How I Am Dealing With Touch Starvation

Big bear hugs aren’t quite safe, so here are other options

Allison Joyner
Published in
4 min readJun 17, 2020


Illustration: Chelsea Charles

When the palm of my two hands hold each other

That feels different

From when your hands are in mine.

That’s just the way it is.

“Superpower” by Beyoncé Knowles Carter

Queen Bey is right! Hugging, shaking hands, or a quick high five could be all the stimulation your body needs for the day. But try to be without it for weeks, and even months.

As a Black woman, and an 80s baby, living and working from home with limited human interaction in her normal life, I have been craving for any way to get physical contact with another person. Safely, of course. But how do you do this when even hugging could introduce the virus?

That’s what millions of people around the world are going through right now to help prevent the spread of Covid-19. With shelter-in-place orders still in effect in some places, people who live alone (or who are in strained relationships and might as well be alone) are cut off from physical society, leading to increased depression, anxiety, and stress.

“Being touch starved,” says Hawaii-based sex therapist and licensed clinical psychologist Janet Brito, “occurs when a person experiences little to no touch from other living things.”

DeAna Jo Vivian, a licensed professional counselor in Atlanta, explains that touch starvation is a growing by-product of this pandemic. In 2018, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that 37.5 million Americans lived alone, so the number of people suffering in silence could be more than anticipated.

“In the real world, we are collective as species,” says Vivian, “so we need that human touch, that embrace. Our skin is the largest organ. It actually relays and transmits our senses and touch to our human brain.”

I have been craving for any way to get physical contact with another person.

Even as some people are taking a masked chance at gathering with friends and family, and walking side-by-side in protests, others are still remaining inside.



Allison Joyner
Writer for

Founder & CEO of Allison Joyner Enterprises and lover of Historically Black Colleges and Universities