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Hate seeing people fidget? You might just have misokinesia: UBC study

One-third of people suffer from misokinesia, or a “hatred of movement”
A shopper browses fidget spinners displayed for sale by a street vendor in New York, U.S., on Friday, May 12, 2017. The fidget spinner is a toy that sits like a propeller on a person’s finger, with blades that spin around a bearing. MUST CREDIT: Photo by Michael Nagle/Bloomberg.

Pen tapping, leg bouncing, hair twirling, thumb-twiddling — if witnessing any of these behaviours drives you up the wall, you may have misokinesia.

Misokinesia, or “the hatred of movements” is the subject of a recent University of British Columbia study that found about one-third of people hate to watch people fidget.

The study was led by UBC psychology PhD student Sumeet Jaswal and UBC psychology professor Todd Handy. Their study included 4,100 participants who were asked to self-report whether they have sensitivities to seeing people fidget and how that sensitivity impacts them.

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“They are negatively impacted emotionally and experience reactions such as anger, anxiety or frustration as well as reduced enjoyment in social situations, work and learning environments,” Handy said.

“Some even pursue fewer social activities because of the condition. We also found these impacts increase with age and older adults reported a broader range of challenges.”

Jaswal suggests those negative impacts could involve mirror neurons. She said those neurons fire during movement or witnessing movement in other, and are linked to empathy and help people to understand others.

“A reason that people fidget is because they’re anxious or nervous, so when individuals who suffer from misokinesia see someone fidgeting, they may mirror it and feel anxious or nervous as well. We are hoping to examine this more closely in our future research as well as whether there’s a genetic component to the sensitivity,” Jaswal said.

There isn’t any cure for misokinesia, but raising awareness for the condition could go a long way in helping those who suffer from it. The pair of researchers have created an online resource: where people can access studies, news and a community of people impacted by misokinesia.

“Misokinesia is a widely shared phenomenon that no one has ever really talked about. By starting this discussion, there is reason for hope in better understanding and outcomes,” Handy said.

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