Last Update: 26 Feb 00

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(R) I agree that gum chewing is a nasty offensive habit. I can remember specifically when gum chewing began to bother me. It was about the second week of my freshman year in University. I was studying Aeronautical Science or the study of flight. It seemed like 2 out of 3 students had a Tom Cruise/Top Gun fixation. Anyway, there was a guy that sat next to me in one of my classes. On the day of our first test, I found myself not able to concentrate because of this guys incessant chewing. The problem escalated. Soon I began noticing anyone who might be chewing gum. This problem started to affect my studies. I saw a doctor who thought that this 'unique' problem was related to an anxiety or an obsessive compulsive disorder. He promptly wrote me a prescription for prozac which did nothing for the problem. I still have the problem today (10 years later) and up until now I thought I was alone. Could this problem be caused from misplaced anxiety? There are many people out there who will never understand the feelings of people who are bothered by others chewing gum but they shouldn't chastise or call us 'anal retentive' any more than they would an agoraphobic person.
(MB) You are exactly correct. I think that your doctor's diagnosis was way off the mark. The problems that so many of us have with gum chewing has nothing to do with any "disorder" on our part. The noise is not an ambient sound that just blends into the background or can be easily ignored. It's repetitive and has a cyclic rhythm that tends to grab our attention -- like water dripping from a faucet in the middle of the night when we are trying to fall asleep. We also tend to associate such noises with barbarian or otherwise uncivilized or unintelligent behavior. In what is supposed to be an academic setting, this can be especially disturbing.
    No, I don't believe you have any anxiety or any other disorder when it comes to being bothered by gum chewing. I think that the noises produced by the incessant chewers are a way for them to try to attract attention and may be a result of stress combined with insecurity. My own observations of the students I instruct show a marked correllation between an increase in classroom stress and an increase in gum chewing. Also, the weaker students tend to do more gum chewing than do the better students. I also see an increase in other forms of mindless, repetitive actions which produce noise such as finger drumming, toe tapping, pen clicking, and so on. I'd say that it's these folks who need the medication and not those of us who don't wish to listen to the noise.

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