Health Information

Life with skin hunger: is it possible to go crazy with a lack of touch?


The action of touch begins with the skin. We may not be aware of this, but many of us need to correct some aspects of our relationship with our own bodies. From childhood, society begins to bombard us with hypocritical teachings about what our body is and what it should be. In the best case, we grow weaned from our body, treating it more like a shell or tool. Touch reunites consciousness with the body and uses the power of this union to maintain health and well-being.

Touch carries life

Touch has been used as a traditional way of treating various diseases throughout the history of mankind.
Touch can be associated with a sense of comfort and a positive attitude. Thus, touch affects physical well-being. There is evidence of the positive effects of touch. A significant part of them was collected by Ashley Montague in the classic work “Touch” (1986). Montague describes how touching the skin affects the physical health of people of all ages, from birth.
Studies show that children who are touched more often have a higher ability to survive than those who are deprived of such contact. Children who are fondled and cherished grow up healthier and further in life they have fewer emotional and mental problems. Adult studies have shown that touching another body can reduce heart rate, lower blood pressure and promote overall relaxation.
There is no doubt that touch is vital and there is no reason to think that our need for affection and tenderness passes with childhood. The innumerable benefits that touch brings can be the reason for our well-being.

Healing power of touch
It is known that touch has a versatile healing effect. I suppose this happens because touch affects both the body and the mind immediately. For example, touch has a beneficial effect on the functioning of the immune system.
Ashley Montague, describing studies conducted on rats, suggests that rats that felt frequent touch at an early age later had a much stronger immune system.
Touch also facilitates empathy, it promotes self-disclosure.
So, in people who felt the doctor’s touch on their erogenous zones during the examination, erotic memories and experiences aroused. Apparently, touching intimate places paves the way for intimate thoughts and feelings. A state of mild arousal has a positive tonic effect on the work of the whole organism.
It is not surprising that touch has a positive effect on people restoring their vital functions. Patients who were touched by nurses returned to normal faster than those who were deprived of this. It is not known exactly how touching helps in such a situation. Maybe it is directly related to relaxation, pain relief and healing mechanisms. Or a touch conveys tenderness and care and instills in the patient a sense of self-esteem and a mood for recovery. My opinion is that all these assumptions are true.

Living in an increasingly focused on technology, socially fragmented world, we touch each other much less than before. But what does a lack of touch do to a person?

illustration author - Grace Wilson

AT short film Peter Collins, “Fly in the Ointment”, tells of his longing for a human touch - the caress of his wife - while a monochrome fly flickers in a closed jar. “I felt her soft finger tracing a line along my back, and in the meantime she whispered words of love to me ... I dreamed of being hugged, touched and loved.”

As one of the prisoners in Canada who spent the longest time, Collins sat in solitary confinement for a long time since his imprisonment in 1984 for the murder of the first degree. “A fly in the ointment” tells of his experience of solitary confinement in a six by nine foot cell without human contact, proximity or touch.

For the Americans, currently contained in a certain isolated conclusion (and such, according to estimates, 80,000), the thought of the careful touch of another human being is an impossible dream. However, people outside the prison population - people otherwise well connected and sociable - can also yearn for human touch.

What some psychologists call “skin hunger” (also known as tactile hunger) is the need for physical contact with a person. Although many people satisfy their skin hunger through sex, skin hunger is not exactly a sexual need. Satisfying skin hunger requires serious physical contact with another person, and non-observance of one’s need for human touch can have serious emotional and even physical consequences.

Scientists began to investigate skin hunger shortly after World War II. During the controversial experiments conducted by the American psychologist Harry Harlow, the young rhesus monkeys were separated from their mothers and given a choice of two inanimate replacements - one was made of wire and wood, and the second was covered with fabric. The overwhelming majority of monkeys preferred embraces of rag substitutions, despite the fact that only a wire mother had a bottle of milk from the substitutions.

From this Harlow concluded that little macaques from their mothers needed more than food to survive. He called it "comfort from contact." Thanks to Harlow's research, we now know that people need touch, especially in childhood, almost as much as basic necessities, such as food and water.

Researchers have shown that touch can transmit a range of emotions, serving as an important tool for communication, and even a hug in itself can reduce a person’s content stress hormone cortisol. Study The Institute for Touch Studies, a part of the University of Miami, found that Parisian teens hanging out at McDonald's restaurants (French culture is considered "high contact") touch each other more often than their American peers, and are also less likely to show symptoms of aggression.

“Touching each other preserves the world,” explains Dr. Tiffany Field of the Institute for Touch Research. As a pioneer in the field of skin hunger, Field has long advocated returning touch to educational systems, where some US schools are fearing sexual abuse and possible litigation. introduced touch rejection policy. “Touch promotes intimacy, and most people you touch will not react aggressively.”

You can experience tactile hunger and not even know this, or even take your symptoms for mental health problems. “People with tactile hunger usually appear to be depressed,” says Field. “They are suspended, they have a flat outline of voice intonation.” She also says that people with clinical depression can also often suffer from tactile hunger, and this can be seen in an area of ​​the brain called the vagus nerve. "When these people are massaged, their depression level decreases, and the vagus nerve activity rises."

Dr. Terry Coopers, a psychologist and author who, for decades, testified as an expert on behalf of individuals in solitary confinement, personally observed the effects of skin hunger. “Physical contact is necessary to be human,” Coopers says. “There is something healing in him.” This [touch] does not just correlate with humanity - this is humanity. "

Coopers is allowed to shake hands with prisoners when he examines them in Mississippi, which he often witnesses. “When I touch a prisoner in a Mississippi detention center, he often tells me:“ You are the first person I touched, except for the police who handcuffed me. Besides this, nobody touched me all the years that I spent in solitary confinement. ”

He describes psychiatric literature showing that solitary confinement causes long-term mental health problems as "extensive." Since the mental health problems that torment people in solitary confinement, extremely serious, it is difficult to distinguish the lack of touch as an important concomitant factor, but the neuroscientist Huda Akil defines lack of touch - along with other factors - as one of the possible factors that can cause the brain to rewrite itself and cause psychological problems. The testimonies of prisoners such as Peter Collins and Wikileaks whistleblowers Chelsea Manning indicate how lack of touch worsens the experience of solitary confinement: in his Guardian material, Chelsea Manning describes him as “non-contact” torture. ”

In addition to people in solitary confinement, there is another social group that demonstrates the debilitating effects of skin hunger - the elderly. Extreme loneliness can equate to a chronic disease, and such is more likely to appear in later years of life, as friends and family members die. One study found that single people over the age of 50 were likely to die. twice higher than their unequal peers. In the comments posted at USA Today, psychologist Janice Kickott-Glaser states that older people need more physical contact more than younger generations: "The older you are, the more fragile you are physically, so contact becomes more important for good health."

Studies show that people in Western societies overwhelmingly feel more lonely. According to the National Science Foundation's 2014 General Sociological Survey, a quarter of Americans considersthat they have no one to talk about their problems with. One study by Relate, a UK-based relationship charity, shows that nearly ten percent of people have no close friends at all, and 20 percent of those in relationships rarely feel they are “loved”. At the same time, we spend more time than ever on the Internet: according to recent statistics, British adults average sit there 21.6 hours a week.

There is an opinion that technology makes us awkward loners, even if it should theoretically make us more united. If you took paper, a pencil and made a sketch of the presence of an average person on the Internet — something like a modern Vitruvian person — you could have scribbled a web of very complex links that could not be taken into account because of their large number. Millions of fiber optic cables connect us to our social networks: friends, subscribers, acquaintances, email writers, even those in readonly. So why do we feel more isolated than ever? Could this be somehow connected with the fact that none of these connections imply a human touch?

“The ease with which we are now communicating is probably the biggest change in twenty years,” explains Professor Corey Floyd of the University of Arizona, an expert on affection in close relationships. “In some cases, it encourages us to think less about what we say, but this is not necessary.”

However, studying tenderness for nearly two decades, Floyd believes that verbal or written communication cannot replace physical touch. “Touch has such spontaneity that words do not have. And there’s a certain health benefit that seems to be more noticeable when tenderness is expressed in tactile ways. ”

Like binoculars turned in the wrong direction, the Internet can bring us closer or move us apart from each other, depending on how you look at it. No movement demonstrates this more powerfully than the Free Hugs Initiative, launched in June 2004.

Most of us have already seen a man at a music festival pacing around with the sign “Hugs for Free,” but few realize that there was only one person behind this - a Sydney resident under the pseudonym Juan Mann. A counterweight hugging parties, where you have to pay $ 45 so that a stranger who clumsily hides his boner is snuggled up behind you, Mann wanted to bring free tenderness to the masses.

“I started giving out hugs for free, mainly because at that time there was nobody near me. No one hugged me or talked to me, ”he explains by email. - Then, at a party from nowhere, a young woman came up to me and hugged me. For the first time in many months, I felt alive. It made me think about all the other lonely people in the world who might need a hug or want them. ”

A musician named Shimon Moore spotted Mann giving out hugs at a Sydney mall and thought it was a cool idea. He returned to the mall and shot Mann on video, and eventually used these frames for a clip of his group. The video got viral popularity (currently it has 77 million views), and Mann’s project, to his surprise, became known around the world.

“Have I ever expected this?” Not in this life and not in the next, ”Manna tells me. “I expected that I would just be that lonely city madman in a corner of the world, hugging completely strangers.” However, the fact that I see that so many people around the world are ready to support love and humanity gives strength. ”

As Trump’s demagogy shows, the most popular concepts are the ones that are easiest to understand. It is because of immigration that you do not have a job, Islamic extremism arose because Muslims are terrorists, technology divides us. However, the Free Hugs movement movement teaches us that the simplest concepts are not always true. If it weren’t for the Internet, Mann would have been a loner in a mall with a bad name.

Technology is not to blame for the fact that in our life there are fewer touches - we are to blame. But electronic displays of love and support through text messages or instant chat do not replace loving hugs. Decision? Do not eradicate equipment, but use it as an auxiliary tool - to restore communication with all lonely people in the world who may desperately need hugs.