Scientists have finally discovered why some people hate hugs

Scientists have finally discovered why some people hate hugs

When it comes to displaying affection, it seems that people either fall into one or two camps: overly touchy-feely or completely standoffish.

And for those who find physical touch repulsive, life sure can be difficult. I mean, you never know when you're going to encounter a "hugger", and in that situation, you don't have much choice but to grin and bear it, or try to deflect it and risk looking awkward.

But regardless of whether you're someone who enjoys hugging perfect strangers or not, new scientific research has just given us the low-down on why certain people hate being embraced.

hugging Credit: Getty

According to researchers, a person's upbringing could influence their stance on hugging.

"Our tendency to engage in physical touch—whether hugging, a pat on the back, or linking arms with a friend—is often a product of our early childhood experiences," explained Suzanne Degges-White, the professor of counselling and counsellor education at Northern Illinois University.

A study conducted back in 2012 found that people who were raised by physically affectionate parents were more likely to be touchy-feely themselves.

The same research also concluded that "hugging is an important element in a child’s emotional upbringing."

Young friends hugging in a huddle on sunset summer beach Credit: Getty

Degges-White then goes onto suggest that children who weren't hugged often by their parents tend to feel uncomfortable at the thought of being embraced later in life: "In a family that was not typically physically demonstrative, children may grow up and follow that same pattern with their own kids."

In some instances, however, this lack of touch growing up can lead to the opposite effect. "Some children grow up and feel ‘starved’ for touch and become social huggers that can’t greet a friend without an embrace or a touch on the shoulder," the professor stated.

Other research suggests that there may be a cultural element to this. Per a study published in 2010, people in the United States and England are much less likely to be physically affectionate than those in France or Puerto Rico.

hugging Credit: Getty

Of course, there's nothing wrong if you don't like hugging, and you should never feel pressured to embrace someone if you're uncomfortable doing so - but for those who want to learn how to enjoy hugs - Samantha Hess, a "professional cuddler" and founder of an Oregon-based service which teaches people how to be more tactile, has some tips.

"We go over consent and boundaries prior to any touch and reassure them they are always welcome to change their mind. We have 78 cuddle poses we can guide people through so we can find something for just about any comfort level," Hess said when explaining what her startup offers.

She also said that pushing through sometimes, and accepting a hug might make people realise that it really isn't so terrible after all:

"You may very well find yourself overcome with relief, gratitude, surprise, acceptance and even regret for having closed yourself off from your own self for so long."

Well, here's hoping.