7 Weird Defense Mechanisms Your Body Uses

Written by Emaan Shah
Last Updated on

Being intrinsic hunters by nature, our body exists on a round-the-clock survival mode. Darwin will back me up. Every physiological reaction bursting in your cells is fueled purely by selfish self-preservation instincts. Uncannily like an exasperated mother, your body will constantly be sorting the messes you leave behind and defend you from every threat this big bad world has to offer while simultaneously providing you with unconditional love and nurturing.

Damn, I need to call my mom and tell her I love her too.

But, I digress. The point is, just like our mothers, we tend to take our body’s unwavering, often silent, support for granted. We’ve grown so very accustomed to being taken care of that at times we’re prone to miss out on the bizarre mechanisms it resorts to utilizing. Or maybe we’ve simply reconciled ourselves to stop questioning the wonder that is the human body.

1. Yawning

Ever wondered why you suddenly burst into… a yawn? (Confess, you thought I’d say song, didn’t you?) Now, though we don’t currently possess concrete evidence on why we happen to yawn, the older myths associated with this phenomena, however, have been busted. Science no more agrees with the hypothesis that yawning as a mechanism serves to supply the brain with more oxygen. Contrary to popular belief we’re not yawning because we’re tired, bored or simply because it’s contagious.

We’re yawning because our brain is maybe getting too hot.

I know. Mind blown. According to new research, it has been suggested that yawning may actually be our brain’s secret cooling mechanism when it just can’t take the heat. [1] Any fluctuations in your external environment’s temperature could also stimulate you to yawn.

2. Goosebumps

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Another bizarre reaction, what is the function of your body erupting into tiny, minuscule bumps anyway? Well if you’ve ever had a kitten (if not, you’re missing out), you may have noticed their hand up at attention whenever they seem to be in a confrontation. This is referred to as the ‘pilomotor reflex’ and it serves to give an animal a larger and formidable appearance. This reflex is wasted upon us Homo sapiens however as we just don’t possess sufficient hair. To some degree goose bumps also aid in preventing heat loss from our bodies.

3. Myoclonic Jerks

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Ever happened to experience an involuntary jerk that immediately awakens you from a deep sleep? Well apart from severely annoying your partner, this mechanism also serves to-get this- save you from dying! [2] While you’re in slumber, your muscles loosen and relax, your pulse rate slows and your breathing drops. The brain mistakenly interprets this information as you meeting your maker hence it jerks you into life. Well, oops!

4. Hiccups

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What could be more cringe worthy than suffering a traumatic bout of incessant hiccups when you really need to look serious. Cue embarrassing memory montage (Gee, thanks, brain). Hiccups spring from good intentions though. It’s basically your body’s strange and loving way of attempting to inform you “Girl, you’re eating way too fast, stop!” Overeating or eating at a rapid pace can result in your diaphragm getting irate causing it to go into spasms, aka hiccups. [3]

5. Wrinkled Fingers

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Spend 10 minutes under water, and your fingers start resembling dried, shriveled raisins that make you, quite frankly, dread aging. Besides reminding you how fleeting youth is, this unattractive transformation actually serves to improve your grip on objects when your digits happened to be wet and slippery. Quite ingenious, isn’t it? In a study published in 2013, researchers were able to demonstrate that wrinkly fingers actually did improve the handling of submerged objects. [4]

6. Sneezing

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Besides garnering everyone’s attention, mortifying you and disrupting every classroom ever, sneezing is a fundamental defense mechanism. It’s your body’s attempt to playing aggressive bouncer to any allergens, microbes, pathogens or particles of dust that may try to gatecrash the party in your nose. Sneezing is a very effective method of getting rid of any potential nasties that may turn from harmless guests to insidious tiny serial killers. Taking into account all the rubbish that sprouts from our nose each time we sneeze should serve as a good reminder to using a tissue to prevent any spread.

7. Memory Gaps

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Either you’ve personally experienced this, or you’ve always believed it to be an urban myth/ convenient plot device in every soap opera ever. But the fact is memory suppression is a very real phenomenon. If you happen to suffer a traumatic ordeal, like childhood bullies or that terrible twilight super fan phase, then your body may just repress that particular memory so that you never have to torture your psyche again. It’s the body’s way of letting you know you’re in a better place without that baggage. Sorry but, Edward who?

There you have it, the 7 bizarre ways your body expresses its love for you. No matter how strange the mechanism may be, apparently every little quirk has a reason fueled by the will to survive. Intrinsically, you’re the ultimate fighter.

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Emaan is a voracious and rather indiscriminate reader. She is also a writer, history buff, insomniac, amateur doodle artist, terrible poet and a self-professed philosopher (but only after 3 am). Currently, she is pursuing a degree in medicine.

Read full bio of Emaan Shah
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