
“Avoid heavy handshakes.” – Catherine S.C.
“Since my shoulders are extremely painful I try to not sit where anyone can come up behind me and possibly ‘massage’ my shoulders. Hugs can be also. I’m always on guard for these well-meaning gestures.” – Sandra P.H.
Photo by Florencia Potter on Unsplash