- Ripping or tearing paper or layers of cardboard.
- Chewing loudly, or talking while chewing.
- Playing with buttons or asking me to do something that involves touching buttons.
- Using strong-smelling paints, or petrol.
(They also know that if I laugh too much I’m likely to lose control of my thumbs, which some of the more unscrupulous are likely to take advantage of.)
Why shouldn’t they? Because I’ll have the following involuntary reactions:
- I get goosebumps: mostly on my arms and back but occasionally all over.
- This is just distressing and feels awful to hear. Eeeee.
- Gives me a creepy, yucky feeling, like the aftermath of an adrenaline rush.
- It makes my teeth hurt. Seriously. My teeth hurt just thinking about the smell of radiator paint. Yeuch.
Obviously I realise that I can’t go through life smacking down the Loud Chewers of this world (much as I’d like to) or banning radiator paint (OW). So I have a few coping mechanisms:
- Avoidance: I do not wear cardigans, or dresses with buttons. The only clothing I own with buttons are jeans, and those are metal buttons. If touching buttons is unavoidable, I cover my fingers with cloth or a towel.
- Leaving the room. The next-best thing, but not always possible.
- Blocking out the noise: with headphones, earplugs, or failing those, just covering my ears. Or putting on the kettle.
- Distraction: usually another sensory activity, such as scratching, or tapping my feet.
So, I’ve done a bit of research. The closest thing I’ve read to a description of these behaviours and reactions is adult Sensory Processing Disorder, but it’s not a perfect fit. In some ways, it’s possible that my reaction to ripping paper, strong-smelling paint, and buttons could be auditory-tactile and tactile-emotion synaesthesia. The more prosaic, and probably much more likely, explanation, is that this is all within normal limits and there doesn’t need to be a label for these quirky reactions of mine: but maybe I do need need to get them under control before they start controlling me.
So, Wise Ones of the Interweb: do any of you have “quirks” like this? Should I offer myself up to the neuroscience lab, take myself to my friendly local hypotherapist, or keep on as I am, knowing that in a world of quirky people, I barely register?