Yes, touch starvation very real and thank fully it is now considered a real issue. Studies have shown that physical touch and affection play important roles in human health and well-being, and a lack of touch can have negative effects on both the physical and mental health of an individual. Touch starvation is a growing concern in modern society, where people are increasingly isolated and touch-deprived.
What is touch starvation?
Touch starvation is a term used to describe the lack of physical touch and affection in an individual's life, which can lead to negative physical and mental health outcomes.
This was particularly common during the COVID-19 pandemic, due to social distancing measures and reduced opportunities for close contact with others.
In the 1990s, two researchers travelled to Romania to study about sensory deprivation of children in understaffed orphanages. The touch-deprived children, they found, had strikingly lower cortisol and growth development levels for their age group. (Source: Greater Good Magazine)
Dr. Tiffany Field in an interview with the Greater Good Magazine said that massage increased the body's natural killer cells. This, she explains further, is because massage relaxes the body which in turn reduces our body’s cortisol levels. Reduction in cortisol, the stress hormone, improves the body’s natural killer cells.
How important is physical touch to our well-being?
Indeed, very important to both our physical and mental well being. Physical touch also encourages learning and decision making.
In a study, researchers found that children calmed down better when they were scooped up and patted on their backs with a soothing voice. It is also a point to note that physical touch is a vital thing for a baby's physical as well as emotional development. The babies receive comfort from their mother’s touch; the touch also promotes bonding and attachment, regulates their physiological systems and helps the baby’s brain to develop. It cannot be emphasized enough—touch is a basic human need, and babies especially require it to thrive.
How does it happen?
Touch starvation can happen when a person does not receive adequate physical contact. This maybe due to a number of reasons including:
Social isolation and/or lack of close relationships: When individuals do not have close relationships or lack social interactions, they may experience touch starvation.
Loneliness: People who feel lonely or disconnected from others may experience touch starvation, as physical touch is an important aspect of human connection.
Physical distance: Touch starvation can occur when individuals are physically separated from loved ones, such as during a pandemic or due to travel.
Cultural or societal norms: Touch starvation can occur due to cultural or societal norms that limit physical touch, such as in certain religious or professional settings.
Health conditions: Certain health conditions, such as chronic pain, can limit an individual's ability to engage in physical touch and lead to touch starvation.
Lack of touch and affection can lead to negative consequences such as increased stress, impaired cognitive development, and difficulties with emotional regulation.
Touch can affect the release of hormones such as oxytocin and cortisol in the following ways:
Oxytocin: Physical touch, especially affectionate touch, can increase the release of oxytocin in the body. Oxytocin is known as the “love hormone” and is associated with feelings of love, trust, and bonding.
Cortisol: Touch can also affect cortisol levels in the body. Cortisol is a stress hormone and physical touch can help to reduce cortisol levels and lower stress. For example, studies have shown that massage therapy can lower cortisol levels and reduce stress.
Studies have shown that physical touch can help to regulate the body's circadian rhythm, which is the internal biological clock that regulates sleep and wakefulness. Physical touch can also help to release hormones such as oxytocin, which can have a calming effect on the body and promote feelings of relaxation and well-being.
Do we need to see a doctor for touch starvation?
It is not necessary to see a doctor for touch starvation, but it may be helpful in certain cases. Touch starvation can be addressed through lifestyle changes and social support, such as seeking out physical touch from friends, family, or a romantic partner, or participating in activities that involve physical touch, such as massage therapy or yoga.
However, if touch starvation is causing significant distress or impacting daily life, it may be helpful to seek professional support from a mental health provider. A mental health professional can help individuals understand and address the underlying causes of touch starvation and develop coping strategies to improve their well-being.
Additionally, if touch starvation is accompanied by other physical or mental health concerns, it may be necessary to see a doctor to rule out any underlying medical conditions.
In conclusion, while touch starvation can often be addressed through lifestyle changes and social support, seeking professional support may be beneficial in certain cases.
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