I have this bad habit of constantly clearing my throat which according to my late wife sounded like a` `neighing of a horse`. She would get irritated but felt helpless. In the Western World this could be a possible reason for the wife seeking a divorce. Most of us have some irritating habit or the other which we are not aware of. Some such habits could also harm a person.
Like my friend who has the habit of inserting a pen or pencil in one of his ears and constantly twisting it while he is in deep thoughts. My ex-boss , a handsome man with a lovely moustache had the habit of constantly caressing his moustache but suddenly he will start pulling a hair or two from the moustache when he was agitated about something. Nail biting or nose picking are a few other obnoxious habits which some people have even when they are grown ups.
According to a report in the Press, experts have divided repetitive, non functional motor behaviours into three categories .”First there are classic tics involving quick, jerky motions of the head, neck or arms preceded by an urge, akin to an itch that needs to be scratched. Tics can also be phonic such as grunting, sniffing,or throat clearing (as I do). Next are more fluid and rhythmic like body rocking, finger drumming and leg bobbing. The report groups compulsive nail biting, hair pulling , skin picking etc. under body focussed repetitive behaviours.
All these behaviours are what experts call `Unvoluntary` as opposed to involuntary muscle twitch or tremor. It is interesting to note that the experts feel that such acts are a form of communication. They may be reflecting the anxiety, boredom, anger, sadness or tension that the person might be undergoing resulting in such behaviours.
Can such behaviours be controlled or stopped completely. There is no conclusive findings on that.
There is another behaviour, unrelated to the above reports, that we know as stammering. I know of a few friends and relatives who stammer , some very badly, during a normal conversation. But when they are behind a mike or on the stage, they talk normally. The most well known example of this was -late `Zul Vellani` who used to stammer very badly when in conversation but transformed himself as a fantastic `voice over` when lending his voice for a documentary or as a stage actor in some plays staged in the sixtees and seventees. Another example is that of actor Hrithik Roshan.
'What causes stammering?' Most experts agree that “it is due to a combination of factors - physiological, neurological, psychological and environmental - but the precise ways that these factors operate together is not known, and clearly the combination will be different from one individual to another”. Fortunately it is possible now to get over this problem by speech therapies and cures offered by other specialists.
There are many speech therapists in Chennai who claim to provide cure for stammering. Some of them specialise in treating young children with the problem. If treated early the success rate is high.
( This article has appeared in the Adyar Times issue dt 11-17th March,2018 under my column `Rajan`s Random Reflections`)