T-Portal: “Do you crave touch? The psychologist has revealed to us why you need to ‘feed’ this need, especially in these strange times”

“Most of us are very familiar with the term skin hunger, hunger or craving for touch, although most of us are not even aware of it. Psychologist Mia Roje Djapic reveals to us why human touch is so important and how to deal with its lack in a global coronavirus epidemic, when avoiding physical contact is one of the recommended measures” and journalist Elma Katana writes in an introduction to an interview with Zagreb Child and Youth Protection Centers’ psychologist Mia Roje. Djapic published on the T-portal on 5 April 2020:

Touch is considered to be the first feeling we have because our skin is our largest sensory organ. Just as listening to enchanting music can reach your soul, feel the embrace of a person we trust can fill our being with a wide range of emotional and physical needs that you may not even know you have.

As we are exposed to an extremely stressful situation due to the pandemic of the new coronavirus, which we know very little about, as well as the recent earthquake that shook Zagreb and its surroundings on Sunday morning, hugs with loved ones have never been more important.

Embrace against stress

In numerous studies, scientists have come to realize that hugging really acts as a protective layer against stress.

In studies, those who were in a comfortable embrace before a stressful event responded better to these situations. More obese individuals had a lower increase in blood pressure, both systolic and diastolic. It is indeed a scientific fact that hugging us before we face the usual stressful situations can protect us from rapid heartbeat.

It has also been shown that the positive effects of hugs can last for a long time – psychologists suggest that warm hugs, for example, in the morning can have a beneficial effect all day long, so here’s a good idea to improve your mood.

According to psychologist Mia Roje Đapić from the Zagreb Child and Youth Protection Center, skin hunger, that is, a deep need and longing for human touch, we all have.

‘This need is only closer to some, and to some beyond consciousness. Some find it natural and pleasant, while others may be shamed, repressed and denied. It depends largely on each individual’s early experiences, whether the parents were present, accessible, consistent, and whether their contact with the child was, for the most part, a safe harbor or absent, arriving at the wrong time, in the wrong way, meeting the needs of adults instead of the child, and. finally, was he at times nurturing and sometimes dangerous, painful and aggressive. However, the fact is that children are born ‘programmed’ to develop attachment with their parents, and the first sensation to make that special and deep connection is precisely touch” said psychologist Roje Djapic.

There are times when nothing comforting can be said, when the problem cannot be solved or made to disappear.

‘In those situations, hugging, holding hands, helps, and it’s not just theoretical speculation. Scientific studies that measure pressure, pulse, skin conductivity, in which the brain is recorded and the levels of certain hormones measured are systematically confirmed – nurturing contact, even stranger but especially close people, is soothing and facilitating. Research shows that touching or hugging a loved one does not bring peace and relief only while it lasts: the effect can last all day long and also contribute to physical health and immunity’ she warns.


How to fulfill the craving for touch

First of all, it is good to be aware of your needs and emotions and to share them with at least someone, says the psychologist.

‘Every’ enemy ‘is more terrible when it is hidden, secret, and covered with a veil of shame. Nourish your body by bathing, nourishing it with fine creams, exercise, stretching… Feel the soft blanket on your skin, the wonderful smell of morning coffee, the pleasant feeling of melting chocolate on your tongue, the soothing sounds of leaves in the wind… Nurture your soul as well. Feel the joy of looking at a photo of a loved one, the anger of fate, overwhelmed by fear as you watch the news, or the sadness of thinking about everything you have lost” warns Roje Djapic .

He also added that it is important to constantly communicate with our loved ones.

‘Nurture the connection between your body and mind too – joy may rise from your belly to your chest and spread heat, fear may settle at your fingertips and cool and shake, anger may enter your hands and squeeze your jaw, as sadness lowers your entire body and springs into edge of eye through tear. Talk to your loved ones and plan what you will do once this is over. And it will pass. Then hug as hard as you can and don’t forget from this experience how important, close, and how difficult it is when we lose it. Let the corona teach us that lesson too’ concludes the psychologist.


The hormone of love

Oxytocin is most responsible for this, explains psychologist Roje Djapic, popularly called the hormone of love , which promotes rapprochement and nurturing behavior.

‘High doses of oxytocin are recorded, for example, after childbirth, when the baby leans to the mother’s chest and when their face-to-face relationship begins. Who wouldn’t want that feeling in everyday life? This is precisely why there is a skin hunger, a completely natural need for a man for another man, his touch and tenderness. In the absence of physical contact, we can become lonely, depressed, moody, anxious and anxious. There are many benefits to a single life and many of us would sometimes send our family on a short trip to stay home alone and have some peace. However, in the current circumstances, those who have someone to hug, kiss and anoint (even a pet with) have a psychologically more favorable position. Of course, sometimes you will quarrel, it is all a normal part of human experience and relationships. But then you will also be able to calm down, sit back on the couch, and with a gentle touch make it easier to get through the day. People who are now physically alone, and especially when they are in fear, may have a particular problem because of the lack of touch, ‘says the psychologist.



Here’s why touch is good for health

When we hug, for example, our brains produce serotonin, dopamine, endorphins and the ‘hormone of love’ oxytocin. The tide of oxytocin creates a sense of intimacy, attachment and confidence, but also generally affects mental well-being.

Hugging can also reduce stress, and it is well known that stress greatly diminishes immunity, crucial in the fight against disease and also coronavirus. Touch also helps the elderly as it raises their weakened immunity by relieving depression, more common in old age than in earlier life stages.

Touch, research has shown, activates skin pressure receptors that send signals to the vagus nerve deep in the brain. Stimulating this nerve lowers blood pressure but also relieves depression. It belongs to the autonomic nervous system and reduces the stress response. The vagus tells the stress mechanism to shut down because its action is not required. An earlier study found that hugging and touch relieve not only stress but also fear, and the interesting finding is that even hugging inanimate objects such as a teddy bear produces the same effect. “

Source (on Croatian): T-portal: https://www.tportal.hr/lifestyle/clanak/patite-li-i-vi-od-zudnje-za-dodirom-psihologinja-nam-je-otkrila-zasto-trebate-nahraniti-tu-potrebu-osobito-u-ovim-cudnim-vremenima-20200405


Disclaimer: This is unofficial translation provided for information purposes. Zagreb Child and Youth Protection Center cannot be held legally responsible for any translation inaccuracy.   

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