Simply scritching

scratching an itch

Scratching does not make for a very sophisticated syndrome even when it comes to exploring the simplest and most universal of all experiences that existence entails. Nor is it something we enthusiastically do in public even when we might be itching really bad at that moment. Starkly contrast that to the euphoric almost rendition of this act not deigned as much or so as to say at all even when by ourselves and the hypocrisy prevalent in virtually every single aspect of the human essence lays bare once again our hollowness as a species. Putting aside however such dwelling on things so profound as to what characterise the basic human nature itself and ‘indulging’ entirely in the scratching exploration of a surprising enough character and we curate for ourselves an account in all universalness of an itch indeed that refuses to die down no matter how engagedly one tends to drive it away.

There’s no denying it indeed- scratching out an itch feels incredibly good, the soul purging, therapeutic almost assertion in goodness. But the irony of the fact playing out here is that there is no ‘scratching out’ for sure any itch potentially occurring on just about any area of the body. It perhaps is a nature peculiar of itches that they get even aggravated when one intends to soothe them or douse them out through the conventional mode of not so sightly but immensely sybaritic act of scratching.

Equally curious a convention to which the itching urge adheres, and therefore the curative mechanism of scratching pertaining to it does as well, is the tendency of the itch to ‘move about’ around the body. For all those who have been part to this experience in part pleasure, part perplex has known either in amusement or in irritation the travel bug that this itch bite takes a fancy to. And thus it follows, as a detail in default to the tune of which this damned a desire in distraction dances and sways and shifts position every time one attempts to allay its might by scratching its area of origin such that it no longer serves as the epicenter of the disturbance. That begets though not just a wondering upon this eccentric element of a somewhat ambiguous essence but also brings into consideration the equally eerie question of as to whether there was ever an itch at that origin spot in the first place?

scratching an itch makes it worse
Source: Nature

At its very core itself, this whole episode in itching and scratching makes for an intriguing indeed premise coming to mark the living existence. Concerned as we are with the exclusively human ambit though, this arising of a sensation triggering thus the associated reflex of it in all universality tends to be even more captivating an awareness in all of its essence. Refusing to be definitely categorised as a particular type of the sensory experience and inciting as it does a range of ‘feelings’ as different as pain and pleasure, itches have always made for a case in considerable diversity.

Whether that be something as crucial as the cause of it that can be both external and internal as well as even psychological outside of its more popular perception in physicality or the ‘feel good but actually bad’ reiteration of its confusing character, it is the itch as well as the necessary avenue out of its stubborn bothering that does not really align to any particular dimension in awareness and understanding. One thing that however reigns supreme in this ‘surreptitious’ ploy of the sensory is the surprises that spring up one after the other all along the range of what sums up only partially this stimulating affair in scr’itch’ing.

‘Vicious’ somewhat in the manifestation of their all engrossing discomfort, it is quite apt that itches also tend to perpetuate their own selves in an almost vicious again assertion of what is scientifically referred to as the itch- scratch cycle. As the most obvious, innate response that the human brain is hardwired to drive the body to upon experience of the itch, scratching makes for both the complementary as well as supplementary element helping itches to become more ‘wholesome’. That despite the fact that scratching amounts to more a medium of mild injury or pain rather than a measure in what is the typical understanding of relief. And yet it is this inflicting on ourselves that certain kind of pain and nothing else which is what makes for perhaps the only way in dealing with the itchy irritation.

Of course this is a rationale amply explained and logically accounted for in scientific and/ or medical terms. Scratching an itch entails the associated action in sending low level pain signals to the brain that distracts it from the itch and make us feel relief in its subsided almost experience. But that explains only why scratching is the reflex we turn to to alleviate that awareness in itchiness. The reason why scratching feels so darn good though is another matter of even greater interest.

The same pain signals that are sent to the brain upon scratching an itch does not just mute almost its feeling but it also induces the most important organ of our body to release serotonin. And the happy hormone (also neurotransmitter) that serotonin is, it follows only that scratching comes across as so much a pleasure even when it should also as essentially and as poignantly characterise as pain as well. It is in treading thus the fine line between pleasure pain that the science of scratching evoked by the intensity of itches present an experience in contrasts making it come across as uniquely compelling and equally confounding.

Needless to say this experience in pleasure availed out of scratching an itch is what leads us to continuously further this simple action of profound bearing, creating what might indeed be a never ending cycle in itching and scratching, rather aptly summed up as scritching. Interestingly, it is serotonin still that can make the itch itself occur as more prominent so that the more you itch the more you scratch and vice versa a process continuing to keep one occupied perhaps until one finds for themselves a veritable distraction to shift focus to. And so this generates that eternal curiosity of the itch-scratch disgust that still is perhaps one of the greater small pleasures of life.

All this revealing in immenseness though make for only a fraction of the cumulative curiousness nestled in something as annoying as an itch. A whole world of the unexpected follows in this exploring the essence of the itch and the scratching of it, none of which perhaps is as surprising as the fact that itching tends to be contagious as well! Much like yawns and less commonly like coughs, itches can catch on to others as well and interestingly in witnessing the only logical attempt at its alleviation through scratching.

A common but lesser dwelt on behavioural phenomenon that characterises yet again in all universality the fore of the human existence at least for all we are concerned is the socially contagious nature through which scritches operate in such ‘adamancy’ that can induce the sensation and the associated reflex in witnessing not just in person similar reiterations of that experience but also stimulated by something as ‘subtle’ as viewing mere pictures of even insects or animals in the act! Evident therefore it is that scratching is infectious indeed a facet of living in either interpretation of its connotating both a positive and a negative experience .

For something harbouring of so much wonder within its ordinarily often occurrence, itches rest indeed in an essence more substantial than what we regard it in. The very nature of it is one that can be caused by things as simple as a mosquito bite or a brush with other similar agents of nature or even of non natural leanings or it can be triggered instead by more nuanced assertions of what might be an underlying skin or even health problem or perhaps brought about also by a certain state of mind. But underlying all these reactions to something potentially causing that sensation of the itch is a greater trait that humans as living beings have been forever harbouring within themselves. An itch perhaps is a evolutionary mechanism directed to defend our skin from such agents seeking to harm it, hardwired such into our brains that is what lends it also to express itself as contagious.

Coming to the physical terms in which an itch asserts itself and the mechanism of its functioning is not any less peculiar that what characterise out and out its being. The coming to be of the itching identity is one rather complicated process elicited out of an interaction between the skin cells and the nervous system. And it is this same working in complex enough terms that forms the basis behind why itches tend to ‘travel’ all over the body particularly when scratched. That is because the pain receptors tend to be more concentrated on our skin than the nerve fibres that spread out somewhat elaborately causing the feeling itself to spread when we begin scratching the place where we perceived the initial itch to be.

For all the enormity of its essence though, itches tend to be universally annoying even when it leads us our body to deliver that knee- jerk response of the scratching that leads to a perceived experience in pleasure but that which is actually not so much of a bliss itself. Because excessive itching leads to excessive scratching and so on and so forth like we have established earlier, too much a feeling of the itch means that we are more likely to end up in pain through greater scratching with sharp objects be it something as ‘our own’ like the nails or such external devices collectively identified as back scratcher.

This cycle of the itch and scratch though isn’t the only loop that the itching sensation helps further. Equally entangled in its own recurring notion can be certain itching experiences triggered by anxiety disorders even as itchy skin conditions themselves can make one anxious as well. Medically identified as psychogenic itch is this peculiar yet expression of the quirky anyway work of the itch that expresses also in terms catering to the social existence of humans as an exercise in bonding or even arousing.

But that definitely is not even all there is to the strange sensory awareness. The possibilities are endless as to the many surprises that a itch can spring with of course its accompanying effect of the scratch sharing equal ‘burden’ but none perhaps as inexplicable as the one that singles out the human ankle as the best place to scratch in the event of an itch occurring there. And given how itches tend to ‘move’ upon being scratched, one should not be as surprised should all scratches come to rest upon that very place where it is best alleviated to set in motion perhaps yet another cyclical phenomenon inextricably tied to this dual revelation in its singular spanning out as scritching.