I'm currently in my late twenties, I have an illness that requires me to go to see various doctors and paramedical practitioners. Over the last 12 months, I went to 7 different doctors/practitioners, 3 of them were males and among the females, 3 of them have made an 'unnecessary physical contact'.

It ranges from a hand placed on my bicep or my inner thigh while looking at my face to 'hand play' with my stomach.

I'm very sensitive when I'm touched, so it requires me to be very concentrated when I'm auscultated/manipulated, so it may be a usual thing or a thing I overreact on.

Is there a way to avoid/break these situations without creating an awkward ambiance?

  • 15
    Do you warn these medical professionals of your sensitivity to touch when you meet? It'll change how you may address this issue.
    – Kendra
    Commented Jan 16, 2018 at 15:32
  • 3
    @AnneDaunted I do not see the point of 'holding' my leg when they look at my nose
    – GlinesMome
    Commented Jan 16, 2018 at 15:36
  • 34
    Not clear. What is 'hand play' with my stomach? Just because you don't understand why does not mean the touch is unnecessary.
    – paparazzo
    Commented Jan 16, 2018 at 15:54
  • 3
    @GlinesMome Really you think the Dr was tying to tickle you. I am going with you don't understand.
    – paparazzo
    Commented Jan 17, 2018 at 15:55
  • 4
    So you think your osteopath you know for 10 years and have "warm relations" was trying to tickle you? If you have "warm relations" then why did you not just ask her? If you have a "warm relations" and you have been seeing her for 10 years then why does she not know you don't like to be touched. An osteopath does manipulation of muscles as treatment. A Dr tickle a patient is not professional nor common.
    – paparazzo
    Commented Jan 17, 2018 at 16:55

5 Answers 5


Is there a way to avoid/break these situations without creating an awkward ambience?

The absolute best thing you can do is be open and honest with your doctor. I would tell them "Hey doc, I really don't like being touched. I know you have to touch me to do your exam in order for me to get the best treatment, but please only touch me when medically necessary".

You may even want to ask your doctor when he touches you why they are doing what they are doing during the examination. This way you will know for certain whether or not the contact was medically necessary. This will also further emphasize your desire to not be touched unless its necessary.

By doing this your doctor will know you have an issue with being un-necessarily touched. If they continue to touch you without medical necessity, perhaps you can find a less "touchy feely" physician.

  • 8
    The doctor should already only be touching their patient when medically necessary, so your request does sound very close to "please don't grope me." Perhaps something like asking them to explain what they're doing before they touch would be better? Commented Jan 16, 2018 at 20:03
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    @DavidRicherby The description is a bit ambiguous, but it sounds like the touches, while perhaps not strictly necessary, are also not groping. A bit of “human touch,” intended as comfort perhaps—or perhaps just stabilization while reaching at an awkward angle to feel for whatever they need to feel for. The OP doesn’t sound like their discomfort comes from perceived sexual intent, rather than a pure physical sensitivity to touch. Though there is an emphasis on the sex of the doctors, so maybe I’m wrong.
    – KRyan
    Commented Jan 16, 2018 at 20:28
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    @KRyan It's unclear whether the asker considers it to have been groping, though touching somebody's inner thigh usually is. My point was that requesting that somebody doesn't do something they shouldn't be doing anyway feels very much like an accusation that you think they're going to do that thing. So "please don't touch me unless medically necessary" is likely to be received as "I think you're going to touch me in ways you shouldn't touch me" which, in turn, has connotations of groping. Commented Jan 16, 2018 at 20:48
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    @DavidRicherby The medical value of a touch is not binary. There's not just two simple camps of "medically necessary" and "superfluous." There's a lot of grey regions in between, such as when a doctor checks one's thyroid even though they have no reason to believe the thyroid has a problem. Making it clear you want to limit contact to "medically necessary" makes it clear that you want resolve those grey areas. It's not a perfect command, because of the ambiguity of "medically necessary," but I expect any reasonable doctor to understand the intent of the request.
    – Cort Ammon
    Commented Jan 16, 2018 at 22:36
  • 2
    You could replace "when medically necessary" with "when absolutely necessary". It sounds like the doctor is performing a digital rectal exam for a conjunctivitis otherwise. Commented Jan 17, 2018 at 8:21

Ask them about it

Every time I've seen a doctor they've been fine with running me through the whys and workings of what they're testing for, prescribing, checking for in physical tests.

Next time you're there just talk about how you're feeling, wanting to be kept more in the loop, and ask questions. When they touch you in a way you think is unnecessary you can then ask:

What are you checking for there?

Perhaps they're checking for a reflex action or some other reason (I'm not a doctor so thats just guess work), in which case they'll tell you...or, if it is unnecessary, they will be made aware and be put in the awkward situation of explaining themselves and most likely avoid that situation in future.

This avoids you getting in the way of them doing their job if their touches are necessary but still gets to the point if they are unnecessary.


I have 3 kids with diagnosed anxiety issues who also are unusually sensitive about not being touched. We have grave problems with this particularly with older adults and authority figures. The negative reaction the kid gives for being touched is quite often viewed as disrespect, and that can cause a vicious cycle.

However, in the case of doctors it generally isn't near as much of an issue. Just put that disorder and "no unnecessary touching please" on the copious medical history forms they always make you fill out while waiting for each visit. That, on top of a reminder in person at the start of the actual visit should be plenty. Any doctor that can't respect something like anxiety disorder when properly informed about it shouldn't be a doctor.

  • This is very good advice, the only difference is that in France (where the action takes place), you do not have "copious medical history forms" to fill. You get in, the doctor asks you for various things and this would be the right moment to bring this in (even better than just before the exam as the request).
    – WoJ
    Commented Apr 6, 2018 at 11:10
  • @WoJ - You crazy Europeans with your sensible health care systems...
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Apr 6, 2018 at 23:57

Just tell them. They'll discuss it a little with you, maybe, and then they should annotate your chart. And then it shouldn't happen again.

This worked for my wife - though with a dentist not a doctor. She had a dentist + hygienist (in same office) who - hard though it is to believe - used to drop their tools on her chest while working. I mean, they did it to me too. I can't figure out why this particular dentist + hygienist - generally upscale and reputable - thought it was acceptable. I thought it was icky though I didn't raise an objection but my wife was (understandably) quite upset. As in, extremely incandescently upset. She never went back to that dentist + hygienist and immediately told the new one not to do it.

And hasn't had a problem since. It was notated in her chart, as I said, so they're reminded of it each visit. And she's done it at each subsequent dentist too, no problem.

  • 1
    It sounds like that "chest-dropping" dentist should expect a meeting with their "dental association" or "college of dentists", or whomever allows people to be dentists & can reprimand & fine them; that sounds like a quick way to get fined/fired/sued
    – Xen2050
    Commented Jan 17, 2018 at 14:35
  • This is not weird or uncommon. Dentists use that area to temporarily set things. At least, they do for me. They have this paper bib thing and will set things there. I don't think you've found a scandal.
    – Vectorjohn
    Commented Jan 17, 2018 at 20:16
  • It is weird - and unnecessary. They're supposed to use little swing-out trays to hold their tools. Can't imagine my wife is the only woman to object, if/when a dentist does this...
    – davidbak
    Commented Jan 17, 2018 at 22:59

Just react by physically pulling away, and explain that you're over-sensitive about being touched.

This may lead into a clinical discussion about this condition, but you should earn some level of respectfulness about your condition after this.

  • You are going to be touched during and exam. Why wait and pull away? That would create an awkward situation and is what OP wants to avoid. If the Dr will not respect a (preemptive) verbal request then find another Dr.
    – paparazzo
    Commented Jan 16, 2018 at 18:28
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    OP wasn’t expecting to be touched. I’m pretty sure that if he saw an impending contact, he’d say something.
    – user1722
    Commented Jan 16, 2018 at 18:36
  • The OP is expected to be touched during an exam.
    – paparazzo
    Commented Jan 16, 2018 at 18:39
  • 2
    But only at the places being examined, not at the (perceived unnecessary) touches on other parts of their body (Bicep? Inner thigh!?) Clearly those are not the parts the OP understands are being examined, @Paparazzi. One touch is OK if it's necessary but two touches aren't OK if they're not both necessary. I think pulling away from the entire scene is fine until the OP has talked it over with the doctor.
    – Beanluc
    Commented Jan 16, 2018 at 19:04
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    @Beanluc OP does not like being touched PERIOD. Pull away creates an uncomfortable situation and that is exactly what the OP wants to avoid. It is just plain silly to to think OP needs pull away to earn some level of respect.
    – paparazzo
    Commented Jan 16, 2018 at 19:17

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