NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Sunday, October 11, 2020

Self Soothing Practices to Cope With Touch Deprivation During the COVID-19 Crisis

 In my prior article, How to Cope With Touch Deprivation During the COVID-19 Crisis, I began a discussion about touch deprivation.  I suggested ways to mitigate the loneliness and social isolation by staying socially connected with others online while distancing physically to avoid the risk of contracting the Coronavirus (see my article: The Physical and Emotional Impact of Social Isolation During the COVID-19 Pandemic). In this article, I'm focusing on self soothing practices you can use to cope with touch deprivation as a result of social isolation.

Self Soothing Practices to Cope With Touch Deprivation

Safety Precautions During COVID-19 Pandemic
As you probably know, the CDC's recommendations to reduce the risk of contracting the COVID-19 virus include, among other safety measures, social distancing of at least 6 feet.  

While remaining physically distant is important to reduce the risk of getting COVID-19, many people, especially people who live alone, are experiencing unintended consequences of loneliness, anxiety and depression as a result of touch deprivation.

What is Touch Deprivation (also known as Skin Hunger)?
Let's start by defining touch deprivation, which is also known as skin hunger.

Skin is the largest sensory organ we have, and skin hunger is a deep longing for physical contact with another person. 

As I mentioned in my prior article, touch is the first sense we acquire as infants, and it's crucial for infants' survival.  Being hugged or touched by someone you care about fulfills both emotional and physical needs throughout the life cycle.  

When people can no longer experience hugs and other forms of tactile comfort, they are deprived of one of the most important elements of physical and emotional comfort.

Being deprived of skin-to-skin contact for a long period of time can have profound physical and emotional consequences, including:
  • Increased anxiety
  • Increased stress levels
  • Increased cortisol levels
  • Depressed mood
  • Poor sleep
  • Feelings of loneliness and isolation
How to Cope With Touch Deprivation
There are self soothing practices that you can engage in to cope with touch deprivation, including:
  • Practicing Self Massage: When you're feeling touch deprived and lonely, you can give yourself a massage.  Depending upon what you enjoy, you can use your favorite massage oil to slowly and gently massage your body to feel physically and emotionally comforted.

How to Cope With Touch Deprivation
  • Engaging in Self Pleasure/Masturbation: Self pleasure is a broad category, which includes whatever you find physically pleasurable. Everyone is different in terms of what s/he likes. So, if you're not sure, you can explore what feels pleasurable to you.  As part of this exploration, you can play with different textures, including leather, feathers, soft material and other textures to feel pleasant sensations against your skin.  Self pleasure can include masturbation either with or without sex toys. When you masturbate to orgasm, you experience an increase in oxytocin and serotonin.  These hormones can reduce stress, improve sleep and provide pain relief.
  • Sleeping With a Body Pillow: A body pillow is a long pillow that runs the length of your body.  Holding a body pillow while you sleep can help to calm you by offering comfort and physical support. 
  • Using a Weighted Blanket: A weighted blanket is a blanket that is at least 15 pounds and it's used for therapeutic purposes to help relieve stress, anxiety and depression. The weight of the blanket helps to put the user at ease and improve the user's mood.
  • Dancing: Aside from being fun, dancing, even when you're dancing alone, releases oxytocin which, as previously mentioned, helps to improve your mood and provides a sense of well-being.  
Getting Help in Therapy
There are times when self soothing practices aren't enough to overcome the emotional pain of anxiety, depression or feelings of loneliness and isolation.

A licensed psychotherapist can help you to overcome your emotional pain.

Rather than suffering on your own, you could benefit from working with an experienced therapist so you can work through your difficulties.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT and Somatic Experiencing therapist (see my article: The Therapeutic Benefits of Integrative Psychotherapy).

I work with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.