Professional, Effective and Confidential Psychotherapy
Therapy Unlimited - Professional, Effective and Confidential Psychotherapy in London & the UK

Touch Starvation during Covid19

With the Covid19 pandemic upon us, many people are contained with loved ones of other people where they get opportunities for touch. It’s been suggested that a growing phenomena of skin hunger was already emerging prior to Covid19, especially in western cultures. So, what do you do if you’re quarantined alone, or contained in close quarters with those where there may already be a lack of touch?

‘Touch starvation’ or ‘skin hunger’ are some of the common terms used to describe when a human being experiences little or no touch with another living being. This covers all forms of touch from the intimate touch you might share with a loved one, to a formal handshake you may have shared until recently in your place of work.

All of these opportunities for touch are seen as having a positive impact. From the moment we are born touch is vital. For example, a famously controversial piece of attachment research from the 1940’s, demonstrated an increased mortality rate in babies in orphanages who were not nuzzled, touched and cuddled enough.

Undoubtedly, our human need for touch remains fundamental and lifelong. The full impact of skin hunger in light of the social distancing necessary during the pandemic, remains to be seen. However, what we do know already is that touch starvation, can adversely affect emotional, mental and physical wellbeing.

There is no uniform response to touch deprivation, however, some signs include increased stress levels, aggression, depression, sleep disturbance, body image issues, and increased feelings of loneliness.

Conversely, touch can ease cardiovascular stress, lower blood pressure, boost immunity, alleviate anxiety, increase oxytocin, the love/bonding hormone, to elevate optimism and mood.

If unable to access physical touch and affection, all is not lost. It may be an opportunity for you to safely test how to satiate your need for touch, within the limits of your circumstances, while adhering to government guidance on social distancing.

This could include:

 Telling others how you’re feeling…keeping connected to other people
 Making sure you can see the faces of others you’re in connection with
 Using an electric blanket, or regular blanket to wrap around yourself for warmth
 Using comfy bedsheets or soft clothing, such as loungewear or pyjamas
 Using a favourite cream and massaging this into your skin
 If you have a pet, cuddling with them regularly
 Taking a hot shower or bath
 Using technology to maintain sexual intimacy if separated from a partner e.g. a remote sex aid
Take time to be sexual with yourself
 Cuddle with your pillows and cushions

If the mental health of you, or someone you know is adversely affected due to touch starvation, please feel free to call us to book an appointment.