Touch is a Touchy Topic: Do I Crave Physical Touch?

You can read the introduction here.

I have heard about people craving people needing physical touch so much that I believed that I must crave it too.

I am re-examining that.

The most obvious physical needs I feel are the need for water, food, and sleep. Though there is a lot of variation in how I experience thirst, hunger, and sleep-deprivation, if I go too long without water/food/sleep, I will feel it, and it won’t be subtle.

On the next level, there is my need for exercise. It doesn’t belong in the same category as water/food/sleep – I don’t think a sedentary lifestyle would kill me nearly as quickly as dehydration/starvation/severe sleep deprivation – but it’s clear to me that I really do need a minimal level of exercise, and it’s not something I merely think I need because I’ve been fooled by pro-exercise propaganda.

I have concluded that I don’t have sexual needs, even though lots of people are convinced that everybody needs sex.

So … do I also have a need for physical touch, or was I only convinced I needed physical touch because other people said so?

Well, in Taiwan, when I told myself that I wasn’t getting enough physical contact with people, I decided to remedy this with massages.

When I’m thirsty and I drink water, I experience immediate relief

When I’m hungry and I eat food, I experience immediate relief.

When I’m sleep-deprived and I sleep, the relief isn’t immediate, but it’s evident and refreshing.

When I have been repressing the urge to exercise, and then get to burn off some of that energy, I feel much calmer afterwards.

When I hadn’t been touching people for a while, and then get a massage … I feel nothing.

I’ve repeated this a few times.

I can only think of two explanations:

1) I don’t need physical touch
2) I do need physical touch, but commercial massages do not fulfil this need at all

I am not sure which explanation it is, but I have at least concluded that I don’t need physical touch nearly as much as I need exercise, and that my notion of needing physical touch was, if not totally fabricated, then at least exaggerated by other people claiming that we all need physical touch.

I once thought that I *should* have more physical touch, and since the massages didn’t seem to have much of an effect, that I *should* have more of it in more personal relationships.

Now, when I poke at the evidence that people put forth for ‘physical touch is healthy and you don’t get enough’, I find that the evidence is really flimsy. For example, this blog post says “most people desire or require touch and affection on a regular basis … touch helps keep you healthy and happy. (Don’t believe me? The National Institutes of Health says so)”. Yet the article it links to support the ‘the National Institutes of Health’ claim is about oxytocin and says “few studies look at oxytocin in humans” i.e. we are not entirely sure about the effects of oxytocin. I think that is way overstretching for a claim like ‘The National Institutes of Health says most people require touch on a regular basis’ – especially since the article cannot find any effect on blood pressure or stress hormone levels in men (aren’t men, you know, a large portion of the population?!).

So right now, I say ‘whatever’! If I feel like touching AND receive permission, I’ll do it. If I don’t feel like it or don’t get permission, I won’t. I’m going to stop telling myself that I need more touch just because other people say I need it.

And on that note, I will get back to the topic of asexuality in the next post.


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7 thoughts on “Touch is a Touchy Topic: Do I Crave Physical Touch?

  1. You start of this post with:
    “I have heard about people craving people needing physical touch so much that I believed that I must crave it too.

    I am re-examining that.”

    And I think I too am at the same stage in my own self-analysis of my feelings. 😉 It’s so confusing… so hard to figure myself out, lol…

  2. I don’t know if most people “desire or require touch and affection on a regular basis”, but I do. I’ve generally found it an unpleasant vulnerability.

    I’m finding this series really helpful and thought-provoking.

    • I’m glad you are finding this helpful and thought-provoking.

      If I may ask, how do you feel when you go too long without touch/affection, and how do you feel when you get the touch/affection you need again. If it’s too personal, or if you simply don’t want to answer, that’s fine. I’m just interested in knowing what this need/desire feels like, which might help me figure out whether I feel it too.

      • I needed a while to work out the answer to this question. I’m not that in touch with my emotions, mostly keeping track by conscious introspection, rather than intuitively knowing.

        How I feel when you go too long without touch/affections:

        The need for touch has mostly accompanied loneliness for me and loneliness seems to send me into a state of mind where I don’t feel anything strongly and nothing matters too much.

        Going without touch when I have had people around that I care about makes me want them to touch me or me to touch them. When needy, I have: a strong appreciation for touch from strangers like handshakes and thick crowds, fantasies about cuddling, fantasies about being something/ someone who doesn’t need touch, a mild impulse to touch people I care about when I’m with them, the desire to do things they might not appreciate that might get them to touch me, the desire to do things that might make me or them very unhappy that might get them to touch me, guilt and discomfort over the extent to which the need for touch can degrade my boundaries and encourage me to not respect other people as people.

        How I feel when I get the touch/affection I need again:

        With relatively brief touch/affection I don’t necessarily notice. I’m just less needy after.

        I always like being touched by people I care about. (Being hugged by someone arguing with me tends to totally dissolve the anger/unhappiness from the argument, but not many people hug in lulls in arguments.) But the more I get touched, the more I dislike being touched by strangers.

        When I get prolonged touch from someone I care about, it’s like sunbathing. I know that normally I’d be bored by the amount of sensual and mental stimulation I’m getting, but the experience is too pleasant to stop.

  3. Pingback: December 2014 Carnival of Aces Roundup | The Notes Which Do Not Fit

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