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One in three people suffer from misokinesis, study shows

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Does it worry you or annoy you to the highest degree to see someone fumbling next to you? You may suffer 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 response to watching someone else’s repetitive small movements, such as watching 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 analogue of misophonia – resulting 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 effects. The objective was to determine whether sensitivity to misokinesis actually exists in the general population and, if so, whether there is individual variation 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 sensitivity was reliably reported in a large sample of college students. A total of 2751 people aged 17 to 66 were recruited; they simply had to answer online two questions aimed at assessing the presence of misokinesis and misophonia: ” Have you ever experienced strong negative feelings, thoughts, or physical reactions when you see or see others’ restless or repetitive movements (eg, watching someone’s foot shake, someone tap their fingers, or chew gum)? “and” Have you ever had strong negative feelings, thoughts or physical reactions to specific or repeated sounds, such as those from the mouth […] or other parts of the body […] “.

Result: about 38% of the participants answered “yes” to the first question and 51% answered “yes” to the second question, while almost 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 affects, and determine whether misokinesis sensitivity may be associated with altered patterns of visual attention.

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

These studies involved a total of 4100 participants; almost a third of them were sensitive to the perception of the repetitive and agitated behavior 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 other people’s anxiety?

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

Through their study, the psychologists found that misokinesis sensitivity was not associated with either an increased inability to ignore distracting events in the visual periphery, or an increased susceptibility to reflexively direct visual attention to sudden changes in the visual periphery. At least they couldn’t get any substantial proof of it.

However, the phenomenon could be linked to “mirror neurons”, according to specialists; these neurons are activated when we move, but also when we see others move. 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 intent behind their movements, so they are closely related to empathy. ” When you see someone hurt themselves, you may also cringe as their pain is reflected in your own brain. “, explains the specialist.

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

Source: S. Jaswal et al., Scientific Reports

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