“Auto contact” is a term used to describe any gesture such as stroking the beard, rubbing the hands, tugging the ear, massaging the throat, pulling the fingers, rubbing the back of the neck and so forth, which is meant to sooth the body and create comfort. These gestures called “pacifiers” are also used to eliminate internal tensions and provide reassurance. It is believed that these mannerisms stem from childhood sources when our parents would comfort us with touch. Grooming and self touching stems from arousal but this arousal can be due to a variety of reasons. It might stem from anxiety, anger, stress or uncertainty. It will be your job to decide which is the main cause, and part of this means that you need to take context in mind.
Social touching has been shown to increase oxytocin which is a natural chemical messenger released by the brain. Oxytocin also helps in reducing anxiety, and creates feelings of contentment, calmness and trust. Self touching serves to fight the underlying stress associated with the negative stimulus so as to recreate the feelings of having someone sooth you.
Women have been known to create comfort in a very interesting way. Bouncing a leg up and down and squeeze their upper thighs tightly together can sometimes result in orgasm but even if a climax is not reached, women still enjoy the benefits of stimulation. Women may also lightly brush the lower parts of their breasts as they crossing their arms, which is also an effort to self sooth. Resting the head on a hand or rubbing the back of the neck, wringing the hands or rubbing the legs are all substitutes to more overt self-stimulation. Men might resort to rubbing their temples and women might employ hair touches and grooming or stroking the sides of their arms. As we see, self touching in a variety of ways can show hidden insecurities when taken in proper context.