Why do some people hate hugs?

Why do some people hate hugs?

Chances are you have encountered a tricky social situation where you weren’t quite sure if a handshake, a hug or even a friendly fist bump was the right move. It’s important to read body language, but ultimately, maybe we all need more hugs.

According to a study published in Comprehensive Psychology, the emotional experience of a hug can positively affect the levels of oxytocin and cortisol levels in the body. Oxytocin, sometimes called the “love hormone,” can create a feeling of relaxation, while cortisol is a “stress hormone” that may be reduced by a hug.

“Just about everybody seems to like hugs—giving and receiving them,” says Dr. Kevin Krippner, a psychologist with Advocate Medical Group in Bloomington, Ill.  “Yet there are some people who do not enjoy touch. A lot of this has to do with a person’s sense of personal space, as well as who is inside of their personal space.”

What might be the reason behind a love or hate of hugs?

The study found that huggers beget huggers. Experiences of parental hugging in early childhood may make hugging more prevalent in adulthood. As for non-huggers, according to Professor of Counseling and Counselor Education Suzanne Degges-White, it could also have to do with self-esteem.

She recently told Time magazine, “People who are more open to physical touch with others typically have higher levels of self-confidence. People who have higher levels of social anxiety, in general, may be hesitant to engage in affectionate touches with others, including friends.”

Whether you enjoy hugs or not, you might want to consider making them more of a priority. A 2014 study showed that individuals who were stressed and received hugs were less likely to get sick. Hugs have also been linked to a healthier heart.

“It is very important to know the comfort level of the person you might hug, as some people may not be comfortable with the physical touch,” adds Krippner. “But for those people who do enjoy hugs and personal touch, sharing this behavior can be an experience that provides great emotional benefit to each person.”

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  1. Hugs are great, but in recent years there has been an unhealthy upsurge in the popularity of heavily scented laundry products and strong perfumes. Getting close to “users” makes my sinuses burn, and makes the whole hugging process very unpleasant. There is a reason why OSHA recommends a scent-free work environment. We need, as a society, to start paying attention to the relationship damage being done by chemical fragrances.

  2. Lynn Hutley

    Less is definitely more, Kent, when it comes to scented products.

  3. While I think hugs are wonderful, it is necessary to ask permission. There are people who have sensory issues (for example, those on the Autism Spectrum) and those with trauma backgrounds who may find hugs highly traumatizing.

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About the Author

Lynn Hutley
Lynn Hutley

Lynn Hutley, health enews contributor, is coordinator of public affairs and marketing at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center and Advocate Eureka Hospital in central Illinois. Having grown up in a family-owned drug store, it is no surprise that Lynn has spent almost 18 years working in the health care industry. She has a degree in human resources management from Illinois State University and is always ready to tackle Trivia Night.