My girlfriend can't stand it when I touch her

My girlfriend was abused as a child. Now, if I hug or touch her in any kind of way she says she feels as if she is being abused as a child. What might be going on?

Erin Pritchard, MA, LPCC-S
Erin Pritchard, MA, LPCC-S
Sea Glass Counseling and Consultation

Sounds like she might be triggered and having a trauma response. This is normal for folks who've experienced trauma. The part of our brains that detects "danger" acts like a smoke alarm in our house: it's constantly scanning for threats and makes a bunch of noise if it detects one. Smoke alarms can't distinguish between smokey bacon cooking or an actual house fire - they just detect a threat and alert everyone of it. Our brain is similar. Her brain has probably learned that physical touch is dangerous for her, so whatever response she has next is her brain's way of trying to protect her. Particularly with sexual trauma, this can be a really frustrating experience for romantic partners trying to connect physically or sexually. 

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.

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