April 10, 2023

Touch Starvation: Tips for feeling better

I'm Ash montgomery
Counsellor & Therapy Dog Handler
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Touch is a basic human need, and for people outside of romantic relationships (and for people inside them, too – but that’s a post for another day) this need can feel really hard to meet. Read more to explore the science and solutions for touch starvation during single life.

At Golden Thread Therapy in Ashgrove, we understand that every person’s journey is unique and we champion people no matter their (consensual) romantic/sexual decisions. For some, the path to self-discovery and personal growth may be a solo one, free of romantic relationships. However, this doesn’t mean that the need for physical touch and connection is any less important.

The Unseen Impact of Touch Starvation

When we think of touch, it’s easy to associate it with romantic partners. But touch is a fundamental human need that goes beyond romantic relationships, and it plays a crucial role in our emotional, mental, and physical health (Field, 2010). Touch starvation, or the lack of regular physical contact, can lead to increased stress, anxiety, and even depression (Jakubiak & Feeney, 2017). It’s not commonly talked about, but addressing touch starvation is important for supporting a well-rounded approach to mental health.

Strategies for Overcoming Touch Starvation

Make Plans:

Physical touch isn’t exclusive to romantic relationships. Make time with friends and family, and be intentionally warm with your touch: hugs, hand-holding, even just a gentle shoulder touch. These are some small, simple gestures – but they can go a long way in providing connection and support (Hertenstein et al., 2006) and nurturing your relationships.

Engage in Social Activities:

Brisbane has plenty of clubs, groups, and classes that encourage social interaction and camaraderie. Think dancing, yoga, team sports – excellent ways to make new connections while experiencing health physical touch (Dunbar, 2010).

Foster a Connection with Pets:

Come on…you already knew we were going to talk about puppies!

Our furry friends can be a great source of comfort and touch. Research shows that interacting with pets can lower stress levels and boost feelings of well-being (Beetz et al., 2012). Cuddling with a pet, stroking their fur, or even just sitting close to them can provide the physical connection needed to combat touch starvation.

If you don’t have a pet (or you’re an aquarium type), you are more than welcome to book a session with me and Beanie. She lives for therapy session cuddles. (And she feels like a real live teddy bear. Just don’t wear black if you’re on your way somewhere important afterwards!)

Practice Self-Soothing Techniques:

Develop self-soothing skills to help you cope with touch deprivation. Explore techniques like mindfulness meditation, self-massage, or using a weighted blanket, which has been shown to help provide a sense of physical grounding and comfort (Mullen et al., 2008). If it’s your vibe, embrace self-pleasure – a healthy and natural way to explore your body and meet your physical touch needs. Engaging in self-pleasure not only helps reduce stress and improve mood but also fosters a deeper understanding and appreciation of your own body (Herbenick et al., 2010).

Consider Professional Support:

As I mentioned earlier, being single is a beautiful way to navigate the world and is one that is just as valid as committing. However, if you’re struggling with either touch starvation or with a recent breakup or dating, please don’t hesitate to reach out to a qualified counsellor for support. Our counselling practice is located in Ashgrove, Brisbane and we would love to help.


Touch starvation is a real and often overlooked issue, particularly for those not in romantic relationships. By exploring various strategies backed by research, it’s possible to find ways to meet your need for touch while staying true to your individual journey. At Golden Thread Therapy in Ashgrove, our empathetic and compassionate counselling team is here to support you as you address touch starvation and any other mental health concerns.

Visit the Golden Thread Therapy website or contact our Ashgrove office now to book your appointment and start living a more connected, fulfilling life.


Beetz, A., Uvnäs-Moberg, K., Julius, H., & Kotrschal, K. (2012). Psychosocial and psychophysiological effects of human-animal interactions: The possible role of oxytocin. Frontiers in Psychology, 3, 234. DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00234

Dunbar, R. I. M. (2010). The social role of touch in humans and primates: Behavioural function and neurobiological mechanisms. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 34(2), 260-268. DOI: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2008.07.001

Field, T. (2010). Touch for socioemotional and physical well-being: A review. Developmental Review, 30(4), 367-383. DOI: 10.1016/j.dr.2011.01.001

Herbenick, D., Reece, M., Sanders, S., Dodge, B., Ghassemi, A., & Fortenberry, J. D. (2010). Sexual behavior in the United States: Results from a national probability sample of men and women ages 14-94. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 7(Suppl. 5), 255-265. DOI: 10.1111/j.1743-6109.2010.02012.x

Hertenstein, M. J., Keltner, D., App, B., Bulleit, B. A., & Jaskolka, A. R. (2006). Touch communicates distinct emotions. Emotion, 6(3), 528-533. DOI: 10.1037/1528-3542.6.3.528

Jakubiak, B. K., & Feeney, B. C. (2017). Affectionate touch to promote relational, psychological, and physical well-being in adulthood: A theoretical model and review of the research. Personality and Social Psychology Review. DOI: 10.1177/1088868317695565

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