How Touch Deprivation Can Affect Your Mental Health

woman experiencing physical touch in a hug

Humans thrive off of positive physical touch. From the time of our birth, touch plays a fundamental role in how we communicate with one another. Whether it be a long, loving hug, a congratulatory high-five, or a sweet touch of endearment, affirming moments of human touch are a crucial factor in our physiological and psychological well-being.

Over the past year, we have all had to endure the complications that came with an unexpected and seemingly endless pandemic. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that all individuals socially distance themselves from those who do not live in the same household to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Many businesses closed down, causing people to lose their source of income and their access to people. School shut down, and some still are, causing children to lose access to their friends. As major holidays came and went, families were required to continue social distancing. No more games of tag to be had on the playground or hugs from your aunts and uncles. For many individuals, especially those who live alone, human interaction dwindled to a minimum.

It’s More Than a Want

Humans don’t simply want touch; we need it. In the absence of positive human touch, you can develop a condition called touch deprivation. Touch deprivation can increase stress, depression, and anxiety, and lead to numerous additional negative physiological effects. Individuals who go without positive physical touch for a long period can even suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

The distancing requirements put in place to eliminate the spread of COVID-19 have led many people to experience profound sadness and overwhelming isolation. Human touch has real, measurable impacts on a person’s physical and mental health. From a hug to a high-five, positive moments of human touch can:

  • Calm the nervous system
  • Boost the immune system
  • Activate oxytocin, which is critical for bonding
  • Reduce stress
  • Lower pain levels
  • Improve healing
  • Lower blood and heart rate
  • Improve mood
  • Decrease anxiety and depression
  • Eliminate sleep disturbances
  • Provide comfort to eliminate feelings of loneliness and isolation

How to Cope When Physical Touch is Off Limits:

Social distancing mandates are still in full effect, as it is unclear when the COVID-19 outbreak will subside. In the meantime, it’s important to find ways to work around the negative impact brought on by the loss of physical touch.

  • Spend Time With Your Pets

Pets can provide you with meaningful interactions and combat touch deprivation. If you do not own a pet, consider checking with your local animal shelter. There are countless pets out there just waiting for a loving owner who will shower them with hugs and kisses. If adopting is not an option, check into fostering a pet for a short time.

  • Use a Weighted Blanket

Weighted blankets can help to simulate the sensation of physical touch and induce calm in individuals suffering from anxiety, depression, ADHD, and autism.

  • Schedule Video Conferences With Your Loved Ones

Although it will not replace a physical hug, being able to see your favorite people sprawled across your computer screen can put a smile on your face. We can now use our phones and computers to connect with the people who matter most to us, no matter where we are in the world. Try setting up a weekly video call with your loved ones to keep in touch and enjoy seeing one another face-to-face as much as possible.

  • Join a Club

If you are not comfortable joining a club that meets in person, there are plenty of opportunities for you to participate in online gatherings. Check the websites of your local recreational centers to see if they offer any online classes. Consider founding or joining a virtual book club, workout group, or Dungeons & Dragons campaign. Businesses are slowly opening and following CDC protocols to make their environments safe to inhabit.

  • Organize a Quarantine Group

If you do feel comfortable meeting with people in an enclosed environment, ask a couple of friends to get together to walk around the park or hike nearby trails. Keep your group small and follow all necessary protocols to keep everyone safe.

  • Be Deliberate in Your Encounters

If you live with children, pets, or a romantic partner, make sure to embrace your loved ones a little extra to get your daily fix of physical touch. If physical intimacy isn’t present in your household, you can still be deliberate in the interactions you do have. Wave to your neighbor on your morning walk or strike up a conversation with the grocery clerk. While these won’t replace the real deal, social substitutions can still improve your mental health.

The lack of physical touch is a challenge that many of us are struggling with daily. Humans thrive off positive touch; any feelings of distress or loneliness you’re experiencing in its absence are completely valid. You’re not alone, either: the pandemic has caused many of us emotional, physical, and psychological distress. With no end in sight, the most effective investment you can make is to attain new methods of relieving negative emotions and fostering positivity. While it’s important to continue to social distance, finding ways to care for your mental and emotional wellness is a crucial part of your long-term happiness throughout the pandemic and beyond. If you or a loved one feel isolated or overwhelmed by negative emotions during this trying time, don’t go it alone. Achieve Concierge provides personalized support and guidance for overcoming mental health obstacles and building deep-rooted confidence in your daily life. Our goal is to treat you like family. Reach out to Achieve Concierge today at (619) 393-5871.

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