We're all for individual expression and the power of moi. But sometimes it would be nice to know--just for informational purposes, not because we're insecure--whether anyone else experiences the same crazy stuff we do. What's normal? We surveyed WH readers about their bodies' "special" habits, urges, and peculiarities--and then put your health questions to experts to gauge the weirdness factor. Here's what they said, and how you can get a handle on your own oh-so-fascinating quirks.
My hands and feet literally drip with sweat, even when I'm cold. Am I normal?
About 3 percent of the population suffers from excessive sweating, or hyperhidrosis. It generally occurs in the hands, feet, underarms, face, or scalp. "The cause isn't really clear, but 40 to 60 percent of sufferers have a family history of the problem," says Dee Anna Glaser, M.D., a professor of dermatology at Saint Louis University School of Medicine. There are several treatment options, from prescription-strength antiperspirants to site-specific Botox injections, which interrupt the chemical messages that tell the glands to sweat. If all else fails, surgery to sever the nerves that communicate with sweat glands is effective. The downside: Sweating often reappears in another spot, though hopefully a less embarrassing one.
The moment I step outdoors, I'm a magnet for mosquitoes. Am I normal?
Humans produce an aromatic bouquet of hundreds of chemicals, some of which are irresistible to skeeters. But scientists have only, um, scratched the surface of what makes some people more bite-worthy than others. Drinking beer may attract them (yes, researchers studied this, though they didn't discover why beer breath is so alluring), and having high cholesterol, another study shows, makes you a more likely target (experts theorize it's because mosquitoes need cholesterol but can't make it on their own). Bad news for the overly hydrated reader earlier: "We also know that people who sweat less are not as attractive to mosquitoes," says Ulrich Bernier, Ph.D., a research chemist with the USDA and an expert on mosquito attractants and repellents. He and other scientists are working to develop compounds that actually will cloak your body's scent, rendering you invisible to mosquitoes, whose sense of smell is much keener than their eyesight. In the meantime, to keep from scratching all through your next tropical vacation, cover up, wear repellent (such as Off! Deep Woods), and don't fidget: Movement attracts the little buggers too.
I drool all over my pillow at night. Am I normal?
Every day, your body produces a liter or more of saliva, an enzyme-rich goo that helps keep your mouth clean and digest your food. As a toddler you mastered the art of keeping saliva in your yap-trap. But during sleep, when the muscles in your body relax, your coordination lapses, leaving you more likely to dribble. (This is a particular hazard if you're a side snoozer.) The result is a stiff little patch of drool that brings a whole new meaning to the phrase "sleeping in the wet spot." A sinus infection or allergies that cause you to breathe through your mouth instead of your nose may make the problem worse, but the easiest fix is just to sleep on your back, says Lee Akst, M.D., an otolaryngologist at Loyola University Medical Center in Chicago. Go online at thecompanystore.com to find supportive pillows for back sleepers.
After I turned 30, my metabolism slowed to a crawl, or at least that was my explanation when I chunked up. Am I normal?
Studies show that two things happen to women around their 30th birthdays: Their bodies start to lose muscle more dramatically (as much as half a pound per year, which has an adverse effect on your metabolism), and their physical activity wanes, thanks to greater career and family responsibilities, says Wayne Westcott, Ph.D., co-author of Get Stronger, Feel Younger. The solution: strength-building exercises to help replace lost muscle tissue. Just 20 minutes twice a week can raise your resting metabolic rate by as much as 7 percent. If you can barely squeeze in time to sleep, let alone exercise, Westcott recommends three simple moves you can do at home: dumbbell squats, chest presses with dumbbells, and a bent-over row. Soon you'll be on your way back to your pre-30 body.
I clutch my boyfriend's hand in a death grip every time I fly. Am I normal?
Your rational mind knows you're less (56 times less!) likely to die in an airplane than you are to die in a car. But your lizard brain doesn't buy it. All it knows is that you're way higher than any sane person should be and are potentially out of control. No wonder your sympathetic nervous system--the one that commands your body's flight-or-fight response-is shrieking, "Get! Out! Now!" You're hardly alone: An estimated 25 million people in North America are afraid to fly.
Trite as it sounds, research shows that in this instance, facing your fears really does work. In 2002 researchers studied the effect of "exposure therapy" on 75 nervous fliers. Subjects were offered eight 45-minute therapy sessions in which virtual reality was used to simulate the experience of being airborne. Those who completed the treatment had much lower levels of flying anxiety afterwards, says study co-author Page Anderson, an assistant professor of psychology at Georgia State University in Atlanta. It probably took you longer than that to learn how to drive a stick shift. Check out virtuallybetter.com for exposure therapy programs in your area.
When I walk around in the morning, my joints sound like popcorn popping. Am I normal?
Many people have some degree of crepitus, a crackling or grinding sound made when uneven cartilage surfaces rub against each other. It usually occurs in large joints, like the knee or shoulder. Crepitus is different from the loud snap you hear when you crack a knuckle: That's caused by nitrogen bubbles inside the joints popping under pressure, says Raymond Rocco Monto, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon and spokesman for the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. If you feel pain along with the popping (especially while climbing stairs, squatting or kneeling), see an orthopedist. It could be a sign of injury or arthritis. Yes, you heard us right: Arthritis has become more common in young athletic women who got hurt playing sports as adolescents, Dr. Monto says.
While getting a head massage at a spa, I orgasmed. Am I normal?
You could just thank the goddess of Oh! and book a return trip. But since you're wondering, it is possible for women to have what's known as "extragenital orgasms"--orgasms without genital contact, says Beverly Whipple, Ph.D., professor emerita at Rutgers University and co-author of The Science of Orgasm. Arousing sensitive areas like the neck or breasts or even just imagining sex can get you there. "Physiologically, orgasm is a reflex, so the genital nerve pathways don't need to be stimulated in order for it to occur," she says. Studies have found that even women with spinal cord injuries are able to experience orgasm.
You are not alone:
It's not that you need to stop blabbering to your puppy like she's a toddler. All we're saying is: You're not the only dog whisperer.
1 in 4 women brush their teeth after every meal.
71% of young adult women feel like their bra is never the perfect fit.
99% of women talk to their pets--a lot.
25% of women have shagged only one person in their lives.
More than 50% of women would prefer an hour to themselves than 60 minutes of bliss in the bedroom.
12% of women never snack.
21% of women would forget any and all promises of faithfulness for one night with (big surprise) Matthew "No Shirt" McConaughey.
45% of women think their pets are cuter than their partners.
Based on survey results.