Lack of physical touch can hurt mental health, experts say

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SPARTANBURG, S.C. (WSPA) — Experts say that humans are hard wired to need physical contact with one another; however, during a time of social distancing, normal physical interactions are harder to come by, leading many to experience mental health issues.

According to recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 25 percent of Americans live alone. This statistic is troubling to mental health specialists.

β€œWe are seeing more and more of the effects of not having that touch,” Spartanburg Area Mental Health Center Director Roger Williams said.

According to Williams and other experts, diagnosing a lack of touch can be difficult, as it is not something many adults think of as a root cause for mental health problems. However, a starvation of hugs, high-fives and close contact can lead increased risk for depression, heightened anxiety and lacking feelings of wellbeing.

β€œI think a lot of people don’t realize it’s missing,” Williams said. “They feel more isolated — even more isolated — than they actually are because that part of their world, that part of their sensation, is missing.”

Child mental health specialists have begun dealing with the problem in younger people, too.

β€œWe have children that come in and they talk about not being able to hug or to get close to loved ones because of quarantine situations,” Jacklyn Murphy, a licensed marriage and family counselor with Healing Solutions, LLC, said.

Experts say there’s no real replacement for physical touch; however, there are various tools that can help: making phone or video calls, petting dogs or cats, using weighted blankets or listening to soothing music.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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