No no this has nothing to do with cannibalism- But on that note, let’s get something clear: what is ‘skin hunger’?
‘Skin Hunger’ is defined as that deep longing and aching desire for meaningful physical contact with another person, like hugs, cuddles, etc. For infants, this kind of contact is required for them to live- if they are deprived of all human touch, even if they have enough nutrients, they can feasibly die. Now for us, that’s not the case, but we’re still greatly affected. I mean think about it, your skin is your largest sensory organ! Yet sometimes we don’t even notice we need to satisfy the needs of that organ until it hits us like a gosh darn brick.
To further shed light on this issue, I’ll talk about my recent experience with it:
First off, I’m an introvert. To put it very briefly, spending time with people (even those I like) exhausts me, including external stimulants like loud noise and crowds (ex. parties) and I need to recharge with alone time. Also for me, I don’t connect quickly with people. I’m very cautious and particular on who I call ‘friend’ and therefore don’t grow close or socialize often, and simply, I just don’t ‘click’ with others much. So I’m not used to being super chummy with people, and while I don’t mind affection (as long as it’s welcome and not overbearing), I’m just not used to giving or receiving it. And funny enough I was actually vaguely familiar with the term skin hunger when I saw a post about it, though at the time I treated it like “yeah ya know affection sounds nice but oh well” and shrugged it off.
But my lack of affection started to build up. I didn’t notice it at first, since it was gradual, and the symptoms were ones I was already used to experiencing: fatigue, anxiety, bouts of loneliness and insecurity that I thought would pass. And I didn’t think my ache for intimacy had anything to do with it. However, I was feeling fatigued even during a low-stress week of school, which comparatively shouldn’t have bothered me at all. And I would still feel great waves of insecurity even after I just had a nice lunch with a group of people I easily socialize with. I didn’t feel connected to my environment and my peers and my isolating asocial mentalities came seeping back to me.
Then the true sign of my skin hunger showed up during my last period of the day. I was already drowning in questioning one of my closest friendships despite there logically being no reason to do so, and at the end of the period I saw said friend scoop up one of his friends in his arms and spin them around in an embrace right as I was leaving.
And oh man did the floodgates open with flying colors.
I quickly exited into the hallway as fast as possible, wanting to cry but couldn’t let it loose just yet, and finally got to a bathroom to consider what I just felt and why the heck it happened. It was then I realized, like a brick to the face, I was hardcore suffering from skin hunger.
And the cruddy thing about that hunger is the insecurities make you feel worthless and undeserving of that affection you really need. I knew I needed a hug, especially from the close friend I mentioned, but I kept thinking “I’m not really his best friend, I’m just another friend, I would just be bothering him, his other friends are probably more important” etc. Luckily I’ve come to terms which putting my health in priority and understanding I need to fix this thing or else it will get worse. But none the less it took a lot of pushing through those ugly thoughts to just hit send on my message “hey, next time we meet, could I have a hug?”
To wrap up the story, I did get my much needed hug, received reassurance from my best bro that I can ask for a hug whenever I need one, and got another hug before he left. While it didn’t suddenly cure all my insecurities and self-deprecating thoughts (as part of me hoped), it definitely helped and my ache for physical affection wasn’t screaming at me any longer. And now I heed much more attention to it to prevent another breakdown like that again!
If you think you might also have skin hunger, there are ways to overcome it. Inevitably going up to your friend and being like “I HAVE THE SKIN HUNGER” can seem, rather weird and terrifying,
-but if you explain the term to them you may be surprised at how understanding they’ll be. Voicing a desire for intimacy usually won’t make a good friend or family member whom you trust to think little of you, despite what those lying insecurities tell you. More likely than not they’ll need physical affection just as much as you!
The most obvious way is to seek intimacy is with your loved ones, whether that be friends or family. Perhaps plan a movie night and snuggle up as you watch a Harry Potter movie marathon, or host a spa night where you and your friends can brush each other’s hair and apply face masks, or just play video games on the couch together. However you can get your loved ones to hang out with you with something you all enjoy, while also satisfying your skin hunger. Even just asking for a hug after a long day will work if you don’t want to plan anything fancy.
And if you can’t get intimacy in a close relationship, you can find subtle ways to achieve it. Going to the hairdresser can provide comfort as they wash and style hair, or even just shaking someone’s hand with new people you meet.
All the same, don’t be afraid to ask or show more affection towards the people you trust and care about. The internet is great for cheering yourself up with memes and videos for the time being, but it can’t replace human touch. Remind yourself that you are deserving of love and affection. You are not alone in wanting intimacy; its not weird, it’s not clingy of you, it’s a normal human feeling!