Uncontrolled Yawning and the Importance of Understanding Learning Styles

Yes, I’m listening to the Zoom meeting even if I’m off camera!!!

Hanna Brooks Olsen
7 min readNov 1, 2023

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In a previous essay, I wrote about the abject awkwardness that comes with ADHD. My flailing limbs, my inability to know where my body parts are in time and space — it’s just a part of me, like having freckles or an inconsistent curl pattern. And while constantly knocking things over can be embarrassing (again: sorry to anyone who has ever wound up with coffee on their khakis because I was nearby), but at least it isn’t considered abjectly impolite.

But you know what is a sign of a person raised with no manners? A big, gaping, cavernous yawn in the middle of a meeting. And then another one. And then a parade of them.

There is little that’s more awkward than being overcome by a huge, unstoppable yawn right as someone else is making an important announcement.

Whether it’s your boss telling you about improvements you need to make or your sister explaining about her complicated pregnancy, yawning in the middle of conversations is just plain rude. It’s a universally-understood sign that you’re not interested or engaged — even though, like a sneeze, it’s just, at the core, a biological function.

It’s also not something I can stop, especially once I get stuck in what I call a “yawning loop,” which is where I am just entirely unable to stop yawning. Like I will yawn every other breath for 20 minutes, or until I get up and get a piece of candy or something to spike my dopamine and remind my body that I’m alive.

But it’s not a tic. It is, I’m pretty sure, linked to my ADHD.

Which brings up two important questions:

Why am I yawning all the time. And why do I think it has to do with ADHD?

Much like clumsiness, yawning isn’t commonly associated with ADHD. Whereas my colleagues may expect me to occasionally get distracted or be forgetful, they don’t expect me to spend the bulk of a meeting with my arm across my face, desperately trying to conceal my molars for the sixth time.

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Hanna Brooks Olsen

I wrote that one thing you didn’t really agree with.