One in three people suffer from misokinesis, study finds

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Does it worry you or annoy you to the highest degree to see someone fidgeting next to you? You may be suffering from a psychological disorder called misokinesis, or “hatred of movement.” Researchers at the University of British Columbia, Canada, have found that this disorder may be relatively common.

Misokinesis is characterized by a strong negative affective or emotional reaction to seeing someone else’s repetitive small movements, such as seeing someone move their hand or foot without thinking about it. Despite numerous testimonies, scientific research on the subject is lacking. Often, this disorder is simply referred to as a visual analog of misophonia — which results in low tolerance to a specific sound and/or aversive emotional responses to body-produced sounds, such as chewing or lip smacking.

A study on misophonia published in 2013 reported that 12% of participants, who suffered from misophonia, also suffered from misokinesis. What from the rest of the population? To find out, a team of psychologists set out to build an empirical foundation to better understand misokinesis and its potential social impacts. The objective was to determine whether susceptibility to misokinesis actually exists in the general population and, if so, whether there is individual variability in the intensity or extent of reported sensitivities. Their results were published in Scientific Reports last year.

A surprisingly common human phenomenon

The researchers first conducted a pilot study to assess whether misokinesis sensitivities were reliably reported in a large sample of college students. A total of 2751 individuals, aged 17 to 66, were recruited; they simply had to answer, online, two questions aimed at assessing the prevalence of misokinesis and misophonia: “ Have you ever experienced strong negative feelings, thoughts, or physical reactions when you see or watch other people’s restless or repetitive movements (for example, seeing someone’s foot shaking, someone tapping their fingers, or chew gum)? ” and ” Have you ever had strong negative feelings, thoughts, or physical reactions to specific or repetitive sounds, such as those from the mouth […] or other parts of the body […] “.

Result: about 38% of participants answered “yes” to the first question and 51% answered “yes” to the second question, while nearly 32% answered “yes” to both. These early results warranted further investigation. The team therefore conducted two new studies to establish a baseline prevalence rate, assess potential individual variability in reported impacts, and determine whether misokinesis sensitivities might be associated with altered patterns of visual attention performance.

People who are more bothered by visual distractions in their daily lives are expected to show signs of greater interference with distractors and/or stronger orienting responses to peripheral attention cues, compared to people who are not not susceptible to misokinesis “, explain the researchers.

These studies involved 4100 participants in total; nearly a third of them were sensitive to the perception of the repetitive and agitated behaviors of people encountered in their daily lives. ” The end result is what we believe is the first in-depth scientific exploration of what is a surprisingly common human phenomenon. “, note the authors of the study.

The “simple” reflection of the anxiety of others?

This disorder is mainly manifested by a feeling of anger, anxiety or frustration, more or less intense emotions depending on the person: ” There is in fact great variability in the range of sensitivities experienced by individuals. “, note the researchers. Because of their condition, misokinesics tend to avoid social activities and work or learning environments—negative social impacts that can increase in scope and intensity with age. Furthermore, if misokinesis often goes hand in hand with misophonia, it is not at all systematic.

Through their study, the psychologists found that misokinesis sensitivities were not associated with either an increased inability to ignore distracting events in the visual periphery, or an increased susceptibility to reflexively directing visual attention to events. sudden changes in the visual periphery. At least, they couldn’t get any significant evidence to that effect.

The phenomenon could however be linked to “mirror neurons”, according to specialists; these neurons activate when we move, but also when we see others moving. In a way, we reflect the movements of others in our brain, hence the term “mirror”, specifies Sumeet Jawal, first author of the study. These particular neurons help us understand others and their intention behind their movements, so they are closely related to empathy. ” When you see someone hurting themselves, you may also wince, as their pain is reflected in your own brain. “, explains the specialist.

In general, people fidget when they are anxious or stressed. People with misokinesis may then mirror these feelings, and become anxious or stressed themselves. However, further research is needed to validate this hypothesis. Waiting, ” we have to recognize that many of you silently suffer from this visual problem, and that it can have a negative impact on your ability to work, learn in school and enjoy social situations concludes Dr. Handy.

Source: S. Jaswal et al., Scientific Reports

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