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Sensory unpleasantries

  1. Mar 24, 2004 #1

    hypnagogue

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    After spilling a bit of coffee just now, I was reminded how much I hate touching paper towels. I know it might sound strange, but feeling the particular grainy texture of paper towels against my hands is particularly unpleasant for me and sometimes makes me want to shudder as if nails are being dragged across a chalkboard. Well, perhaps I am exaggerating the intensity, but you get my point. I sometimes get a similar kind of bothered feeling when I hear certain markers writing on paper-- almost as if I can literally feel the texture of the marker on the paper, and again a sort of nail on chalkboard kind of unpleasantness. On one occassion I had to ask my brother to use a pencil instead of a marker because I couldn't bear it.

    I use the example of nails on a chalkboard because it is the closest thing I can think of that is more or less expressed universally. Although it seems more natural for a high frequency sound to be bothersome than the feeling of a paper towel, it seems to me that there is something beyond just high frequency noise that makes the chalkboard thing particularly unpleasant.

    Does anyone else have these sort of idiosyncratic sensory bothers? I'm just curious-- it would be interesting to see how often they crop up and what forms they can take.
     
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  3. Mar 24, 2004 #2
    I have the very same paper towel thing. It extends to some, but not all, paper napkins, (and also to some fabrics, but I don't know which material. It may be the weave rather than the fiber.)

    I didn't always have the paper aversion. It started when I was in my late twenties.

    Oliver Sacks did a story about an autistic woman (An Anthropologist On Mars) who was very high functioning and who reported that when she was young and unable to express herself she was constantly tormented by aversions to sensory experiences of a wide nature. When she learned to talk (late) she was able to complain and her parents removed as many of the "unpleasantries" as they could, and things got better for her. As she got older many of them became much less painful or annoying.
     
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2004
  4. Mar 24, 2004 #3
    I have similar unpleasantries related to larger-grain things, such as touching sandpaper or hearing people rubbing their five o'clock shadows. Oddly, hearing sandpaper and rubbing my own shadow doesn't bother me. Practically anything with that scratchy grainy sound just irritates the hell out of me. I don't have a problem with finer-grain textures like paper towels or markers though. I've never really been able to come up with an explanation why it bothers me so...
     
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2004
  5. Mar 24, 2004 #4
    hypnagogue I am right there with you on the paper towel issue especially if it's cheap stuff. Makes my hands so chapped and dry :(

    I also can't stand people touching my hair or having something pulling down my shirt neckline. I need my neckline perfect or it drives me nuts!

    I'm also strange with music. Some people like it as something soft it the background. Not for me, if I can't hear every beat or word then I won't listen to it at all. What really drives me crazy is when someone is listening to a good song in the car and they turn it really low so that the songs almost blends into the background car/road noise. Music is an emotional and inspiring activity, not just background music.
     
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2004
  6. Mar 24, 2004 #5

    Monique

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    Awh!!!! The sensitive side of men is coming out in this thread :P I used to work in my dad's garage, so handled quite a bit of sandpaper with wet hands (sanding down an entire car by hand).. I still have fingerprints though (which actually quite surprises me)..

    I hope that doesn't apply to your gf ;)
     
  7. Mar 24, 2004 #6
    actually my gf makes fun of me all the time about my neckline problem and she is disappointed when I growl if she start playing with my hair. Sometimes I am ok with it, but never ever in the morning! I think she does it just to tease me and get me all worked up :)
     
  8. Mar 24, 2004 #7

    Monique

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    I am on your gf's side! Poor thing :( Especially with nice manes like yours.. who could resist? :wink:
     
  9. Mar 24, 2004 #8
    This is a twist I would never have predicted this thread would take.
     
  10. Mar 24, 2004 #9
    Farther Even!!

    I'm surprised too, zoobyshoe. A thread about "sensory unpleasantries" turns into a debate between Greg and Monique about whether hair-feeling is wrong. Interesting.

    And hypnagogue, I'm right there with you. And it isn't just restricted to paper towels or sounds like Pergatory. My "pet peeve" (if you could call it that) extends all the way to just seeing something with weird grain. I can just look at a newly-copied/printed out sheet of paper and I get all shivery. Touching things makes it worse. I've even gotten to the violent convulsions point with a freshly laundered towel. I was spasming on the floor for several minutes. Not so fun.
    Don't feel alone, hypnagogue.
     
  11. Mar 24, 2004 #10
    Re: Farther Even!!

    Seriously? Did you lose consciousness or remain aware?
     
  12. Mar 24, 2004 #11

    Math Is Hard

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    ugh! I hate touching paper towels. It's the dryness of them that's offensive to my skin.
    I also don't care for whistling. I find it extremely annoying.
     
  13. Mar 24, 2004 #12
    I dont mind the feel of paper towels. In fact, I occasionally use them to blow my nose. Then again, I once thought it was cool to play a (very VERY nasty) F sharp major minor 7th chord on a piano. Setting the keyboard to play songs in that key makes it sound like some ghastly carnival from hell.
     
  14. Mar 24, 2004 #13
    What the hell is a Major minor chord?
     
  15. Mar 24, 2004 #14
    My points exactly. Ive never heard of a major minor chord, much less a 7th variation of it. I was looking at the keyboard display and it reported a F sharp major minor 7th. I.. er.. we (a friend) must have combined a major and minor scale together at once (it took three hands, needed help getting it to work).
     
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2004
  16. Mar 24, 2004 #15
    Do you remember what notes were in it? My keyboard is right behind me, I'd be interested in hearing what it sounds like.
     
  17. Mar 24, 2004 #16
    Its been a while, but I might remember at least half of it.

    Start off with the F sharp major scale at one time. Then play a minor version of that scale. Put both scales together and take the 7th note of that scale and lower it by 1/2 step.

    The notes should be (questionable here, dont have a keyboard next to me) F sharp, B flat, C sharp, A, and E. I think it may have sound worse than that, espeically if you replace the E with a D or an F natural.
     
  18. Mar 24, 2004 #17
    Well, the individual chord isn't particularly bad, but I can see if you played a whole song skewing the chords like that it would be a sensory unpleasantry.
     
  19. Mar 24, 2004 #18
    I was at school doing this science experiment that involved styrofoam cups. One guy in my group picked up a cup, and another guy started freaking out. He had hands over his ears, face all messed up, and he looked like he was about to scream. Seems styrofoam actually causes people physical pain. Weird...


    I hear ya. (but turn up the volume a bit ) When I'm in a car and music is playing, I have to hear every word and beat. Otherwise, it's just plain annoying.
     
  20. Mar 24, 2004 #19

    Monique

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    Hey, I was just joking. It's funny how a sensory pleasantry can mean an unpleasantry to the other. The only unpleasantry I have is mint chocolate *shudders*
     
  21. Mar 25, 2004 #20

    Tsu

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    I'm with you, Monique. Whoever thought of ruining perfectly good chocolate with mint (or fruit flavors, or peanut butter) should be SHOT!!
    For me, it's fingernails on magazine pages. THAT drive me NUTS!
     
  22. Mar 25, 2004 #21

    hypnagogue

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    I can sympathize with him! Although my unpleasantry involves a different kind of material, I see the same general type of sensation in his behavior under those circumstances. It's not literally a physical pain. I guess it's hard to describe if you don't experience anything like this. It's more of an intense sensory irritation. It's probably closer to itching than being in pain, although it is more intense and unpleasant, and of course does not feel qualitatively quite the same as itching.

    Again, the closest thing I can think of that you might be able to relate to is nails scratching a chalkboard. Now any high frequency noise tends to be unpleasant, but there is something about nails on a chalkboard that is particularly bad.

    I once heard it explained that the nail on chalkboard sound is so irritating because on some level, you sort of picture yourself doing the scratching, and what it is really unpleasant about it is the (imagined) tactile sensation of your own nails dragging across the chalkboard. This seems to make some sense to me, because just seeing another person handle a paper towel or hearing someone write with a marker induces the same kind of feeling in me as if I were actually touching a paper towel, and I see it is the same for some of the other people who have responded.

    Actually, part of the creepy feeling I get from paper towels also involves my mouth-- my mouth sometimes puckers up or dries up as if I was tasting something sour, and I imagine it feels something like it might if I were to actually rub my tongue with a paper towel (though I'm not so adventuresome right now as to actually try it!). So for me the irritation spans vision and hearing, as well as touch in my hands and in my mouth. Given that other people also report cross-sensory irritation of this sort, I wonder if it constitutes some kind of relatively common, low-grade synaesthesia.
     
  23. Mar 25, 2004 #22
    Synesthesia wouldn't be the right term since the induced sensory experience is appropriate to the stimulus.

    What you're talking about is a situation where you recieve part of the sensory imput of and experience and react by "filling in" the rest. I'm not aware that there is a name for this but it is extremely common and happens with all kinds of experiences, pleasant ones as well: the smell of pizza might bring its taste to the tongue, the sight of a kiss might bring the sensation to the lips. I read about a man who heard the whistling of a gardener who always smoked a pipe, smelled the pipe smoke as well, then looked out the window to find to his surprise the gardener wasn't smoking his pipe just then.
     
  24. Mar 25, 2004 #23

    hypnagogue

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    I'm not out to contradict you here, but what exactly is meant by 'appropriate to the stimulus'?

    First 2 definitions that show up in dictionary.com are:

    1. A condition in which one type of stimulation evokes the sensation of another, as when the hearing of a sound produces the visualization of a color.
    2. A sensation felt in one part of the body as a result of stimulus applied to another, as in referred pain.

    These definitions seem to match up with what has been discussed. Obviously it's not as dramatic as literally seeing sounds or somesuch, but it seems more of a difference in degree than in type.
     
  25. Mar 25, 2004 #24
    I believe that from the prefix "syn" means that the feeling is not real, but you are feeling it as though it were real. Sort of a cross-wiring of the nervous system. Like if someone steps on your toe and you feel pain in your finger. Can't say for everyone, but in my own case it feels more like an association of feeling, like you said that I hear the sound and kind of imagine myself creating the sound and that's what gives me the feeling of irritation.

    By the way, I remembered the ultimate one that drives me nuts all the time - females who scratch their panty hose. It irritates me just thinking about that sound without even hearing it!
     
  26. Mar 25, 2004 #25
    Reacting to the sound of a nail on a chalkboard by vividly imagining the feeling of doing it yourself is completely appropriate to the stimulous. Reacting to the sound of a nail on a chalkboard by hallucinating streaks of black lightning is not appropriate since this doen't actually happen when you run your fingernails down a chalkboard. The former is a "filling in" as I put it before and the latter is more on the lines of a "translation". In the former it is as if you are given half of a famous quote, and fill in the rest. In the latter its as if you translate it into a foreign language.

    The second definition of synesthesia you provided seems to be about the phenomenon of touching a person at one spot only to have them feel it at another. This happens because the part of the brain where sensation is processed in the separate spots are actually right next to each other in the brain: the stimulous bleeds over into the contiguous neurons and is simultaneously percieved to be experienced at a location remote from the actual location of stimulus.
     
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