PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - Have you ever heard of "touch starvation?" It's something doctors are seeing more and more of these days and researching its effects at the same time. So what is it and how can you combat it?
It is basic human nature to want and need human touch, and right now, with social distancing in place, doctors are seeing people suffering from "touch starvation," which can actually alter the neurons and hormones in your brain.
“There really isn’t a 100% substitute for human touch,” said Phoenix family doctor Natasha Bhuyan.
Hugging, kissing, high fiving, a pat on the back, humans instinctually like all of it, and not only that, touch improves our daily lives.
“When we’re physically touched, tactile stimulation of the skin, we find that physical touch helps with things like reducing our stress, lifting up our mood, even improving our sleep quality,” Dr. Bhuyan said.
She said social distancing and lack of touch is leading to more people struggling with isolated feelings, depression and anxiety. Dr. Bhuyan said it's actually physically changing people's brains.
“We’re seeing higher levels of things like cortisol, and we know cortisol is a hormone that leads to more detrimental health effects,” she said.
The coronavirus pandemic has inspired a grassroots movement that is connecting people who need help with donors who can offer financial assistance.
She also said it's leading to lower oxytocin levels, often known as the "love hormone.” But, while nothing can fully replace human touch, some things can stimulate the skin to help.
“It can also be from skin movement, so I tell people, make sure you’re exercising and moving, that you’re doing things like dance and yoga,” she said.
Dr. Bhuyan also said one of the best things you can do to help is adopt or get a pet. She said a pet is a great substitute to reduce stress and bring you joy. And of course, she encourages anybody to reach out to a doctor or mental health professional if you're struggling with touch starvation or feelings of isolation.