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Illustration: Luo Xuan/GT

Illustration: Luo Xuan/GT

The other night, when I was lying in bed hugging my teddy bear, I fantasized that it was human. Then, all of a sudden, I found myself craving to be touched. I thought I was going crazy.

"No, you are skin-hungry," my psychologist friend said.

"I am what?" I asked.

"The psychological term for it is 'skin hunger,'" she said. "Your skin is yearning to be touched by another human being."

Am I going crazy because I miss the touch of a human? Maybe. I have been out of a relationship for a while. Honestly speaking, I cannot remember the last time I had my hands held or my shoulder hugged.

Oh, that is not true. The other day when a massage therapist touched my skin, I felt an electric shock.

"Skin touch isn't exactly a sexual need," my friend emphasized. "Human beings are born with a need for physical contact. It is human."

An example is a newborn baby that needs to be touched by its mother. Physical contact has also been proven to have healing power. It has been reported that a newborn child that was declared dead came back to life after being placed on his mother's chest.

A Google search reveals some research on skin hunger. One of the studies is from the Touch Research Institute of the University of Miami. It found that physical touch can reduce one's level of stress and aggression.

When I was a kid, every time my mother took me to the hospital she would always whisper in my ear, telling me to report it to her if the male doctor touched me inappropriately. Since then, I was very careful not to touch another kid just in case they reported it to their parents and got me into trouble.

As an adult in China, we don't usually kiss or hug our parents. In fear of sexual harassment accusations, we are discouraged from touching another human being outside of a friendly handshake or hug. The only person we touch regularly and openly are our partners.

In today's modern society, many adults like me have adapted to the touch-free lifestyle. We prefer to use the Internet and telephones rather than face-to-face communication. I am not sure if technology brings us closer or pushes us further apart.

I wonder if many people out there also secretly crave being touched in a caring and meaningful way by another person. How do they cope with their craving if they are not in a relationship?

One option is going to a cuddle party and paying someone to spoon you. You'd better cross your fingers and hope that person will not sexually harass you. You could also opt for a Free Hug so that you can have physical contact in public.

Another option recommended by my psychologist friend is getting a massage. That way, you can have the mental and physical benefits in a safe environment.

This article was published on the Global Times Metropolitan section Two Cents page, a space for reader submissions, including opinion, humor and satire. The ideas expressed are those of the author alone, and do not represent the position of the Global Times.