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Many dealing with ‘skin hunger,’ phenomenon linked to lack of physical contact

Posted at 1:32 PM, Aug 12, 2020

There's a simple thing many of us having been missing during the pandemic that has a big impact on our health and well-being — hugs from our loved ones.

A neuroscientist tells us many are dealing with what researchers call "skin hunger." It's a phenomenon where we can feel emotionally lost of something without physical contact.

“And that which is missing is something that normally provides us with some contentment, some solace, some feeling that we're safe and that we're amongst others who we can rely on as a bio-behavioral resource,” said Emiliana Simon-Thomas, PhD, Science Director at the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley.

Simon-Thomas says hugs can help us communicate trust and support. She says even incidental moments of touch in the community, like brushing shoulders at a concert or giving someone a high-five, can help you feel reassurance.

“I'm really worried about people who are absolutely alone,” she said. “I worry a lot about people who are ill and are in a situation where they're not allowed to be in company their loved ones.”

For those people, she suggests focusing on a memory of the last time they hugged someone they love.

It may sound odd, but some researchers also suggest hugging yourself.

Touch is also associated with better heart health and higher levels of oxytocin in the brain. That's what helps us form bonds with other people.