Why do I clap my hands without knowing it?
August 21, 2011 7:50 AM Subscribe
Sometimes when I'm concentrating, I unconsciously and involuntarily clap / clench my muscles / make nonverbal noises. I've done this ever since I was a child. What am I doing?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This is a behavior I've had ever since I was a kid, an unconscious pattern of motion I fall into when concentrating deeply. (I'm now in my late 30s.) At this point, I find that I fall into this state most often when fantasizing about being in a heated conflict with someone, especially over politics; when I was younger I think I was more apt to do it during any kind of daydreaming or intense concentration state. It doesn't happen when I'm concentrating for work (though I do sometimes rock my body at those times.) I think it lasts anywhere from a few seconds to a minute. Any interruption snaps me out of it easily. I would say I notice that I do this a few times a week. (It's possible I do it more often and don't notice.)
The precise behavior is a little hard for me to describe, because I'm not really aware I'm doing it. I'm pretty sure I clap my hands, or grasp one hand with the other tightly and clench. I think I make small, not particularly loud noises with my mouth, sort of like saying "ch - ch - ch," and scrunch up my facial muscles. I think I might be rapping one arm with the opposite hand. When I come out of it, I often have an elevated pulse and am out of breath.
Over the years, I've somehow trained myself pretty well not to do it in public, but it looks weird enough that on some occasions I've fallen into it out on the street and had people ask me if I was OK. My wife sometimes catches me doing it and she calls it "clapping," so I guess that's the most visible aspect.
The only similar thing I've read about is the "stimming" or stereotypy that's common among people on the autism spectrum. I'm pretty sure I'm not on the autism spectrum (no social or communications deficit in childhood or now.) No history of ADHD or anything like that -- as far as I know I'm neurotypical. Except for this behavior. What is it?