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What is aphenphosmphobia in Death Stranding?

Death Stranding Aphenphosmphobia
(Image credit: Sony)

Discovering Death Stranding aphenphosmphobia in the Director's Cut will probably send you straight to google trying to find out what it is. It is a real thing, although that term is an old name for the condition. It's also something the game brings up and very quickly brushes past in Death Stranding, leaving you unsure if it's a big deal or just a bit of background. If you want to know more then we've done our research. Let us explain what Death Stranding aphenphosmphobia is, and what it means for Norman Reedus' character.

What is aphenphosmphobia?

What is aphenphosmphobia?

(Image credit: Sony)

So, in case you hadn't guessed it, aphenphosmphobia is a fear of being touched, although the full blown condition (it's a real thing) also includes a fear of being emotionally touched as well - commitment, being loved, human contact in general is enough to upset a sufferer.   

Aphenphosmphobia isn't a physical condition though, which Death Stranding confuses slightly with all the BT handprints on Sam's body, as well as one from a person he meets at the start of the game. In the story Sam just doesn't like being touched which is a nice metaphor, but in reality a phobia is a mental, not physical condition defined by an "overwhelming and debilitating fear" - something Sam doesn't demonstrate.

The condition is also more commonly know as haphephobia, which obviously isn't as fun to say as aphenphosmphobia. Haphephobia can sometimes have pain-like symptoms and is often associated with sexual assault, which might be another reason for the slightly more obscure naming variation used here. 

A more accurate condition for Sam, then, which would explain the physical impact it has on him, could be tactile allodynia. That's a neurological condition that can make touching physically painful, as well as other normal stimuli like temperature. But that's less of a nice metaphor. 

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Leon Hurley

I'm currently GamesRadar's guides coordinator, which means I've had a hand in producing or writing all of the guide and tips content on the site. I also write reviews, previews and features, and do video. Previously I worked for Kotaku, and the Official PlayStation Magazine and website.  I'm a big fan of open world games, horror, and narrative adventures.