What is aphenphosmphobia in Death Stranding is a question you'll be asking early in the game, as it's mentioned during Sam Porter's first meeting with Deadman. However, after bringing it up the condition is then immediately passed over so quickly that it's hard to tell if this is an important plot point, or just a little character colour. The whole thing is quite a mouthful, and is it even a thing that exists outside of Death Stranding anyway? We've done our research, so let us explain what Death Stranding aphenphosmphobia is, and what it means for Norman Reedus' character.
What is aphenphosmphobia?
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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