Being Tickled Produces a Panic Response Within Your Body


Click Here for Sources and to Learn Why You Can’t Tickle Yourself

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It turns out, the panic response when a tarantula is crawling on your leg or the like is exactly what is happening when you are getting tickled.  The body’s response to being tickled is panic and anxiety.  It is thought that this is a defense mechanism for exactly the type of thing listed above where an external touch, such as a poisonous insect crawling on you or the like, might be occurring.  The body needs to react quickly to this unanticipated touch and without time for much conscious thought, so produces the panic reaction. Interestingly, the panic reaction that results from tickling doesn’t feel like tickling when the person tickling you isn’t someone you want tickling you.  In this case, it more closely resembles actual panic reactions, rather than having associated laughter.

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  • where did you get this information from? i mean how is this really true? it makes sense but at least you could refer some of the sources of this information, was it some kind of psychological study or something like that?

    i’m just saying this because most of the times we read nice stuff on the internet but we cannot really say how trusty it is until we know how solid the sources are, you could’ve made this up (i’m not saying you did it, it’s just an example, i dont want to be cheated).

    • Daven Hiskey

      @Praze: See the “Click here for sources and…” below the quick fact.

      On your point, I agree completely. Most “fact” websites out there have more myths than facts, which was partially my motivation for starting this site, to provide a place where you can go and know you are reading something interesting that is true and you can check the gathered sources if you’re still skeptical on some particular topic.

      As such, I work very hard to make sure no falsities make it on my site. So far (one year and counting with about 100 quick facts and 300-ish articles), I have a pretty good track record; only a few times having something wrong in my “bonus factoids” sections below articles and never yet having a main topic of an article wrong. *knock on wood* I also always check for multiple reputable sources on any main article topic and the more outlandish, the more I require (though I don’t always include them all in the sources as that would be extremely redundant in some cases where several reputable sources are saying the exact same thing). On the bonus factoids section, I only strictly require one reputable source, though it must also pass the “sniff” test. If the particular bonus factoid seams outlandish, I required multiple reputable sources before I’ll include it. I’m bound to get one wrong eventually, but after a year running this site, so far so good.

  • that’s if youre ticklish.

  • @Dj Blur Isnt everyone ticklish?

  • Now, here’s why I agree with this article.

    I hate being tickled, I am uber sensitive, and I don’t find it funny, it doesn’t make me laugh it makes me scream, and not in a girly giggly kind of a way, in a get off me now kind of way. My body’s immediate reaction is to pull away, push away or contract (like my tummy will contract in for example) anything to get away from the feeling and I don’t enjoy it. It’s actually quite a problem because people think I’m enjoying it…. I’m not… at all.

    I also don’t enjoy the feeling of a spider on me… or hair on me that feels for a second like it might be a spider – these feelings cause anxiety, and if I really thought about it, I guess tickling does too.

  • I’ve just been tickled by my boyfriend and ended up having a panic attack. I do not enjoy being tickled, especially when I’m pinned down like I just was. It’s horrible. I can only describing it as a panic, painful experience. You feel like your going to die. I know people who are can gain control of the tickle feeling and numbing it out. I can’t even resit the feeling. Hate, hate it!


  • I have a beautiful, talented 17 year old daughter who’s gifts are blighted by what she calls Social Anxiety, I, however am super confident, shyness is not on my radar in anyway…so…I have spent a lot of time trying to understand my child and learn how to handle her worries. It came to me last night that she is only panicking on the initial meeting with a person, after that she is chatty and sociable…..then I realised what had caused this feeling of panic when she meets someone and I believe it is because of tickling. As a family we are very close and playful, she is the youngest and when I think about it..we tortured her with tickling, she screamed for us to stop and of course in the way of families..the more she screamed the more we did it….but now years on it has manifested in a way to stop her interacting with people and generally not want to go out as she has got into the habit of tensing when approached or having to approach people. She thinks that it is talking to people that she doesn’t like, but she chats away after the panic has receded. So now….what do I do with information I have, I have looked at Social Anxiety and there is a lot out there helping you to recognise it but nothing to tell you how to deal with it as a mother. haras, you have confirmed my fears that this is what is happening to her. thank you..thought I was gonna round in circles.

  • Hi Mary. I am interested in what you have described about your daughter. Having just argued with a family member because I brought up the point that tickling is being described as ‘abuse’ by some people, and I’ve read the research from Germany already mentioned, so I completely empathise with your daughter. I hated being tickled, no matter by whom, but recently I watched as a young boy was tickled while being held closely, by a rather drunken ‘friend’ of the family. I was shocked to realise I thought he looked terrified even though he was laughing. It upset me, but I hardly knew the person doing the tickling. However, after reading several articles online this week, I do believe there is a fear aspect involved. I don’t agree that tickling is a sure sign of abuse. I think the tickler gets a buzz out of doing the tickling, and it’s a cultural thing, something we in the UK, certainly, have always done, not even thinking about the ins and outs of why we tickle people, especially children, even though they scream at us to stop! Actually, don’t include me there, I’ve never been a tickler.

    You say that your daughter has social anxiety and I can well imagine this could have at least been contributed to by adults holding her down and tickling her to the extent you describe. As I worked in mental health, and studied psychology, I feel your daughter might benefit from talking this over with a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist, that’s a psychologist trained in CBT (cognitive behaviour therapy). She could possibly qualify to be referred by her GP, and receive treatment free from her local NHS. CBT is a wonderful therapy which focuses on how we deal with difficult situations, helping us come up with helpful ways of thinking, and strategies to deal with the anxiety. You can find plenty of information online about CBT. The psychologist always carries out an assessment to find the best way to help a person, CBT us only one method, but an exceptionally useful therapy I hope your daughter gets her life back into perspective, and begins enjoying herself more when out.

  • Jasmine Myers

    My cousin’s duct-taped my wrist together just to be funny. And started to tickle me. I was rolling on the floor and screaming. I was having a panic attack but since they saw me “laughing” they kept doing it. I ended up kicking one of them in the jaw and busted a tooth. But at the time I didn’t care and I just kept crying. It was terrible. And now she won’t talk to me. But I say it was her fault. The normal reaction for me (and everyone else most likely) is to flail around like a lunatic. How did she think it was a good idea. This went on for at least 5 mins. finally, her mom came into the room and yelled at them while calming me down. At least she has common sense.

  • My boyfriend loves to tickle me… I hate it. I’ve told him multiple times I hate it. I will beg him to stop, yell and scream and tell him I don’t like it. It causes my whole body to get tense and I kick and flail and scratch and grab to get him to stop. I do this to everyone. When I was younger I was molested by multiple guys, they all tickled me constantly, now I always have a violent response to being tickled. Why can’t he understand that it is awful for me?

    • I am sorry that happened to you. I don’t even know what happened to me to cause this reaction for myself. My boyfriend just did this to me and now I’m thinking how am I suppose to trust you with my body ever again. How are you handling it?

  • Being tickled is the worst feeling in the world along with being poked. They feel the same. I immediately go to defense mode. There is no laughter. I am screaming, yelling, and saying whatever to get them to stop. Afterwards, I am in traumatic state and my body feels terrible. Like my cells are running crazy within. It takes forever for me to get back to normal. I’m scared and I feel completely violated.