My handwriting suddenly changed

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Most people who keep journals can attest to the joy of rifling through old ones. It feels like excavating a past self, a chance to recall all the things that were too mundane to store in your memory over the long term: that weird design you were really into doodling; the conversations that seemed unimportant but, in hindsight, turned out to be significant; the small worries and joys that occupied your thoughts.

And it’s not just the things you wrote — sometimes, the way you wrote them can be just as fun, and surprising, to rediscover. Old handwriting, too, can be a relic.

In a way, it’s strange that your handwriting changes over time; scientifically speaking, there’s no reason it should. At a certain point, you’ve learned all there is to learn about it: You’ve mastered the fine motor skills, you know the right way to grip a pen, you’ve written enough that you no longer need to think about the physical act of forming letters with your hand. But still, odds are decent that your handwriting right now looks a little bit different than it did five years ago, and will look different again in five more. When I look back through my notebooks from middle school to now, I see a long, slow progression from meticulous and teeny letters to bigger, sloppier ones, plus a few side detours: Sometime in high school, for example, I decided those loopy cursive lowercase f’s were just the coolest, adopting them as the lone rep for cursive in my otherwise all-print handwriting.

Which, according to Laura Dinehart, an education professor at Florida International University, is an example of one major reason why handwriting can change: Because we will it to. Consider what my colleague Melissa recently confessed on Slack: “In the Babysitters Club series, which I was obsessed with, a chapter would often begin with a journal entry in the girl’s ‘handwriting.’ And so I would often change my handwriting as an 8-year-old to look like Kristy or Stacey or Dawn,” she wrote. “And so now mine is a hodgepodge of all seven of the babysitters.” Dinehart compares the process of changing your handwriting to learning a new artistic skill — something that can be taught, and something you can teach yourself through repetition.

It’s a straightforward explanation, but it also points to something about the nature of handwriting that often gets lost: It’s so malleable because, contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t bear any relationship to our inner selves. Despite the enduring appeal of graphology, the study of handwriting to reveal things about the writer’s personality or mental state, the practice has been widely dismissed as pseudoscience; the British Psychological Society lumps it together with astrology as a discipline that has “zero validity.”

To be fair, there are a handful of situations in which handwriting analysis can be indicative of something larger: In seniors, for example, increasingly illegible handwriting can be a sign of progressing Alzheimer’s. And in both kids and adults, dysgraphia — a fancy name for messy writing — has been linked to ADHD. But otherwise, handwriting isn’t a window to the soul or whatever. It’s a tool. Your handwriting doesn’t define you; it works for you.

Which brings us to the other major reason your handwriting can change over time: It evolves to match your evolving needs. “I’m not a big proponent of the idea that handwriting has to be perfect, or the form has to be a certain way and we all have to have the same handwriting,” Dinehart says. “It’s more about the function of writing than it is about the form, and as individuals develop, that’s going to change based on whatever works best and is quickest for them.” Sometimes, that means your handwriting will change between contexts within the same period of time: A message on a card, for instance, will look a lot different than notes you’ve jotted down during a meeting.

Frequency, too, can play a role in morphing your writing — like anything else, handwriting becomes rusty with disuse. “It’s like riding a bike,” she says. “You never forget how to do it, but certainly the first time you hop back on there after you haven’t been on for a while, you might feel shaky or a little uncomfortable.” Similarly, the look of your writing can vary depending on how much of a role it plays in your day-to-day.

Looking back on the fluctuations in my own writing, it fits. In high school, I took notes by hand every day; in college, where I switched back and forth between a laptop and paper notebooks, I wrote less; these days, aside from scrawling my signature on a receipt, I can sometimes go a couple days without picking up a pen. And in each of those phases, my letters took on a new look. Handwriting change, in other words, can probably be summed up like this: It’s life that changes, and handwriting just keeps up.

The Not-So-Sudden Changes of MS

Life is not static; life is ever changing. Whether it’s the breaking of a glass plate, a flowing river that is slowly carving a canyon into the earth or a burning star that over the course of billions of years will eventually die; change is just a part of the natural order of the universe. Of life. So of course that applies to multiple sclerosis (MS) whether it is easily visible or not. If you have MS, chances are the life you lived before your diagnosis is not the same as the life you are living now, which may be different from the life you will live further down the road. Sometimes change is sudden and drastic enough to notice right away but sometimes it creeps about us so slowly and subtly that we don’t even realize it is occurring. There is a difference between waking up to find that you can’t see clearly and realizing one day that you can no longer balance yourself on one leg.

Symptoms can change in an instant

First imagine this; one second you are holding a glass plate in the kitchen and the next second it is broken on the floor in hundreds of little shards. I am sure you are not unfamiliar with this. Change; it only took an instance for it to happen. One moment it is clearly a plate and the next moment it is not. I would say this sudden change is most like a pseudo-exacerbation; you wake up feeling pretty good and decide to get some yard work done but before you can finish you realize your vision is blurring, you can’t think clearly, you feel dizzy and your foot is dragging across the floor. You didn’t wake up with any of those symptoms but by time you go to bed they are there. Just as quickly as they came they are gone because after a night of sleep you feel fine as your body just needed to rest so the inflammation induced by pushing yourself could calm down.

Slower changes are hard to notice

But unfortunately, MS is usually not that simple. Over time, over years, we may experience the subtle accumulation of symptoms that don’t just disappear after a night of rest. This is what we call long-term disability and like a river that is slowly eroding away the earth you probably don’t even notice that it is happening. Last time you saw your neurologist you could walk down the hall heel to toe but when you see him/her 4 months later you can barely make it a few steps before losing your balance. You didn’t even feel like your balance was getting worse but obviously it was slowly changing without you even noticing! Take a picture of yourself today and consider that picture to be your “baseline”. Then look at yourself in the mirror tomorrow; can you tell how much longer your hair is? No, but if you take another picture of yourself in 2 months you will probably be able to see a difference when you compare it to your baseline picture. Your hair is always growing but it’s such an elusive change that you don’t even notice it from day to day. This is why finding a good disease modifying treatment (DMT) is so important; their goal is to slow down or possibly stop the subtle progression of long-term disability that may be occurring without you even noticing! This is also why you usually don’t have MRIs done more than once a year when simply looking for changes that may indicate how active your MS is; the changes may be so small that you could not see them if you were constantly looking because from day to day the difference is almost non-existent but from year to year the difference is easier to see.

Monitor the little things

Personally, I find it helpful to making health-related decisions and managing life with MS if I find a way to try to measure my baseline when performing an activity so over time I can see if my baseline is the same or if I have moved away from it for better or worse. My neurologist may be keeping track of how I walk in a straight line, how my reflexes react to that little hammer and how well I can read those tiny letters from across the room but none of those tests keep track of my memory, my problem-solving skills, my ability to write by hand or play a musical instrument to name just a few things. So I will play a game on my phone (for example) that tests my memory or requires problem-solving skills and if I compare my score today to my score from a month ago I can see if I am getting better or worse at those types of activities even if from day to day I don’t really feel any different. If I write the same sentence down in a notebook every day I can watch how my handwriting may change over time which can help me determine if my fine motor skills are being affected by MS. You can pretty much do this with any activity so long as you have a way of recording your progress. Besides waiting to have another MRI I am unsure of any other way to measure the not-so-sudden changes of MS which I think is very important in helping you decide if what you are doing in life is working to fight your MS or not.

Poor handwriting a symptom of many conditions

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions since I never keep them, but I do make lists. I have to. Without a list, nothing — from grocery shopping to errands to work — ever would get done around here. But sometimes even my lists thwart me.

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions since I never keep them, but I do make lists. I have to. Without a list, nothing — from grocery shopping to errands to work — ever would get done around here. But sometimes even my lists thwart me.

That’s because my handwriting, never a thing of exceptional beauty in the first place, has become terrible over the past few years. Where I once could write legibly, I no longer seem to be able to put pencil or pen to paper and write coherently. I can’t figure out what’s going on.

If I don’t think about what I’m writing, my writing is better than when I put some effort into it. That makes no sense to me. I’ve never heard of overthinking handwriting, and this includes my signature. Over the years, my signature has started to look like the writing of a 10 year old (although, from what I’m hearing, 10 year olds soon will not be taught how to write cursive at all, so maybe I will once again have the advantage).

My grandmother’s handwriting also deteriorated as she aged, but she lived to be 93 and it’s perfectly reasonable that a 93 year old might have less than perfect handwriting. I’m nowhere near that in age, so what’s the deal? I do have arthritis that affects my hands although it’s mostly in my knuckles so maybe that has something to do with it, but why do I have trouble forming simple words? Believe me, I know how to spell my name, write my address and sign a card. Why can’t I accomplish this simple task without all of this angst?

I did a little research into my own question and the answers I found don’t exactly thrill me. It seems one’s state of health can influence your writing. Some of the diseases that can be reflected in writing range from the aforementioned arthritis to pregnancy (believe me, the latter is not an issue and if that were the case, I’d be calling the Guinness World Records) to mental issues to high blood pressure to Alzheimer’s disease. Even nymphomania shows up in one’s handwriting, which for the curious also is a nonstarter.

In an article by a handwriting expert that I found on one reputable site, the author said that mental conditions ranging from depression to schizophrenia to “emotional starvation” manifest in poor handwriting. High blood pressure can make handwriting uneven and general deterioration and shakiness can be attributed to the aforementioned Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.

And that’s not all: Bone deterioration, brain damage and conditions such as dystonia can also cause one’s handwriting to go to the devil faster than a night in a booze factory. So can bone deterioration diseases, nerve damage, muscle and ligament deterioration and lots of other stuff I can’t pronounce.

According to the Internet, poor handwriting is called dysgraphia. That’s one of the things I like about the Internet: You can find a name for everything.

So if you don’t get a handwritten note from me when you should have, it’s not because I forgot to do it, or have terrible manners. I suffer from dysgraphia. But I swear, I am not pregnant, nor a nymphomaniac, although I will admit to a secret fondness for gummy worms.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Carole Moore welcomes email at [email protected]

Last Updated on September 26, 2019

We’ve all heard claims about how handwriting analysis is the window to the soul. It may be true that you can learn a lot about someone’s personality from their handwriting. It’s been said that this science can be used to diagnose mental illness. What would you think if I told you that it’s possible to draw conclusions about the state of your physical health through your handwriting?

What Can We Learn About Physical Health Through Graphology?

It makes sense that our handwriting changes as we grow older. There are several medical conditions that can be predicted or diagnosed early through certain indicators that may be present in a person’s handwriting. Let’s take a look at these conditions.

High Blood Pressure

If you writing with varying degrees of pressure, alternating between dark handwriting and light handwriting, this could indicate that you suffer from hypertension. If you have a habit of changing up the pressure you put on the pen when you write, and especially if you go from light to dark, you should get your blood pressure checked, or check it at home with a blood pressure monitor, to see if there is a correlation.

Parkinson’s Disease

This debilitating disease manifests itself in tremors, and those tremors may show in the handwriting. The main indicator of Parkinson’s disease in the handwriting, however, is very tiny and cramped handwriting. It’s been said that sometimes the writing is so small and close that the person who wrote it has trouble reading it. A person may have tremors, but not have Parkinson’s. If this is the case, the shaking will stop on the pen hits the paper. If you notice that someone’s handwriting is getting smaller and smaller, encourage them to ask their doctor about Parkinson’s.

Alzheimer’s Disease

Some people find using a Super Big Fat Pen is useful for writing if they have alzheimer’s.

Handwriting slows down overall when a person has Alzheimer’s disease. As the disease advances, the person’s handwriting deteriorates. You may see some trembling exhibit itself in the handwriting. It’s expected to see altered handwriting and irregular letters. In Alzheimer’s disease, as it progresses, reading and writing both become difficult.

If you have arthritis, especially in your hands and fingers, your handwriting will change. It becomes more difficult to hold pens properly, and the pain in the joints of your digits will cause you to write in a more angular fashion. This angular writing may be distinguishable before the disease is diagnosed.

Cancer

Can pens be used for early Cancer detection? One graphologist, Austrian Alfred Kanfer, developed a handwriting test that detected people at a high risk for cancer, with an astonishing 84 percent accuracy. He died in 1974, and we haven’t heard a lot about his research since then. Further studies may one day utilize graphology as an early detection method. As we become more and more advanced in cancer treatment and detection, this can only be good news!

Pregnancy

Pregnancy is not an illness, of course. But, it may surprise you to know that graphology can be used to detect a woman’s pregnancy between 48 and 72 hours after conception. Wow! When graphologists inspect handwriting samples, before, during, and after pregnancy, differences are clear to them. It’s possible for a handwriting expert to know a woman is pregnant before she is aware of it herself.

Overall Energy Levels

When we examine handwriting, it is easy to gauge what a person’s energy level is. When a person’s writing is dark, they have a high energy level. If the writing goes through to the back of the paper, they are experiencing a very high energy level. If the writing is lighter, this may be an indicator that the person behind the pen is tired, or lacking in energy at that point. When you design a website, you show your energy in the same way as the way you “design” on paper with the written word.

Ask Your Doctor

It goes without saying that you should not rely solely on graphology alone to diagnose illness or wellness. If you recognize some of these handwriting traits, ask your doctor about testing. Your handwriting may be an early indicator, but analysis should not replace medical exams and treatment.

Is Graphology Pseudo-Science?

Some people feel that graphology is not real science, because it’s claims do not follow the scientific method. Although it’s true that most of the evidence is anecdotal, should it be completely dismissed? You can say the same for a lot of alternative medicine that is practiced today. If there is validity to handwriting analysis as a diagnostic tool, and it can be used in conjunction with modern medicine, it should not be totally discounted?

Is sudden change in handwriting an indication of mental illness?

Sometimes the patient is asked to put his signature on a piece of paper or write a complete sentence. Results of the tests give an insight into a possible onset of mental illness looming.
Another popular test to identify the presence of Alzheimer’s is the clock test.

This also helps in confirming the functional link between handwriting changes and mental illness.

It is the brain from where instructions are received to write. Again, the brain regulates your ability to position correctly the first and second hands of the clock to the right numbers.

If the patient fails the clock test that is if he draws hands at the wrong position there is an indication there is a mild cognitive impairment. If the patient entirely is unable to write numbers or draw the hour and minutes hand of the clock he is suffering from an advanced stage of Alzheimer’s disease.

Handwriting changes and mental illness has its source in a person’s decline in the executive function of the brain. He loses his potential to plan and execute multiple stages of a single task.

3. Dementia:

Dementia

Dementia is not a disease by itself but it is a syndrome that has a negative influence on mental and cognitive functions. Writing and its gradual alteration is one such task. Dementia is an umbrella term under which Alzheimer’s is included.

The pattern of decline of abilities is on first in last out basis. The latest learned crafts are first to be lost. Writing one own name is learned in the formative years so this skill is relatively retained for a longer time. But this deftness is also eventually lost and your pen stroke turns shakier and ultimately unintelligible.

A variety of mental issues having an impact on handwriting:

mental issues having an impact on handwriting

Handwriting changes and mental illness have more diseases to book than just Alzheimer’s. Handwriting pattern is a profound diagnosis of our brains subconscious articulations as held by the British Institute of Graphologists.

Schizophrenia, tremors, depression, autism and Asperger’s syndrome all end in a gradual deterioration in handwriting. If you had beautiful handwriting and that has now degenerated into disorganized scribbles, you are likely to be suffering from some mental illness.

Experts hold that thorough and intelligent investigation of handwriting can locate damages in neuromuscular coordination. Handwriting is an instruction from the brain as electric impulses transmitted through our nerves to fingers which actually deliver the writings. Any obstacle to the path or any impairment to the source (brain) would sure to show up in the quality of writing delivered.

Handwriting changes and mental illness can be correlated in the following cases:

Handwriting changes

  • In case of depression, the writer displays the habit of crossing his/ her signature.
  • People suffering from autism have handwriting marked by breaks indicating hesitancy.
  • Writing that ends in strokes that bend upward at the end of each and every word may be a hint that the person is suffering from lack of emotional support.
  • If you slant your letters in different directions you may be a patient with schizophrenia.
  • Irregular handwriting and presence of trembles in lettering could indicate you have Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Some people have minute writing scripts and they have written in that way all their lives which are normal. But if a person’s handwriting suddenly shrinks in size we see here a close tie between handwriting changes and mental illness. He is having neuromuscular coordination deficit and has Parkinson’s disease.

Mechanism of functions inside the brain and its effect on cognitive skills:

person’s female hand signing an important document

Our brain has been evolved over 30000 years. Most of us have language compartments in the left hemisphere of the brain. Writing, signatures and pictographic expressions are controlled and processed in the right hemisphere.

Coordination between the two hemispheres is instrumental in the expression of cognitive skills. A lack of it would impact your handwriting which is essentially an outcome of an array of isolated motor movements that needs a proper rapport.

A disruption in motor coordination will give rise to a number of mental disorders like cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, dyslexia, epilepsy, coma and schizophrenia. They all affect your handwriting and cognitive functions.

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