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Skin Hunger: Why People Crave Touch During the Pandemic

Medically reviewed by Melissa Caraan, MD · Psychiatry · Philippine General Hospital

Written by Jan Alwyn Batara · Updated Oct 20, 2022

Skin Hunger: Why People Crave Touch During the Pandemic

Because of social distancing and with cities being on lockdown, more and more people are craving skin-to-skin contact. As a result, people are having a hard time staying at home, especially since they may be experiencing a phenomenon known as “skin hunger.”

skin hunger

What is Skin Hunger?

Skin hunger is our need to touch, and be touched by others. Humans are social creatures, so we inherently desire human contact, and touch is an important part of this.

In fact, touch is so important in our lives that newborn babies are placed on their mother’s bare chest after birth for this exact reason. When newborns engage in skin-to-skin contact with their mother, it initiates bonding, which becomes the foundation of a safe and secure relationship. This kind of relationship later helps the child grow into a well-adjusted individual capable of handling stress.

For adults, skin-to-skin contact is also a big part of how we socialize and interact with one another. Acts like kissing, hugging, holding hands, and even giving a high-five help fulfill our neurological need for touch.

And whenever we meet someone new, one of the first things that we do is to give that person a handshake. This helps build relationships and lets the person know that you’re trustworthy.

This is also the reason why whenever we feel sad or lonely, a hug seems to cure all our problems. This is why a pat on the back feels great after a job well done, and why putting your arm over a friend’s shoulder seems natural.

Why Are People Suddenly Craving Skin-to-Skin Contact?

skin hunger

With the lockdown in place, and social distancing being the new normal, more and more people are experiencing skin hunger.

For most people, not being in contact with others for a few days is bearable. Some might even welcome the change and the time they have to themselves.

But when you’re under lockdown for months on end and you experience prolonged lack of physical contact, you may start feeling the effects of isolation.

Continued isolation, along with the lack of physical contact, can negatively affect your well-being. You may become anxious, irritable, and impatient, and you may feel like your world has turned upside down.

Adjusting to the current situation becomes even more difficult for us because we are physically separated from our friends and loved ones. They are the support group we need in these challenging times and to be away from them makes coping much more difficult.

When people are isolated for long periods of time, here are some things that can happen:

  • They become more anxious and stressed over little matters.
  • Some find it hard to tell how much time has passed
  • They can become easily annoyed or irritated.
  • Some will crave for attention.
  • Existing health conditions like hypertension, diabetes, and heart problems could get worse
  • Feelings of loneliness may increase.
  • Burnout is possible, especially for those working from home.
  • Some may undergo depression.

All of these things result from a lack of physical contact with other people. And compounded with the fear and anxiety brought about by the pandemic, people all over the world are struggling to stay mentally healthy during this time.

What Helps Ease Skin Hunger?

Of course, the best solution to help ease skin hunger would be physical contact with other people. The pandemic is still ongoing, and scientists are still trying to develop a vaccine, so people still need to avoid physical contact as much as they can.

However, there are some things that you can do to help ease skin hunger and the craving for skin-to-skin contact:

Reach out to your loved ones

If you live alone, it might be a good idea to message your friends or your family. It might not be the same as being with them in person, but you can definitely feel their warmth and their love, even if it’s just a video call.

It’s also a great time to reconnect with friends you haven’t talked to in a long time.

Walk around, even just around your house

Mindful walking, or walking with awareness and consciousness about the environment, is a great way to help cope with skin hunger. It helps you focus on the now, and can also help you stay calm, and helps manage anxiety and stress.

One way to do mindful walking is to walk along a sidewalk and be conscious of your each step, like how your shoe touches the cement.

Do things to comfort yourself

Try picking up a new hobby, exercise, or watch some movies. Maybe there’s a long-overdue project that you might want to get started as well.

These things might not involve physical contact, but they keep you busy, and can help comfort you during lockdown. Who knows, you might even pick up a new skill or two!

If you have a pet, spend more time with them

Pet owners suddenly find themselves spending more time with their pets because of the lockdown. This is a great time to be closer to them, especially if you usually leave for work every day.

The physical touch and the emotional support that pets provide can also give the same feelings as being with other people, so having a pet is a boon during the lockdown.

Taking care of plants can sometimes help

For those without pets, plants can be a substitute. Caring for plants can be very therapeutic, and relaxing.

It’s also very enjoyable and exciting to see them grow day by day as you care for them. It might not be the same as skin-to-skin contact, but caring for another living thing really gives people a sense of purpose and fulfillment.

Learn more about a Healthy Mind here


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Melissa Caraan, MD

Psychiatry · Philippine General Hospital

Written by Jan Alwyn Batara · Updated Oct 20, 2022

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