Internet and its associated social media tools like Facebook, Instagram, and Whatsapp have opened the horizon for interaction and communication with each other. This advent of technology has helped to link families and friends besides having an obvious advantage in the workplace, especially during the pandemic. Young people having access to these tools rely a lot on these tools to communicate with each other. Subsequently, shunning physical touch during COVID has become a habit for most, even after normalcy has returned. People are still wary of physical touch and communication.
Physical touch plays an important role in our development from birth. Studies show that physical contact or human touch is essential and a part of healthy life with emotional, mental, and physical benefits. Physical touch increases levels of dopamine and serotonin, two neuro-transmitters that help to regulate the mood and relieve stress and anxiety. Touch induces the brain to release oxytocin from the body, a stress reliever, helping us to form emotional connections to one another and create a sense of happiness.
In the absence of physical touch, the person is more likely to be stressed, anxious, or depressed. The brain in response to stress signals the body to produce cortisol, which in excess increases the heart rate, blood pressure, and tension of muscles indirectly affecting the immune or digestive system. People with touch deprivation may experience loneliness, depression, and anxiety and may have difficulty in sleeping, and also have a sense of dissatisfaction in their personal relationships.
Research has shown that it takes 8-10 meaningful touches a day to maintain physical and emotional needs. People can benefit from physical interactions with family and friends. This is all the more important between spouses or partners. It is probably the reason why long-distance relationships suffer as they require great effort and understanding to maintain the relationship. A happy relationship requires touches of trust, love, and safety. Animals, especially pets, also play an important part to keep the spirits high of those who live alone and are used to brighten the lives of inhabitants of old-age homes.
On the other end of the spectrum, some people do not like to be touched. Although it is okay to not like to be touched by strangers, especially of the other gender, it can be distressing for some to be touched even by their family or friends. This intense, overwhelming fear of being touched termed “haphephobia” can be serious and can induce panic attacks. This fear may be due to trauma they have experienced in the past. The benefits of touch far outweigh the negative connotations. People should hold hands, touch, go out with friends, and so on to avail this benefit. Playing games can also release stress, especially those involving the physical body. Animals, especially pets, are also known to be stress busters. It is imperative that for healthy physical and mental health, one should make sure to include physical connections in their everyday life.