What causes ticklish feet?
Ticklishness is caused by nerves being stimulated. When nerves are stimulated they cause pain and discomfort. There are several types of nerve stimulation that can trigger the sensation of tickle or painful sensations such as burning, prickly heat, numbness, tingling or even paralysis. These are called Nociceptors (pain receptors). Nerve impulses travel through the body via various pathways from one part to another and then back again. They are very small electrical signals which travel along tiny blood vessels in the skin. Each type of nerve impulse is different and each person responds differently to the same stimuli.
The most common type of nerve stimulation that triggers ticklishness is known as Local Anesthetic Agents (LAA) . LAA’s include drugs like lidocaine, butyl nitrite, propofol and others.
These drugs are used in medicine to make certain procedures easier or faster. However, these drugs have side effects too including respiratory depression, drowsiness and other unpleasant symptoms. Other types of nerve stimulation that can cause ticklishness are known as General Anesthetics (GA), which includes barbiturates like Halothane or Isopropanol. Again, these drugs have a wide range of side effects and can be lethal in high doses.
There are a number of conditions that trigger the sensation of being ticklish, even when you are not being touched at all. There are several known conditions that can cause “Psychogenic Tickling” or in other words laughter caused by nervous system over stimulation.
This could mean that you may feel an itchy feeling that is not related to any actual external stimulus. In other words you are feeling like something is tickling you when it actually is not.
The most common types of Psychogenic Tickling are known as Reflex Epileptic, which is a type of epilepsy that can cause the sufferer to laugh for no reason, or feel a sense of constant fear or nervousness. Other conditions that can cause psychogenic tickling are mental conditions such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
In this condition sufferers may feel the need to laugh for no reason, be constantly fearful, suffer from panic attacks or experience nervousness and jumpiness.
Some medicines can also trigger the sensation of being ticklish, such as sleeping pills or other medication that can make you drowsy or affect your moods in some way. Finally there are different types of turners’ syndrome that can cause excessive nervousness or sudden mood shifts, which can mimic the sensation of being tickled.
Several factors can cause excessive ticklishness in some people. People who are very sensitive or who have a low pain threshold are more likely to be ticklish.
Children and older people tend to be more ticklish as their skin tends to be thinner and their senses are less dulled than adults. There are also certain circumstances that can make people more likely to be ticklish. Being touched on bare skin by someone you are close to, unexpected touching or touching in a sensitive area are all factors that can make people much more ticklish than normal. Being tired, anxious or stressed can also weaken your resistance to being ticklish.
How to Stop Being Ticklish
There is no known way of stopping yourself from being so easily tickled. There is no known medical condition that causes people to be unable to feel ticklishness.
There are some cases on record of people becoming so depressed or anxious that their feeling become muted or less responsive in general. This can make them seem less sensitive to tickling, but it is not a blanket immunity and is unlikely the cause for your lack of ticklishness.
You are not alone in your inability to be tickled and there are many people who feel the same as you do, with some even taking it further and having full tickling sessions as a way of taking out their frustration and trying to regain the ability to feel ticklish. If you know of other people that can’t be tickled then you could try meeting up with them and seeing if it makes any difference when one person is being touched by several others.
You can try and trigger the feeling of being ticklish by touching yourself in different places and in different ways, or even asking a friend or partner to help you out in trying to make yourself laugh. It may be a factor of psychological control that is stopping you from feeling ticklish.
If this experiment works for you then you may find that you are actually ticklish but have built up a mental block that is stopping you from reacting.
Sources & references used in this article:
The mystery of ticklish laughter by CR Harris – American Scientist, 1999 – search.proquest.com
The psychology of tickling, laughing, and the comic by GS Hall, A Alliń – The American Journal of Psychology, 1897 – JSTOR
Tickle by ST Selden – Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 2004 – Elsevier
Hyper-responsivity to touch and vestibular stimuli as a predictor of positive response to sensory integration procedures by autistic children by AJ Ayres, LS Tickle – American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 1980 – ajot.aota.org
Principles of development by L Wolpert, C Tickle, AM Arias – 2015 – books.google.com