What Is Touch Starvation?

Imagine being alone for weeks at a time, only getting to see your loved ones through a screen or glass pane window. Picture shuffling about your living area, with no one to kiss goodnight, hug good morning, or even pat your bottom when doing the dishes. Psychotherapist Alisa Ruby Bash told Bustle that after a while, the lack of physical human contact can cause high levels of stress and have "devastating impacts on the mental health of most of the population." Research has shown that skin-to-skin contact is essential for our well-being, motivating us to do better and without it, feelings of loneliness, depression, and anxiety can develop. This is touch starvation.

Neuroscientist Dr. Katalin Gothard says "touch is the first emotionally meaningful sense to appear when you're born, and the last to go before you die" (via The Guardian). Studies have shown that lack of touch can lead to an array of mental and physical issues including personality disorders, secondary immune disorders, and general health. According to Healthline, you may be experiencing touch starvation if you are feeling unsatisfied in your relationships, having difficulty sleeping, or avoiding commitments.

During a time when touch is taboo, how do we compensate for touch starvation?

There are ways to break the cycle of touch starvation and begin to feel somewhat normal again. Bash recommends booking services like massage, hair, and facials — as long as they are in line with pandemic guidelines. When hugs are acceptable, hold the embrace for at least 20 seconds, which studies show is the point when oxytocin is released, offering a sweet, soothing sensation. Cuddling with your loved ones, or simply sitting close to them while you watch TV can help you feel happier too. 

Don't discount the touch of your pet, according to Forbesresearch shows that cuddling with your pet promotes relaxation and comfort, for both of you. Doctor and researcher Janet Young tells Forbes, "Pets seem to be particularly important when people are socially isolated or excluded, providing comfort, companionship and a sense of self-worth." The time may not be safest for slow dances with strangers, but sanitizing post-hand-holding, adopting a furry friend, and cozying up with your housemates are ideal for satisfying the need to be touched.