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!




Leave a comment


  1. Frances

     /  October 13, 2016

    I feel like that most times. I realize i look for hugs when im feeling this way but i don’t think my other half truly understands how important it is to me.

  2. silentbunnyblog

     /  October 18, 2016

    Hi there, I do feel you too. Sometimes I wish I have that particular person that is always ready to give you hugs and comfort you. Having depression and anxiety is already a challenge and there are people that does not understand the struggle we face in our daily life. There are times that even just waking up and getting out of bed is already a burden. I have been suffering with this condition for almost 2 years and just recently started creating a blog to share my experience and to express all the built up emotion within me. I hope we can help each other and comfort one another as we go through this journey in our lives.

  3. Hi!

    I don’t know about skin hunger, but I sure miss some fur therapy! That would always make, if not all the difference, but a difference nonetheless.


  4. Mads

     /  January 18, 2017

    Hey there,

    I’m a single college student studying in a foreign country and I’ve been reading up on this stuff. I’ve gone a couple weeks without any physical contact and have correlatively felt rather more anxious, lonely, and fearful of walking out my front door to the grocery down the street than usual. I’ve also gotten sick during that period, which I’ve read can be associated with lack of touch (or overexposure to whatever illness is circulating currently). Now, that may be the culture shock talking, or it may be skin hunger. I am not sure. I have been trying to find some quantifiable amount of contact required by certain age groups in order to maintain optimum health. I haven’t been able to find anything- a touch a day? A hug a week? It feels as if this area is not comprehensively studied in the way other aspects of human health are.

    I wish you the best of luck and the sunniest of days (unless you prefer precipitation).

  5. Catharsis78

     /  March 9, 2017

    I’m so thankful to have found you and your writing. I’ve struggled with depression my entire life and recently have been battling anxiety. Today marks day 11 in bed! Thank you for your openness, it’s inspiring and validating.

  6. Hi Michelle. Just came across your blog and the first three posts I read instantly resonated so strongly with how I’ve been feeling lately. Just nail on head type stuff. Thank you.

    I have had depression on and off since adolescence. It has really come to a head in the past couple of weeks or so, and my previous experience seems to be helping me try to get ahead of this as much as possible early on.

    I’ve never heard the term Skin Hunger before, but it is exactly what I have! It is especially strong lately because I’m going through a bit of a tricky breakup, so on top of all my sadness and loneliness, I miss him and his cuddles desperately. I have been making an effort to meet up with more friends, to confide in, and to ask for as many hugs as possible. Such a relief to know I can actually call it something!

  7. Oh, and I’ve been having fur hunger too! I find myself eyeing puppies on the street with agreeable-looking owners, wondering if I can ask for a pat or a hug.

  8. Emma

     /  September 12, 2017

    Iv always remembered a scene from a movie I watched years ago. A lonely woman caught a crowded bus to work every day. She secretly likes it because it was the only time she was ever close to anyone. Feeding her skin hunger I guess. I get this from going to busy punk rock concerts and being squished up to everyone in the mosh… it works

  9. Clay

     /  January 2, 2018

    Thank you for this! Very insightful, and so true. I found it especially timely for a world that no longer knows how to touch appropriately and is so afraid of healthy intimacy. If this keeps up, our communities will not suffer skin hunger so much as skin starvation — and emotional famine.


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