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Get a Clue: Why I Hate When Others Yawn

That's why their brain is so big...It's full of secrets.

Photo by tumblr/neuroscience 

Nowadays, there is a word or a diagnosis for anything. Fear of spiders (arachnophobia) , fear of heights (acrophobia), fear of tiny holes (tryphophobia), or fear of clowns (coulrophobia).

That being said, people should never self-diagnose themselves, but because the internet is such an enriched and accessible resource to practically every one, most succumb to the wonderful powers of the knowledge base available online for one simple reason: curiosity.

Social media has now become the powerhouse and outlet for misinformation. People love to share articles that they may have no context for. They see a headline and think that it speaks for itself, when in actuality it is just the tip of the iceberg that lures readers in. Whether or not the audience reads the context in its entirety, is a whole different concept.

For me, memes will often trigger a sense of curiosity. I’m a very self-conscious person where I notice things about myself I know may seem unusual to the average Joe. The culture of memes is usually curated by some piece of information floating around, i.e. through popular outlets such as Bustle, Elite Daily, Buzzworthy or Vox or major popularized phenomenons that are happening within a community.

One popular meme that has captured my attention was: “When you yawn and your inner porn-star moan comes out.”

Certainly LOL-worthy, but for me...hearing other people yawn has always been incredibly annoying because of that reason. It resembled a porn-star moan and who wants to hear that at every turn albeit when taking the subway, working, interacting with others and so on? 

No one. 

Every single time I heard a very distinct yawn, a LOOOONG exaggerated loud yawn...I became very annoyed, perplexed, and depending on the number of times it happens...angry.

Why is that? There needs to be a logical explanation beyond this weird tick of mine.

Shortly after that self-observation, when I was in college, my communications professor mentioned he was the same way with people slurping soup or chewing crunchy things with their mouths gaping. It produced the same response that yawning ignited in me.

In retrospect, I remember thinking, “You’re not completely crazy.

My mom is a notorious yawn-er. She yawns at least 20-30 times an hour and she has her reasons for doing so, but it is unbearable for someone who is sensory-sensitive. I started getting exasperated by it around age 13 and it still reigns true.

So I did a little digging and surely enough there is a coined term for my eccentric trigger: misophonia. This is not something I am diagnosed with medically nor was it ever confirmed by a medical professional. For all I know, I may not even have it. I may just be an annoyed person by default, but curiosity killed the cat.

By definition, this concept of misophonia is a “selective sound-sensitivity syndrome.”

Wow—talk about the alliteration. In essence, the noise that someone makes when they eat, chew, breathe or yawn conjures a response of irritability or anxiety. All of these actions can separately produce different results where one may even feel the urge to flee and go the other way, feel disgusted or angry. Some people can have stronger responses to it by experiencing fear, emotional distress and hatred.

Harvard Medical School conducted a study on this to determine the science of the brain behind these triggers and the responses associated with them. The key finding was within the anterior insular cortex (AIC) responsible for anger and the integration of organs (i.e. the heart and lungs) with sounds. Initially, when the trigger sounds were released, people with misophonia experienced a broader range of their brain activity being activated. Interestingly enough, the parts of the brain that were activated were ones closely associated with emotions, fear, and long-term memories. 

In addition, “Researchers also used whole-brain MRI scans to map participants’ brains and found that people with misophonia have higher amounts of myelination,” which basically means that the myelination serves as a insulation around the nerve cells in the brain. People who are medically diagnosed with misophonia can have an abundance of these fatty substances versus those that do not. Right now, it’s unclear whether or not this is the definite cause of misophonia.

It could be due to the fact that this particular concept isn’t much discussed among medical professionals because most people are too shy or embarrassed to admit their dislike for something completely normal.

Granted, how many times do we find ourselves resenting our partners for snoring or breathing too loud beside us? It’s not just a pet-peeve.

After all, in a huge metropolis such as Chicago, you’re bound to be surrounded by all types of sounds galore. There is no escape from it and in that regard...there is nothing else to do but face it head-on.

Or if you’re like me, you might subscribe to the idea of “headphones on, world out” and turn your favorite Spotify playlist on shuffle. 

Paulina Pachel
Paulina Pachel

Contrary to popular belief, my first name is not pronounced PAH-LAYNA. I am an intricate mix of flavors and you'll get a taste of them through my writing pieces; versatility and vulnerability go together like a fresh-baked croissant+coffee.

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