As human beings, we’re born wired for touch, connection and love. When we’re deprived of that love, it can have serious consequences.
Babies who aren’t touched, for example, can actually die from the lack. And while adults may not die, they can suffer physical and mental ailments as a result of loneliness and disconnection.
Going without touch can create a condition called skin hunger, or “a deep longing and aching desire for physical contact with another person,” according to Dr. Suzanne Degges-White, psychologist and professor at the Counseling and Higher Education department at Northern Illinois University.
In the midst of COVID-19, skin hunger is more prevalent than ever, along with an epidemic of loneliness among people due to the isolation of quarantine.
But even in the midst of this pandemic, there are ways to give yourself the connection and love you crave.
“ … it is clear that tactile stimulation and close contact with others is necessary to our well-being,” Psychology Today continues.
Pre-COVID, disconnection was already becoming a growing problem, with many of society’s changes leading to higher levels of isolation and alienation.
And loneliness is more than a feeling — it can cause biochemical changes to the body, leading to a greater risk of illness. In the midst of this pandemic, it’s worth noting that loneliness can actually weaken the immune system, putting you at greater risk.
“Chronic loneliness can lead to deterioration in our ability to respond to potential infections as well as the strength of our immune response,” Chirag Shah, MD, told Insider.
Dr. Bruce Alexander, psychology professor at Simon Fraser University, found that “… loneliness gets under the skin.” His research determined that lonely people have poorer sleep, higher cortisol (the stress hormone) levels, and a greater risk of cardiovascular issues.
Two 2013 studies found that loneliness was correlated with higher levels of inflammation, and chronic inflammation can lead to heart disease, cancer, and dementia.
Loneliness can also cause anxiety and a loss of self-esteem, which develops into biochemical cravings for drugs, alcohol, and other addictions, all of which do damage to the body and mind.
So, what’s the solution if you can’t physically connect with other people right now? Get creative about connection.
Even if you’re physically isolated from others, there are ways to activate the feelings of connection, love and bonding.
If you’re alone, you don’t have to feel alone. Reach out! Love and connection are just moments away.