A New York woman took to social media to plead for help with a crisis she says she is facing called touch starvation.
TikTok user Mayte Lisbeth broke down in tears as she told viewers on the platform about her mental dilemma and sought advice. Lisbeth said she longed for affection but had not had a meaningful hug in five years.
“I am really struggling with something, and I wanna talk about it,” she said before giving a disclaimer that her statement would not connect with people who are overstimulated by children or are sensitive to touch.
“I feel I am dying from touch starvation, y’all. I don’t – this isn’t. I don’t – I don’t get hugs. I don’t know. I feel like if I were to get the kind of hug that I f–king really want, I would crumble into pieces. I don’t know how do you deal with that. I really like, like need to be like touched.”
Lisbeth’s video went viral on TikTok, and it was also reposted by other users on Twitter and Reddit. Nearly 23,000 people commented on the TikTok video, many of them were in support of Lisbeth and offered her words of encouragement and advice. Many users on Reddit and Twitter also shared their own experiences and thanked the woman for being so vulnerable with her feelings.
“This breaks my heart, both because it resonates and because seeing another person being so vulnerable and raw is, for me, an emotional experience,” wrote one user.
Although the emotional video drew empathy and compassion from viewers – some offering to give Lisbeth a hug — it also sparked debate over the cause of her feelings.
According to Webmd.com, touch starvation, also known as touch deprivation or skin hunger, is a condition caused by the lack of physical touch. The condition became more prevalent during COVID-19 shutdowns and when social distancing was still required, but it tends to affect children living in orphanages and elderly people.
It is unclear what Lisbeth’s childhood was like, but she stated in the video that a general hug as a greeting would not resolve her issue. Doctors say people who don’t get enough physical touch could become stressed, anxious, or depressed. It could also increase the risk of infections and medical conditions.
“All mammals are born with the need to be touched,” wrote Dr. Terry Levy, the director of Evergreen Psychotherapy Center and the Attachment Treatment and Training Institute in Evergreen, Colorado.
“Touch for a human baby serves both physical and emotional functions. Human babies actually die when there is a lack of touch. In the nineteenth century, most institutionalized infants in the United States died of marasmus (‘wasting away’),” wrote Levy, referring to a 1915 survey.
Touch is a form of human communication that “promotes more positive interactions and a deeper sense of connections with others,” according to Levy.
Lisbeth explained that simply going to a hair stylist or massage therapist wouldn’t satisfy her current longing.
“None of those people love me. None of those services love me,” she said.
WebMD recommends video chatting, exercising, singing, dancing and interacting with pets as solutions to touch starvation.
A similar profile on LinkedIn shows a Mayte Espinal who is a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion recruiter in New York City.