Why are some people so intolerably ticklish

The most important things about foot tickling in a nutshell

  • Why are you ticklish underfoot? Feet are particularly sensitive because innumerable nerve tracts run along the soles of our feet. Tickling is believed to be a protective mechanism to protect sensitive parts of the body.
  • Can you tickle yourself? No, if you want to tickle yourself, the protective mechanism is missing.
  • How do you tickle properly? So that tickling does not become uncomfortable, it is essential to pay attention to the reaction of the tickle victim.

Being tickled - a protective mechanism!

© 101dalmatians / iStock

Countless nerve tracts run everywhere on the soles of our feet. That is what makes them so particularly sensitive. Accidental or targeted touching of someone else can act like electric shocks and the many nerve tracts in the brain sound the alarm. Tickling victims laugh themselves half dead, but at the same time they can also torture themselves incredibly. This almost uncontrollable mix of laughing, screaming or kicking is particularly extreme during tickling attacks on the stomach, waist, armpits or even on the soles of the feet. Some psychologists suspect a protective mechanism that is supposed to guarantee the safety of particularly vulnerable and important areas of the body. And the feet are particularly worth protecting and indispensable - for example to flee in case of danger.

Tickling yourself is less fun

A fascinating observation is that even the ticklest of personalities cannot make themselves laugh. A British-Canadian research team found that the brain can predict the exact point in time of contact with one's own hand and therefore dampens all nerve signals from the corresponding body region as a precaution. In order to feel the sensation of tickling, you need the element of surprise. That is missing when you try to tickle yourself. Because: You have been thinking about this a long time beforehand.

Good tickling / bad tickling

Feet, armpits or stomach: You need someone else to tickle. A distinction is made between two forms of tickling: light tickling is called "knismesis" by researchers. It is tickled very gently with a feather or gently caressing hands. In order to trigger a strong tickling or the "Gargalesis", however, more violent stimuli such as stronger pressure with the index finger are required. Such a massive tickle attack is usually perceived as painful. Terrible and beautiful are very close together when the sensitive soles of the feet are tickled. While one second yells with happiness, the next one writhes like a spasmodic and suffering. Long-lasting tickling can even be perceived as unbearable. No wonder that tickling the feet was a popular torture method until the late Middle Ages.

Really tickle

The interaction of action and reaction when tickling can also bring two people closer together. That is why you should always pay close attention to the reaction of your "victim" when tickling in a playful way. With a lot of sensitivity, gentle drumming with the fingertips or tickling with a pen or brush on the soles of the feet can trigger the "real" laughter and screeching in the "victim". Everyone has very different places where they are particularly ticklish. When tickling your feet with relish, you should first feel your way carefully from the toes, over the back of the foot, to the sides of the foot and up to the middle of the soles of the feet.