Feeling a need for human touch is a very real experience. And as it turns out, there are some things that actually happen to your body if you don't experience human touch for a few days. If you've ever really felt the need for a good hug, then there's a reason for that.
From a neuroscientific standpoint, the brain processes human touch differently than other types of touch. For instance, when a person picks up an apple or other object, the brain collects info about its texture, temperature, and location, as Lindsey Ross, M.D. explains. The sense of touch is on something of a fact-finding mission. "However when the human body touches another person, information travels through the peripheral nerves to the brain and via the posterior pituitary, a small organ in the center of the brain, a hormone called oxytocin is released —the love hormone," says Dr. Ross. Oxytocin helps a person with social recognition and partner bonding, so human touch is a much richer expereince, as Dr. Ross further explains.
On a more emotional level, it isn't uncommon to experience something known as skin hunger. A longing for human touch, skin hunger indicates a deep-seated need for tactical experiences with other people, as explained in Psychology Today. It isn't necessarily related to sexual needs, either. Sometimes you legit just need a hug.
But what happens if you happen to be in a situation where close touch isn't easily available? There are other activities you can try to get a similar benefit. "When you don’t experience human touch for a few days your body may experience a drop in oxytocin," says Adina Mahalli (MSW), a certified mental health professional who writes on behalf of Maple Holistics. "The good news is that you can practice self-soothing behaviors to reduce stress and comfort yourself. Taking a warm bath, using a soft blanket and anything else that appeals to your senses can provide mild relief from this drop in oxytocin levels." If you're really struggling with this or other emotional needs, then don't hesitate to reach out to a counselor for help.