All you need to know about Skin Hunger
If our experiences with quarantine have taught us anything is that we, as humans, need socialization and touch. Let’s say it together now; humans need to be touched. Now, for many people, they live with their families, partner, or roommates, so, of course, many people haven’t experienced the feeling of skin hunger. But that doesn’t mean the feeling doesn’t exist.
Let’s get one thing clear; we don’t necessarily need touch in order to survive. But if we want to function like whole human-beings, it’s something that’s a must in our daily lives. Shockingly, this isn’t something that’s just been discovered. In fact, the feeling of skin hunger has been around and researched for decades.
There are many examples showing the importance of touch. There were young people who were found and suffered from a complete lack of touch, which stunted their development into healthy human beings.
You may be thinking, of course, touch is crucial for young people’s development. But that’s not the only time when humans need touch. Of course, you won’t experience the same developmental issues if you lack human touch as an adult than if you were younger. But that doesn’t mean you can go on living your adult life without touch. In fact, it’s the complete opposite.
So, What Does ‘Skin Hunger’ mean?
We’ve been talking a lot about the importance of human touch, but what does ‘skin hunger’ mean? Skin hunger is also known as ‘touch starved’ or ‘touch deprivation.’ Whichever term you use for it doesn’t matter because, at the end of the day, it all means the same thing. Skin hunger is the physical feeling that occurs when a person lacks physical touch.
But it’s not a craving that’s similar to wanting to eat chocolate or a bag of potato chips. This is a deep internal longing and aching for contact with another person. As Samuel Waumsley, a clinical psychologist from Cape Town said in an interview with W24, ”There's a social and calming element to human touch, that soothes us, so skin hunger is the yearning for this when often in our modern world we live individual lives and can be more isolated -with studies showing us having less human touch than in previous generations.”
Our skin is the largest sensory organ on our bodies. Being hugged by someone you trust fulfills emotional and physical needs that you subconsciously and consciously crave. This desire to be touched is extremely human. The feeling of skin hunger is usually non-sexual in nature, though, during the pandemic, more people are also craving intimate touching as well.
Interestingly, for many years, this subject didn’t cross over into the “regular” world, but skin hunger has been a serious problem in communities where physical contact is limited. Many individuals with limitations are only touched by their caregivers. For the first time, because of the pandemic, the non-limited world is understanding and experiencing the struggles many people are living with.
Why Do People Need to Be Touched?
As we all know, touch is extremely important human development into healthy people and their ability to build relationships. But there’s more to touch than that. What we’re just beginning to realize as a community, is that touch aids with all forms of mental, emotional, and physical health.
Touch reduces stress
Well, everyone is stressed out. But, usually, when we’re experiencing stress, our partner, friends, or family are there to comfort us. But in situations like the pandemic, this isn’t possible. When we’re touched, receptors under our skin are stimulated, and they reduce cortisol levels and blood pressure in our bodies.
By this, our feelings of stress are reduced. But, without touch, we’re unable to destress. Remember when ‘cuddle therapy’ became a trend? Well, this therapy is a great way to overcome feelings of stress.
It can calm certain bodily functions
Were you ever upset and had someone you loved come give you a hug? The moment you’re touched, you feel your body physically and emotionally calm down. This is the power of touch. It can work to calm certain bodily functions including, the nervous system, heart rate, and blood pressure.
Regulates sexual performance
When someone is experiencing anxiety, this increases tension within the body. Of course, stress and anxiety have negative effects on the human body, including sexual dysfunctions. Being touched by someone you trust, reduces anxiety, and can allow the body to perform sexually.
Stimulates pathways for oxytocin
Paul Zak, a professor of economics, psychology, and management at Claremont Graduate University, discussed with Time how touch plays a role in our lives. Zak said, “When we’re touched [in a positive way], a cascade of events happens in the brain and one of the important ones is the release of a neurochemical called oxytocin.” And a release of oxytocin is directly responsible for promoting feelings of love, well-being, and bonding.
Reduces feelings of loneliness
During times of isolation, loneliness becomes a huge problem for many people. Not only are we not being touched, but we do not have daily socialization, which all humans need. It doesn't matter if you're an introvert or extrovert, people need to socialize. The beauty of touch is that it helps overcome feelings of loneliness.
Decreases aggressive behavior
Most of us don’t associate touch with aggressive behavior, but actually, the two are closely linked. Tiffany Field, the founder of the Touch Research Institute (TRI), did a study looking at French and American youth. It was found that Americans experience less touch between their peers than the French, and instead, displayed more self-touch and aggressive verbal and physical behavior.
But when violent individuals were provided with massage therapy, their aggressive behavior decreased. This is because touch promotes serotonin in the body, which is the hormone that regulates anxiety, mood, and happiness.
Reduces feelings of depression
When it comes to feelings of depression and anxiety, they’re largely attributed to skin hunger. When people aren’t being touched, these mental health issues are more prevalent in people. Through touch, hormones including, serotonin, and oxytocin flow through the body and reduce the feelings of depression and anxiety.
It’s clear that being touched is no joke. When a person is being touched consensually and by someone they trust, the emotional, mental, and physical impacts are extraordinary. But, physical touch is being limited right now, and this is creating an imbalance in people’s lives. So, how do we cope with a lack of touch?
How to Cope With a Lack of Touch
In most of our lives, we never had to cope with the feelings of skin hunger. If we weren’t able to be touched by our loved ones, we looked outwards for love and physical affection. But through this pandemic, touching has become a rare achievement. Not to mention, on top of experiencing a lack of touch, many of us have lost our jobs and are struggling financially. So, this is the time when we need touch in our lives.
Though we’re heavily restricted when it comes to our human interactions, this is where creativity plays an important role. Solo intimacy is a good way to prevent skin hunger or reduce the feelings of it. Solo intimacy can range from a variety of things and include, self-massaging, masturbation, cuddling a pillow, using a weighted blanket to wrap yourself in. Though this isn’t human-to-human contact, self-touch is a great and crucial alternative to adopt into your life.
It may feel odd in the beginning, because let’s face it, we usually don’t think about how we want to touch ourselves. But it’s a great place to start. Close your eyes and think about which places of your body where you’d like to be touched. These places can or cannot be sexual areas, it really depends on what your cravings are. Start from the head and work your way down to your toes, rubbing, scratching, caressing your body. Focus on your body’s response to every touch. You’ll get to learn what your body enjoys and where it enjoys being touched.
What Are Most People Doing to Keep Things Intimate?
Though many people are in healthy relationships, social distancing has landed many couples to be in long-distance relationships - not by choice. Obviously, couples are also going through feelings of skin hunger, craving the touch of their partners. So, what are couples doing to keep their intimacy alive from afar?
Sometimes, we just need a good cuddle. Even though you can’t really get the cuddle you need, virtual cuddles are a good compromise. You describe the type of touch you’d like to receive or give to your partner. This will help you and your partner visualize the experience and inspire the imagination.
Interactive Sex Toys
You and your partner aren’t experiencing quarantine together under the same roof, which means there’s no physical intimacy happening between you two. But that doesn’t have to be the case. You two can still be intimate; you just need the right toys. Kiiroo’s couple sets are connected via Bluetooth and let couples control each other’s toys. So, couples can remain intimate and sexually satisfied with each other.
You’re not able to physically see your partner. Maybe they’re in lockdown on the other side of the city or even on the other side of the world. To keep the connection alive and well, keep things visual. Instead of texting each other, have FaceTime dates. Send each other videos or photos. Don’t let the relationship become a series of text messages.
It’s nice to know that in these hard times, we have someone out there who cares about us. Sending your partner a care package is a great way to remind them you care. Of course, FaceTime and using interactive toys are amazing ways to feel connected. But sometimes, opening a gift of some of your favorite things can make you feel a little special.
Avoid COVID-19 topics
The world is entirely focused on the pandemic, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be the only thing you and your partner talk about. Avoid talking about COVID-19; go online, and find positive and inspiring topics to discuss with your partner. In times of struggle, you need to surround yourself with positivity.
Skin hunger is real, and many people around the world are experiencing it. But there are ways for you to cope with these feelings and feel more whole.
Natasha Ivanovic is an intimacy, dating, and relationship writer best known for her writings on Kiiroo, LovePanky, Post Pravda, and more. She's the creator and author of her short stories on TheLonelySerb. She completed her first degree in Criminology and continued and finished her Masters in Investigative Psychology, but then decided to follow her true passion of writing.