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The Touch Deprivation Epidemic
February 2, 2017
A healthy individual may need a quick list of things they absolutely need daily: water; proper dietary intake; healthy social interactions; brisk exercise, and the like. However, when life whittles down to just a spare few items to cross off on a daily list, it may leave people feeling significantly emptier, lonelier, and prone to falling victim to many debilitating mental disorders. Modern age and sweeping digitalization are sometimes wrongly portrayed as the era of expression; with so many complexities manning our day-to-day lives, it becomes exceptionally difficult to boil life back down to the basics. In doing so, many essential – perhaps even crucial – human requirements are brushed aside or ignored. This, unfortunately, includes a phenomenon as basic and carnal as humankind itself: platonic touch.
The touch deprivation epidemic is one which is real and entirely subjective. It cannot be listed accurately in numbers – though varied sources may try – and neither can it follow a strict scientific pattern. Craving friendly, warm touch proves to be the gateway to a plethora of other plaguing issues: a fatigued body; a restless soul; and a general air of dissatisfaction and discontentment from one’s life. However, the hypothetical cure may prove to be as simple as a reassuring squeeze of the shoulder, or a secure embrace.
On the matter of security, it is often associated with guarded thoughts and protected hearts. However, when any individual is placed in the safest environment available to them, they are naturally inclined to be far more expressive and honest. This general demeanor of openness and flexibility in turn would allow an individual to be more physically expressive. This can be best witnessed when family members meet each other after long periods of time; an initial response would be to warmly embrace or clasp hands. Though a great degree of this social response is human conditioning, it firmly remains that even newly-born infants crave and cling to the warm, familiar touch of a mother.
The touch deprivation epidemic uniquely exists without a prognosis. In simpler terms, a doctor in a hospital would not prescribe a list of medicines for a patient craving platonic touch to intake. In fact, an individual may not even be fully aware that they crave a specific sort of touch; far too often, people helplessly fall into a cycle of insomnia, clinical depression, or feelings of isolation. They may resort to downing pills – which may or may not work for them – rather than going for viable organic options.
A hefty chunk of this issue has to do with the way these individuals view themselves. Mental disorders are commonly viewed as weaknesses or anomalies, though general acceptance has recently been on the rise. When an individual struggles with incessant thoughts of self-harm and bipolar emotions, they do not assume that a few hours of alternative touch therapy may possibly make the difference for them. A valid reason for such could be because the touch deprivation epidemic, recently referred to as skin hunger, is not recognized sufficiently enough.
Skin hunger is typically defined as the overwhelming need for healthy touch. This touch is not sexual in nature, but rests comfortably in the realms of platonic friendliness. This touch, as discussed earlier, does no more than to reaffirm feelings of trust, security, and warmth.
Although such hunger for touch is most commonly occurring amongst older individuals one would assume that newer generations would experience such phenomena far less. However, this is not true. The number of single-person households have globally risen dramatically as of late. Such individuals would also go on to cite often experiencing feelings of loneliness, depression, and craving friendly touch and conversation.
Though technology is often blamed for this disconnection, there are several other factors often at play. The media, for example, has managed to stereotype all forms of touch as either intimate or sexual in nature. This hyper-sexualized media content has raised entirely new generations to view any kind of touch as harboring on intimate, and has likely also discouraged people from initiating friendly touch.
Federal law also goes on to incriminate physical touch without consent. This has not been without cause, however. With cases of molestation and assault running rampant and coming to light, individuals are now far more reserved with their physical boundaries, and would rather avoid indulging in sating their skin hunger cravings.
The Need For Platonic Touch
It is entirely possible to discuss the causes and concerns of this epidemic at length. It is also entirely possible to locate key symptoms, and connect possibly every debilitating mental condition with a lack of touch in one’s life. However, the need for platonic touch does manifest itself into objective research as well.
A study led by Carnegie Mellon psychologist – Sheldon Cohen – for Psychological Science confirmed that a healthy embrace may reduce stress levels, and boost a body’s immune system.
In another study, it was found that individuals who were frequently hugged or embraced were more likely to combat stressful events easily, as compared to touch deprived individuals.
Empirical research also proves that individuals who frequently embrace had lower levels of increased blood pressure, as opposed to those people that did not hug or cuddle frequently (both systolic and diastolic).
Warm embraces have also been found to increase the production of the hormone oxytocin. This hormone is responsible for increasing emotions of caring and nurturing amongst people.
Certain studies have also found that regular healthy touch markedly reduces any violent leanings an individual may possess.
Exploring the Cure
Healthy touch seems to have unending psychological and physical benefits for people. However, it may still seem difficult to attain. As explored previously, individuals today may have a variety of different reasons why they would avoid even innocently brushing past a stranger on the subway.
With that being said, there are viable alternative sources available. Such approaches manage to entirely remove the stigma attached to healthy platonic touch, and provide a holistic remedial approach to the issue. Practitioners of alternative touch therapy bear the core of touch deprivation in mind: security and comfort. In order to ensure that the utmost security and ease is provided to a client, practitioners ensure that details such as lighting, sound, setting, and duration is molded according to a client’s preference. Doing so provides the relaxing benefits of any therapeutic session, while also allowing a person to sate their hunger for physical contact.
Such sessions are not limited to cuddling and embracing alone; the ambient settings allow for increased vocalization and expression, and for individuals to voice their concerns and thoughts in a confidential and protected environment. A person may walk away feeling significantly lighter and content after a touch therapy session. The approach manages to apply just the right amount of remedial therapy to both the body and mind, and strives towards individuals obtaining their wholesome, healthy souls.
Alternative touch therapy allows an individual to take charge of their own psychological functions; the far-reaching advantages of alternative touch therapy go a long way in curbing the negative repercussions that a case of skin hunger may bring about. The benefits are countless, and may be referred to in both scientific journals, as well as individual subjective cases. The fact remains, however, that the epidemic of skin hunger is an entirely real – and problematic – issue. In order for it to become conclusively solved, people must research on their own needs and cravings, and set about to meet such mental and physical requirements for their overall, healthy well-being.