The Mystery and Power of the Itch

As you read this, try not to itch — or scratch. What exactly is an itch? There are actually two types of itches. There is itching that you can trace to something in the skin — a bug bite, dry skin, a reaction to lotion, etc. Then there are itches that seem to come from something else altogether. Sometimes, chemicals inside your body can cause itchy skin. For example, illnesses like kidney and liver disease can cause itchiness due to a build-up of toxins. There are people who are so tormented by constant itching that they can barely function. There’s a report of one woman who was so tormented by an itch that wouldn't go away that she would scratch during her sleep. One night, she scratched through her skull and into her brain. Itching is often remedied by ointment or some other medication, but sometimes the itching is all in your head. Even the topic of itching has a powerful suggestive power over people. If someone describes the feeling of an ant crawling along the back of their neck, it’s likely you’ll start to feel itchy… can’t help it. Your brain is always communicating with nerve endings in your skin. When anxiety kicks in, your body's stress response can go into overdrive. This can affect your nervous system and cause sensory symptoms like itching, with or without visible signs. So, if you don’t have any obvious reasons for itching, it could just be your imagination. Now stop scratching.