Discomfort and avoidance of touch: new insights on the emotional deficits of social anxiety

Cognition and Emotion 31 (8):1638-1646 (2017)
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Physical touch is central to the emotional intimacy that separates romantic relationships from other social contexts. In this study of 256 adults, we examined whether individual differences in social anxiety influenced comfort with and avoidance of physical touch. Because of prior work on sex difference in touch use, touch comfort, and social anxiety symptoms and impairment, we explored sex-specific findings. We found evidence that women with greater social anxiety were less comfortable with touch and more avoidant of touch in same-sex friendships. Additionally, a woman’s social anxiety had a bigger effect on a man’s comfort with touch and avoidance of touch in the romantic relationship than a man’s social anxiety had on the woman’s endorsement of touch-related problems. These effects were uninfluenced by the length of romantic relationships. Touch is a neglected emotional experience that offers new insights into the difficulties of individuals suffering from social anxiety problems, and their romantic partners.



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Status and sex: Some touching observations.Nancy M. Henley - 1973 - Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society 2 (2):91-93.

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