06 August 2008

Chasing the dragon: Scratching the itch

Why does it feel so goddamn good to scratch an itch? I have always wondered.

Ever see a dog really laying in to an itch behind her ear? My dog nearly falls over sometimes because she scratches herself into a trance. It makes me jealous.

Why the F does it feel so good?!?!?!!

I don't really care about why we itch or what makes us itch, thats boring and everything I read on the subject makes me feel like I'm back in school. So, scratch that.

I just wanna know what goes on when we scratch an itch; depending on the whereabouts, it can almost be orgasmic to finally scratch the shit out of that elusive bitch of an itch and once you start-a-scratchin' you don't wanna stop, right? Well, it turns out orgasms and itching are actually cousins; its all pleasure receptor shit. For as intricate as our bodys are, the pleasure department is pretty simple and the same guy who makes you feel great when you scratch that certain spot, is also the dude who makes you feel amazing when you're doing something sexual. Holla.

So, I found itching has to do with histamine. "Histamine?!" I said. When I hear the word histamine I immediately think of medicine and Rite Aid but thats because I'm actually thinking of anti-histamine. Ah ha!

Stay with me, friends. I'm onto something here...

Histamine is actually a chemical protein inside our body which is released during an allergic reaction. Histamine commands some of our itch nerves to transmit information to the spinal cord where it is processed and zipped off to the brain. Thats why if you have allergies you'd take an anti-histamine medicine; to block histamines signaling powers and therefore muting your allergic symptoms. Got it? Ok, now we can move on.

The sites activated in the brain when we itch are very similar to those switched on when we're in pain except pain causes a withdrawal response whereas itching causes a response that makes you want to go toward the site of the itching. Very interesting.

Which leaves the main issue of why scratching feels so fucking good. The pleasure receptor road is actually a one-way street so the brain can only juggle one thing at a time. If the brain is sending you an itch and you're sending back a scratch, its gonna process the scratch and thats gonna feel good because you are squelching the itch for the time being; stimulating the nerves with an answer to what its sending out. You feel me?

Too much scratching, however, can trigger an "itch-scratch cycle", I like to call it "the pleasure tailspin" in which the scratching aggravates the body into releasing more histamine, which causes swelling, which stimulates nerve endings, which causes more itching. . . . and next thing you know you're passed out on your bathroom floor with your hand down your boxers.

Depending on where the itch is, more or less nerve receptors will be stimulated sending more or less good times back to your brain.

This is why scratching an itch on your arm will feel dope, but scratching an annoying itch on your back will feel a lot better because its closer to your spinal cord; and we all know scratching an itchy head is the bomb and thats because of all the nerve endings on your scalp, son. It's pretty simple.

So if you follow the human urge to scratch, you're going along a well-trodden neurological pathway that is hardwired into the brain. It's very satisfying. Medicines or tricks that suppress itching are sometimes not as gratifying. That shudder of pleasure from scratching that itch may be from a release of endorphins that give you a natural high.

Fuck yeah, now you're talking... endorphins!

Scratching turns on nerves that stimulate pleasure systems in the brain. The same pleasure systems that go buck when we...


Anonymous said...

I loved this post. I found it after wondering why, as somebody who is stuck in a 6 month itch\scratch cycle, the pleasure from scratching keeps me trapped!!

Sometimes a good scratch can be better than a good W*nk!

How do I kill this most addictive habit??

Anonymous said...

Thank you for putting me on the right track. Very informative....