What makes the coronavirus pandemic unlike any other collective tragedy is that we can’t commiserate together.
Post-layoff drinks at a dive bar near the office; embracing someone you haven’t seen in months; pats on the back — these are seemingly small comforts that have morphed into luxuries in the past few months.
While there are many things I miss about the Before, these touches of comfort are high on the list. As we round the corner into another month of social distancing I find myself thinking about touch constantly. One look at dating apps or porn sites and I know I’m not alone in that.
The phrase “touch starved” might once have sounded dramatic, evoking Victorian-era courting where couples couldn’t even bear witness to each other’s ankles. In a time where I haven’t high-fived let alone hugged someone in months, though, it doesn’t sound overdramatic at all.
While there’s limited research on “touch starvation” itself, according to Dr. Natasha Bhuyan, MD, a practicing family physician in Phoenix, Arizona, there’s emerging touch research that emphasizes its positive impact. “Physical touch activates brain neurotransmitters that can lift our mood, reduce stress, and even improve sleep quality,” she said.
Dr. Lori Whatley, clinical psychologist and author of Connected and Engaged, reaffirmed those benefits. “As humans we are wired for connection, and connection also means touch,” she said. “Touch with other humans is at the foundation of connection and an essential part of our being and forming healthy relationships.”
Unfortunately, many are currently going without any physical connection for months on end. A lack of touch intensifies feelings of isolation, said Dr. Mitchell Hicks, core faculty in Walden University’s PhD in
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