What is touch starvation and 5 Easy tips to Combat Touch Deprivation

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Man and woman’s social dependency has played a great role in the evolution and advancement process. And while everyone wants to be alone every now and then, most crave human contact every so often.

When you go long without human interaction or contact, your body starts to crave it. This condition is known as touch starvation or skin hunger.

What exactly is skin hunger, and what can you do about it? Here’s everything you need to know about combating touch deprivation.

WebMD defines it like this…

Touch starvation is a condition that happens when you don’t get as much physical touch as you’re used to — or any at all. You crave contact but can’t interact with others for some reason. It’s also known as touch deprivation or skin hunger.

People may develop touch starvation because of social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. But it can happen with any lack of physical touch, such as children in orphanages and elderly people in hospitals who don’t get enough positive contact.

What is skin hunger?

Touch starvation is the desire for physical human contact and deprivation of it. To show its effectiveness, you can try comparing how you feel when holding your own hand compared to how you feel holding someone else’s hand.

Unfortunately, with the current world status, more people are working and living remotely. This reduces human interaction and intimacy, consequently leading to skin hunger. Although we are starting to get back together more and more now (at least in the states) we still may be starved of hand shakes and hugs from friends, family and business associates.

Healthline.com also shares these thoughts…

Does it only apply to sensual touch?

Definitely not. Any and all positive touch is considered beneficial.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are losing out on workplace handshakes, friendly hugs, or pats on the back, which can result in feelings of touch starvation.

For some, the pandemic has also brought a decline in sensual touching, such as holding hands, back scratching, and foot rubbing, too.

Scientists have found that a system of nerve fibers, called C-tactile afferents, exists to recognize any form of gentle touch.

In fact, according to a 2017 study, the ideal touching speed is about 3 centimeters per second.

This releases oxytocin, also known as the “love hormone.”

How do you overcome touch starvation?

When left untreated or neglected, skin deprivation can contribute to the development of other illnesses and conditions. These include mental conditions such as stress, anxiety, depression, and even difficulty sleeping.

Fortunately, there are several simple yet highly effective tips to help you get over touch deprivation. These include;

Photo by SeattleYogaNews.com

1. Add a new active routine to your lifestyle

Creating genuine human interaction isn’t the easiest of things. The success degree may also depend on other factors, such as your personality.

You can overcome this hurdle by creating a platform for you to freely engage and interact with others. For example, you can join a yoga or exercise group in your neighborhood. Since you’ll all have a common goal, you’ll have an easier time breaking the ice and holding genuine communication.

When I was struggling with depression around 2013, I joined Toastmasters to practice my public speaking, but what I found was a group like this was very supportive and nurturing as part of the culture which was really wonderful for me. I also joined a business accountability group that was again, very supportive a nurturing. 

In cases where you’re isolated and can’t leave the house to interact with others, you can opt for online and digital platforms. Besides meeting new people, the exercises will also help you loosen up and keep in shape. Other groups like the ones I mentioned may help you grow in other areas of your life.

taking a hot shower for touch starvation

2. Long hot showers help

While this tip has been overly used by Hollywood, you’d be surprised to learn just how effective it is.

A long hot shower will help you loosen tense muscles, especially in your neck and back regions. The next time you’re feeling lonely or crave some human interaction, a shower can help you until you find a lasting solution.

As crazy as this might sound, this is a method can be used to subconsciously “trick the mind/body” to simulate touch. You’ve probably use a long hot bath or shower before without ever really thinking about why they are so great for self-care.

zoom meetings can help overcome loneliness and touch starvation

3. Try regular Zoom calls with groups, friends, or family

Thanks to today’s advanced tech, you haven’t been totally cut off from the world. And while tech can sometimes make you feel more alienated, it can also be used for the opposite.

You can use zoom calls to keep in touch with your friends and family. And while this digital engagement doesn’t match up to physical presence, it helps reduce feelings of loneliness.

I know many complain about zoom calls, but I really like them. From early on in the pandemic, I have had weekly (actually twice a week) zoom calls with my Zen Buddhist Sangha for group meditation and also for Dharma Discussions. Beyond this, I started a virtual book club (the Hope & Inspiration Book Club on Facebook and meeting weekly on zoom). I love seeing my friends in these groups weekly and I can say that although we are not physically touching we are building stronger relationships by meeting and talking each week.

massage helps overcome touch starvation
Photo by Valentina Powers

4. Get a Massage

Granted in a time of isolation and the pandemic, professional massages might be out (for a little bit), but that doesn’t mean you cannot ask your partner or even your kid to try their hand at rubbing your back. Or you could even offer a massage to you kids or partner to gain this connection and help you family members.

This can really help you connect with the other person and truly benefit from the touch of the other person. Create a win-win for both of you.

cuddle your dog (or other pet) for touch starvation.

5. Cuddle a Pet

If you are a pet person, cuddling a cat or dog can often times offer the touch we may need if we live by ourselves. This also helps build those relationships with the pet. If you do not have a pet, you may want to look into getting one.

I’d imagine kids cuddling with stuffed animals is actually a human response to the need of touch or being comforted by touch.

If you suspect you are suffering from skin hunger, you can try these easy tips. However, you should also consult a skilled professional for guidance.

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