Recovering From Touch Deprivation Amid the Pandemic

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Of our five senses, our ability to sense touch (haptic sense) is the first one to develop as a growing fetus. In fact, touch is the one sense that we can’t live without. While we can adapt to losing our sense of smell, sight, taste, or hearing—when the sense of touch is lost—we lose the ability to effectively sit up, walk, or feel pain.

Research shows that humans don’t simply desire touch—they need it. Without enough positive human touch, it’s possible to develop a condition called touch deprivation.

Touch deprivation can increase stress, anxiety, and depression and lead to numerous additional negative physiological effects. For example, as a response to stress, the body makes a hormone called cortisol. This stress response can cause the heart rate, blood pressure, muscle tension, and breathing rates to increase, which in turn negatively affects the immune and digestive systems. Individuals who go without …

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