What Does It Mean To Feel Touched Out? A Therapist Weighs In

Ad failed to load

I'm not a hugger. My parents and grandparents were not the touchy-feely type. Goodnight kisses were perfunctory and often skipped as my mother struggled to get three kids to bed on her own after a long day, so touch was not well known to me. When I had kids, I made it a point to be very affectionate with them, to normalize touch. But, it can get overwhelming and I find myself retreating at night, wanting my own space. But what does it mean to feel touched out? Is that even what it is, or is there something more insidious afoot?

Feeling touched out is that claustrophobic feeling you get after being affectionate for an extended period of time, even if that affection is welcome, noted La Leche League USA. It's especially true for new mothers who are experiencing this level of prolonged physical tactility for the first time. The very act of becoming a mother is an exercise in physicality and closeness that terminates in a relationship saturated with the need for touch, affection, and tactile comfort — even more so for breastfeeding mothers whose ability to maintain any level of personal space remains disrupted for a period of months or years. Frequently mothers report feeling touched out, meaning they simply can not abide any more physical contact for a period of time, needing those stolen moments to reduce anxiety and prepare for the next round of intimacy.

Ad failed to load

I truly love my children, and I love the snuggles and the kisses — they're the best parts of my day. They make me feel like I'm doing something right by them, even if I'm screwing up everything else. I've read the studies linking physical affection to future performance, so I started cuddling them the minute they were born, and I've kept that going for nine years. But sometimes, I can't. I just need a few hours where no one touches me, no one tries to cuddle, and no one expects contact. Thankfully, my kids are now in school, which has the tendency to produce the opposite issue — I get clingy to them now. But during the summer? It still happens.

I spoke to family therapist Ashlee Grubb, LCSW of Northern Maine, to find out about what it means to feel touched out, and if there's a solution. She tells Romper, "It's that feeling when your skin itches, or you feel like the room is closing in on you when someone touches you or you think about touching someone. It happens a lot in new mothers who begin to feel averse to intimacy with their husbands in the evening because they've spent all day with their kids hanging on them." She says it's perfectly normal to feel this way, and it's the brain's way of telling you that you need to recharge. "Humans do need physical touch," she says, "but they also need time alone. Time where they can zone out and be with themselves absent of any intrusion. It's like resting your voice after screaming all day. It's needed and healthful."

A lot of people expect moms to be everything to all people. A madonna figure to her children, a strong and social working woman, and a seductress in bed. While it is possible to be all three of these things, it can't happen without measures put in place for you to just breathe. Grubb suggests splitting night duties with your partner and taking a long walk or exercising alone. "The endorphin rush from the movement helps clear the cobwebs from your mind and the sense of claustrophobia that tends to envelop you as a mom." However, if the sense of feeling touched out escalates or contributes to a rising pattern of anxiety, you might want to talk to someone about it, if only to get a baseline reading of the situation so you can take steps to move beyond what's bothering you.

Ad failed to load

We all want to be good moms, and that means we need to be good to ourselves first.

Check out Romper's new video series, Romper's Doula Diaries:

Ad failed to load

Watch full episodes of Romper's Doula Diaries on Facebook Watch.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

15 Baby Names With Unique Nicknames, So Your Family Has Options

I love a good diminutive name, also known as a nickname. I believe I’m partial to them because of my own name, Abigale, but I go by Abi. And since they’re both uniquely spelled, everyone thinks my name is pronounced Ah-bee for some reason — but even …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

The Entire Family Can Enjoy These Movies & Shows Coming To Netflix In June

It's just one of those sad facts of life: every month, shows and movies vanish from Netflix, their varied excitements no longer at your fingertips. But luckily the streaming service is always prepared to fill that content void with lots of new things…
By Megan Walsh

The Reason Why Babies Smile At You Will Seriously Make You Smile

Whether you're currently the recipient of your own baby's sweet smiles or you just seem to be a magnet for baby grins in general, you might find yourself wondering why babies are always smiling at you. Sure, you could be a 'smile whisperer' but scien…
By Kate Miller

8 Ways Your Baby Is Trying To Say That, Yes, You Are Their Favorite

For a baby to show a preference for a specific person is not only normal, but an essential part of their development. Babies need to form strong attachments to their caregivers for their emotional, social, and physical wellbeing. Usually, but not alw…
By Kimmie Fink

10 Reasons Why I Won't Apologize For Giving My Toddler A Pacifier

My first child had no interest in a pacifier. I tried a couple times to get him to take one, but he always spat them out and gave me an incredulous, judgmental look. But my second? It was love at first suckle. And after a while, the incredulous, judg…
By Jamie Kenney

Being A Dog Parent Prepared Me For Having A Baby, Really

I’ve always wanted kids; I was never as sure about raising a puppy. Then I spent six months living with someone who brought home an eight-week-old golden retriever puppy, and I see no way to make it out of that experience claiming not to love dogs. I…
By Heather Caplan

20 Of The Most Popular Unisex Names Of All Time, That You'll Be Hearing More Of For Sure

You might think of unisex names as a fairly recent trend, but the truth is these versatile monikers have been commonly used throughout history (well, some more commonly than others). That's why the team over at Names.org recently compiled a list of t…
By Jacqueline Burt Cote

How To Have A Date Night With No Babysitter, Because It's Easier Than You Think

After having children, many couples feel that their love lives immediately go out the window, but it's so important to make your romantic life a priority so both you and your partner can be the best versions of yourselves you can be. As we all know, …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

9 Ways Baby No. 3 Made My Family Feel Complete

My husband and I decided to have another baby right after we got married and, well, we had no idea what we were getting into. I got pregnant right away, endured a high-risk pregnancy, and, before I knew it, my third baby had arrived. Together, we emb…
By Steph Montgomery

8 Stereotypes About New Dads That Are *Totally* True

Much like new mothers, new fathers have a lot on their plate. Parenting can be scary and complex, especially at first and regardless of your gender. People want to do right by their kids, after all. And since all new parents are a hot mess, dads are …
By Priscilla Blossom

8 Differences Between Being Pregnant In Your 20s Vs 30s, According To Science

Whether you're planning a pregnancy, or just thinking about your future family, it's typical to think about things like child-spacing, how many kids you want, and when to start trying to conceive. When making your pro/con list, you might also conside…
By Steph Montgomery

16 Moms Share Remedies For Their Most Intense Chocolate Cravings During Pregnancy

For better or worse, pregnancy is usually synonymous with odd cravings. Sure, there are the stereotypical combos like pickles and ice cream that plague gestating women the world over, but there are other mind-boggling combinations, too, including but…
By Candace Ganger

Putting Sunscreen On Your Kid Doesn't Have To Be A Fight — Here's How To Do It

I am almost translucent, so me and sunscreen are basically besties at this point. Even though my children are beautifully deep brown thanks to my husband's genetics, I still slather them like biscuits being buttered because I refuse to take risks wit…
By Cat Bowen

19 Moms Share The Way They Cured Their Pregnancy Comfort Food Cravings

I was obnoxiously sick during the first trimester with, "lucky" for me, both of my pregnancies. For the first three months I lived on saltines, lemonade, and fresh bread. Once I was able to eat, however, all I wanted was savory and sweet comfort food…
By Dina Leygerman

I Used To Judge Formula-Feeding Moms — Until I Became One

The other patrons in the hip Brooklyn restaurant probably couldn’t care less what I was feeding my baby, but I’ll always remember the shame I felt as I quickly mixed up his bottle of formula in front of them. I admitted to my childless friend that I …
By Katherine Martinelli

7 White Lies It’s Necessary To Tell To Keep Your Relationship Healthy

Telling lots of lies typically isn't associated with a healthy, strong, lasting relationship, and that's still certainly true, but not all lies are exactly the same. Though you've probably heard from someone at least once or twice that the lie they t…
By Lauren Schumacker

The Skinny Jeans That Saved Me Postpartum

Accepting my post-pregnancy body is hands-down one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. It’s something that I still work on every single day. During my first pregnancy, I was 20 years old, so I managed to bounce back quickly. In fact, I dropp…
By Allison Cooper

7 Ways Your Baby Is Trying To Say They Feel Safe

In those first weeks of new motherhood, it can feel like you need an interpreter for your newborn. With their limited means of communication, figuring out what message your baby is trying to get across to you can be a challenge. With time, however, y…
By Kimmie Fink

Here's Why Dogs Are Obsessed With Babies' Poop, According To Science

Most family dogs seem to understand babies, and they're more than happy to make friends with the newest member of the pack. It's adorable... for the most part and until you go to change your little one's diaper. Suddenly, you're wondering why dogs ar…
By Lindsay E. Mack

6 Signs You're Meant To Have A Big Age Gap Between Kids

There's a five year age difference between my two children, to the day. Their age gap wasn't planned but, for a variety of reasons, works well for our family. And since I was so focused on having a second baby, I totally overlooked the signs that wou…
By Candace Ganger

My Dog Knew I Was Pregnant Before My Family Did

Growing up, I was 100 percent sure I'd be a mom one day. To a dog, that is. My baby plans came later. And once my husband and I were sure we wanted both a dog and a baby, we'd add to our joint dog-and-baby name list over Sunday brunch or on date nigh…
By Melissa Mills