Skin hunger (It’s not about eating skin!)

Skin hunger describes the want to be touched (any sort of wanted touch – not just sexual/sensual touch). Maybe you’ve heard the term. It’s become more popular in the last decade or so. We know that lack of touch is very detrimental to infants. A baby’s healthy development requires human contact. Adults need touch too, perhaps not to the same extent that a baby does, but enough that we have a term like ‘skin hunger’ to describe what adults experience when they lack touch in their lives.

I’ve noticed that my grandmother’s personal support worker, who comes by a couple of times a week, will lay a friendly hand on my grandma’s arm or knee. It wouldn’t surprise me if this was something the PSW was taught to do – a way to combat the skin hunger that the elderly might experience. I’ve never asked if this is something my grandmother appreciates. However, I know that she has never commented or complained about it.

My extended family are not especially ‘touchy’ people. My immediate family was/is. Many of my friends are. I would definitely say I’m a touchy-feely person. If you’ve ever looked into the 5 Love Languages, you probably know that ‘touch’ is one of the languages. That’s me. I like to show love through touch; I like to receive love through touch. Hugs, kisses, massages, friendly back-pats, enthusiastic high-fives – it’s all good with me. Not everybody is as receptive to touch as I am. Some people don’t like to be touched. So I tone things down around them, as I want them to be comfortable.

When I’m not around other people who like touch, when I am unable to give/receive touch, my depression always seems to be worse. Some of this might simply be attributed to some level of social isolation (more social interaction, more touch; less social interaction, less touch). But we know that touch can cause a release of oxytocin (one of those feel-good hormones), so perhaps the lack of touch and reduced oxytocin contributes.

While a good hug certainly doesn’t fix my depression, it can make me feel a little bit better. And I’ve noticed that I experience skin hunger much more strongly when my depression is at its worst. I think maybe satisfying the want for touch could help alleviate the depression a little, but it’s not always easy to get touch!

Some people combat skin hunger with massages or other spa treatments that involve touch. I think even haircuts could work. Some people say touching a pet can help (I imagine this works best with a cuddle-able pet like a cat or a dog better than with a goldfish or a snake, but your experience may vary!). I recently saw a suggestion that a warm bath might help with the want for touch (I feel like this wouldn’t be quite as satisfying, but it can’t hurt, right?!).

I’m not currently feeling flush enough to splurge on a massage, and I have no pets to pet. I don’t see my friends very often, but I joke that I ‘stock up’ on hugs when I do. I’m lucky enough to live with my brother, and he is willing to give hugs.It’s not perfect, but it does help (I don’t know what I’d do if I lived alone!). Still, I feel the skin hunger, and it really kind of sucks.

Do any of you get skin hunger? Do you notice any connection between it and you depression? Do you have great tips for fighting it? I’ve love to hear about it if you want to leave a comment.

For now, virtual hugs to all of you!

 

 

 

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