Why scratching makes us feel so good
Little things in life make life worth while. And what is so extremely short-lived but gives you such a good feeling? Yep, scratching. Ever had an extremely itchy place you just couldn’t reach and someone else helped you relieve that itch? I did, and it feels great! But why does it feel so good? What is happening in your brain when you scratch?
Simply scratching the skin, even without inducing an itch, has a compulsive effect on the brain. Research found that scratching activated areas of the brain associated with memory and pleasure, while at the same time it suppressed areas associated with the sensation of pain and emotions.
Scratching also raises activity in brain regions related to compulsion. That could explain why I sometimes can’t help but scratch and scratch.
Of course scratching also has its side effects: Whenever you scratch too long on the same place, the skin gets damaged so much that bleeding isn’t a strange phenomenon.
This happens a lot when experiencing a bite or sting from a bug. Everyone experienced the annoying itch from a mosquito bite!
When we’re exposed to the allergen from such a bug, e.g. a poison or venom, our bodies fight off the infection with a chemical called histamine. Because it causes our blood vessels to swell up around potentially harmful foreign substances that enter the body, histamine can makes us feel itchy.
But why do we scratch?
Researchers suspect everyday itches actually evolved as a way to get soft-skinned animals, such as humans, to scratch. So, what’s the benefit to scratching? When we scratch, we scrape off dead skin cells, allowing new skin to come to the surface. In this way we regenerate our skin and the skin will remain healthy and protective.
Itches can be a humongous problem for people when it occurs chronic. Researchers keep investigating why itches occur and keep working to a solution for this extremely annoying natural reflex.
Luckily for me, I only experience it every once in a while. And boy do I enjoy the moment of scratching!