Why don't adults enjoy dizziness?
May 31, 2009 10:15 AM   Subscribe

Why don't adults enjoy dizziness like kids do? When I was a kid I remember thinking adults were boring for not enjoying the feeling of dizziness, and I vowed to always enjoy it :) Now as an adult, I can't stand it, and feel like throwing up. It seems most adults (if not all) feel the same way. Why is that?
posted by ivanv to Health & Fitness (34 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know, but I was wondering this exact thing last summer while listening to teenagers make jokes about me as I barfed into a trashcan at an amusement park. I had just wobbled away from a specific spinning ride I remember enjoying as a child and teenager. Even playground swings make me queasy now. In my life there was a period of several years' length in my early 20s where I didn't do much equilibrium-altering activity; I wonder if I lost my sea legs, so to speak?
posted by pseudostrabismus at 10:21 AM on May 31, 2009

I think most adults take it way too far when spinning around. Most kids that I've noticed doing this spin around for less time and slower than an adult would to get the feeling of dizziness. Adults are more accustomed to little bits of dizziness we don't notice it as much, but with kids a little goes along way.
posted by bigmusic at 10:22 AM on May 31, 2009

This might sound like a joke, but I don't mean it that way: Adults have recreational drugs.
posted by box at 10:25 AM on May 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

Speak for yourself. I'm 27 and still enjoy a bit of spinning around like a dervish every so often.

Of course, box's recreational substances may be involved a lot of the time.
posted by Jilder at 10:29 AM on May 31, 2009 [2 favorites]

Well, fwiw, I hated being dizzy when I was a kid, too.
posted by Nattie at 10:31 AM on May 31, 2009

Jilder, how much is "a bit" for you?

bigmusic, I'm not sure about that. My wife and I have to take turns spinning our daughter around, and she doesn't seem to ever get sick of it.

box, what exactly do you mean by recreational drugs? I don't take drugs of any kind, mind you (not even alcohol), but I still feel quite sick after a bit of spinning around.
posted by ivanv at 10:36 AM on May 31, 2009

I still like being dizzy. Just last weekend, I did a bunch of flips in the pool to get exactly that feeling, just like I used to do when I was 8.
posted by ocherdraco at 10:36 AM on May 31, 2009

When I was a kid we used to spin ourselves around as much as we possibly could, until we were so dizzy we couldn't stand up anymore. Or get ourselves almost that dizzy, then try to run fast in a straight line. So I really don't think it's a matter of degree, bigmusic.

I no longer enjoy dizziness either, so I'm curious about this. Although I will be surprised if anyone has a solid answer.
posted by agropyron at 10:44 AM on May 31, 2009

Because dizziness can lead to falling down, so: physics. When you are three feet tall and weigh forty pounds, falling down is not quite the same as when you are six feet tall and weigh two hundred.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:49 AM on May 31, 2009 [2 favorites]

Spinning around until you're dizzy is one way of creating an altered state of consciousness. Recreational drugs are another, but they're mainly available to teens and adults. Some people prefer the latter to the former.
posted by box at 10:50 AM on May 31, 2009

Personally I equate dizziness to the spins from drinking too much alcohol. Its like any other dizzy experience gives me flash backs to epic hangovers.... yeah, no so fun.
posted by gwenlister at 11:11 AM on May 31, 2009 [2 favorites]

I once asked an occupational therapist this very question and she told me that structures called otoliths in the inner ear eventually degrade a bit as we get older. Since otoliths help us know which direction is "up," we start to feel sick when they're not working very well. Kids can take a lot more dizziness because their otoliths work better and they're better able to figure out where they are in space than adults can.

That's what she said, anyway.
posted by corey flood at 11:18 AM on May 31, 2009 [15 favorites]

It may come down to health. If an adult's body isn't as impeccable as a kid's (is a little overweight for example or are prone to headaches) I can see how being dizzy could make you feel worse than a kid when doing the same thing.
posted by The Devil Tesla at 11:23 AM on May 31, 2009

corey flood, jackpot. Also, look here (Pathophysiology).
posted by ivanv at 11:29 AM on May 31, 2009 [2 favorites]

Whirling dervishes spin around quite a bit, and don't seem to mind.
posted by Xere at 11:58 AM on May 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

I spun around my empty apartment for quite a while last week, and enjoyed the dizziness. Then again, I'm 21, so maybe not quite an adult in this circumstance...
posted by charmcityblues at 12:02 PM on May 31, 2009

I think I loved the feeling of dislocation. When your world view is malleable anyway, getting twisted around and then sorting things out fits right in. As I have gotten older It seems my frame of reference has gotten more defined. My sense of how the world works is stronger, new information is usually related to this understanding. At 50 I went back to school, studying a new field. I had to strongly adjust my world view to make sense of what I was learning. I would not have noticed the effort at 20 and perhaps not even in my 30s. I think this relates to spinning around.

Ten years ago I found a ride called "Magmun PI" or some such. My previous favorite was "The Zipper" a combo ferris wheel and crack the whip. When you got to the top of both cycles you were pitched into a headlong tumble. I thought that was the best. "Magnum PI" was a sort of gimbaled roller coaster. It hit a spot where it whipped me in a new direction in all three axis. I should have loved it. Instead my reaction was, "Ok, that's enough of that."
posted by pointilist at 12:12 PM on May 31, 2009

I'm 40, I'll still occasionally spin around in my office chair to the point of dizziness. The only difference is that I make sure my office door is closed and locked now. A parent complaining that you're going to make yourself dizzy is different than a co-worker pointing out your latest odd behaviour.
posted by substrate at 12:37 PM on May 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm in the lifelong dizziness-hater camp. Dizziness=nausea for me. Motion sickness FTW. No joy from tire swings or spinny playground thing for people like that.
posted by ishotjr at 12:57 PM on May 31, 2009


I love spinning around on my office chair at my desk, I like the motion, the interesting way the low lights and many interesting decor items in my computer room all blend to gether into a gorgeous rich smear that continues to whirl around me after its stopped, the differing weights of my limbs as I pick up speed, an the jarring stop. This occurs most frequently when I am waiting for large web pages to load. A couple of quick rotations. I'm far more likely to come off the desk chair than get sick. Of course, I try not to fall off the desk chair, because it hurts.

I love dancing at nightclubs, in high heels, with a head full of gin, and doing elaborate swooping movements and rotations. Again, the amalgam of sound and light and movement can be euphoric, especially if the music is good. Luckily the clubs I visit are quite forgiving towards swoopy dancing. Most songs don't last more than four or five minutes, and it's not continuous spinning. Just enough to get a bit giddy.

I also don't mind a bit of twisting swings - you know, sit on a swing, twist it round as much as you can, then just - let go. That's a bit rarer because I don't go to parks often.

I never get nauseous. My only real constraint is time and social pressure, for example, how long the people at the part are willing to let the adult monopolize the swingset. But there may be something up with my inner ear, as I have shithouse balance at the best of times.
posted by Jilder at 1:02 PM on May 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

maybe because as adults we know that if we barf it will be our own damn selves that will have to clean it up?
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 1:03 PM on May 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

I think it's box's altered state of consciousness theory. When I think back to my early drug experiences, and even my first times being drunk, I remember thinking "Hey I feel different than I normally do, this is really fun." Over time, as you get used to the way Intoxicant X makes you feel, it's less fun. So you either move on to higher doses of Intoxicant X or you try Intoxicant Y. In the past, I've tried things from probably every psychoactive category of drugs and yet haven't done any of them in years because they simply aren't fun or interesting any longer.

Adults just don't enjoy being dizzy anymore because it's boring now.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 1:57 PM on May 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

As a point of interest regarding the development of the inner ear, puppies typically go through a period of several months where they will get carsick, even if they didn't before and don't afterward, and this is thought to be due to a phase in the development of their inner ears.
posted by HotToddy at 2:16 PM on May 31, 2009

Nthing the 'you feel sick.' I love swings. Can't anymore as even a rocking chair makes me queasy these days.
posted by x46 at 2:57 PM on May 31, 2009

I also like to spin around in office chairs.
posted by All.star at 3:53 PM on May 31, 2009

You're more aware of the bad things that could happen (e.g., malfunction on a roller coaster ride). Also, greater mass, more acceleration. People vary, of course -- jet fighter pilots vs. people like my father, who cannot tolerate the Mad Hatter's Teacups at Disneyland.
posted by bad grammar at 5:10 PM on May 31, 2009

Xere, in a documentary about dervishes I saw recently, the narrator claimed that the dervishes' head tilt minimizes or at least controls the effect so that they can do it longer.
posted by umbĂș at 6:53 PM on May 31, 2009

I think that Corey Flood is dead on as far as the answer you're looking for is concerned. I do feel compelled to post to clear up some confusion in Bad Grammar's answer. For people on roller coasters and many rides, greater mass does not imply greater acceleration. The acceleration is identical. If you're not accelerating the same as everyone else on the ride, this means that you have somehow fallen out of the car. On thing Bad Grammar may have meant is that in order to maintain the same acceleration, a greater force is required for a larger mass (F=ma and all). So I could imagine that a heavier person might find the pressure applied by seats, straps, bars, etc. to be more uncomfortable, but I think that's not really what Ivanv was getting at. The question itself doesn't mention nausea, but from the description of the current effect dizziness has on them, I think that the question here is why do some adults get more nauseous from getting dizzy than they did when they were younger. I think that the mechanisms that cause dizziness, and in particular, the nauseous aspects thereof, are linked to acceleration, so extra force shouldn't cause more dizziness. Similarly, I think that the conscious thoughts mentioned by several answerers here (worry about malfunctions on ride, having better ways to achieve altered consciousness, fear of falling over, etc.) are also off the mark.

For the record, I'm in the dizziness-has-always-meant-nausea crowd. Even as a kid, I only rode on swings long enough to reach maximum amplitude before jumping off.
posted by ErWenn at 8:52 PM on May 31, 2009

Oh, and before I got sidetracked, I was also going to mention that on those rides where the acceleration is variable (anything where you spin freely), having greater mass means that given the same force, you actually accelerate less.
posted by ErWenn at 8:54 PM on May 31, 2009

Maybe some adults are more senstive to movement.

But all I can say is that I am 31, and I love spinning around. I've thought that the whirling dervishes must feel so close to God after spinning around. And that's not on recreational drugs - I don't even drink often. Spinning gets you altered conciousness without dyhydration and hangovers.

I also love spinning rides - they are my favoritist. Especially spinning rides in the dark with flashing lights.
posted by jb at 6:07 AM on June 1, 2009

Sorry - should have read whole thread. But as pointed out above, many adults have degraded otoliths. Maybe those adults who still like spinning have otoliths which are not as damaged. (I have an ear infection right now - hope my otoliths aren't damaged).
posted by jb at 6:11 AM on June 1, 2009

As far as dervishes go I can confirm it's possible to learn to spin for extended periods without getting dizzy. I had a dance teacher who had lived in a dance commune in Boulder in the 1970's where they would do this for hours at a time and she taught us the technique. Its fun and does really, really screwy things to you time perception—you can spin for a couple of hours and come away convinced you have been doing it for no more than 15 minutes or so.
I still practice this occasionally and for whats it 's worth I also enjoy making myself dizzy sometimes.
posted by tallus at 12:28 PM on June 1, 2009

I hated dizziness as a child. Still hate it.
posted by agregoli at 6:41 PM on June 1, 2009

Agree that something with the ears must cause this.

Tilt-a-whirl as a kid==find the seat that had the loosest bolt and spin that baby until you couldn't spin anymore

Tilt-a-whirl now== 1/2 spin and I'm sick as a dog.

I can't even do IMAX without throwing up and sick all night. Still don't know what is up with that.
posted by stormpooper at 6:20 AM on January 26, 2010

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