If noises like someone chewing, breathing, clearing throat, coughing, sneezing or clicking a pen make you irritated or panic, you might suffer from a neuro-physiological disorder known as misophonia. It is an emotional and physiological reaction to specific sounds. People suffering from misophonia do not hate all the sounds but only certain specific sounds evoke a strong negative emotional response.
Miso (hatred) phonia (sound) literally means “hatred of sound”. It is also known as “select sound sensitivity syndrome” and “sound-rage“. It was proposed in 2000 as a condition. Due to difficulties reporting and diagnosing the condition, researchers don’t know the number of people who are suffering from this disorder.
When a person hears these sounds, he/she has a very strong emotional reaction such as hate, anger, anxiety and rage. People who suffer from misophonia often report that they sometimes feel the person is intentionally making the sound, even that person doesn’t even has a clue about it. Sufferers may feel very uncomfortable in social events such as family dinner, team lunch at work or a birthday party. People who suffer from misophonia don’t have rage towards people, but they have indirect frustration which they suppress when they hear certain noises like whistling, chewing, sliding of feet, flopping sounds, licking noises and the list goes on.
Misophonia and Anxiety:
Sarah who suffers from misophonia quotes, “Misophonia is not limited to human noises, droning of fans can puts my anxiety through the roof, the vent over the stove makes me want to give up whatever I’m doing. I would never harm myself, but in the moment it can feel so torturous that I get a mental image of my dead body after suicide. That’s usually if I can’t escape the situation. It’s not anger, it’s panic. I just want to run away and not look back. I can’t even listen to guided meditation because of the way the mouth sounds when a person is trying to talk calmly. It is horrible. Honestly I live a pretty normal life and don’t act on those feelings. Some days and some people trigger it worse than others”.
Triggering sounds may change over time and may vary from a person to person. It usually starts with a single trigger-sound, more sounds are then added. The most common sounds are related to others person’s activities like:
- Chewing loudly
- Breathing loudly
- Throat clearing
- Lip smacking etc
Other triggering sounds may include:
- Pen Clicking
- Typewriter’s or computer keyboard’s sound
- Papers rustling
- Clock ticking
- The sounds of mosquitoes and other insects or birds
- Candy wrapper’s sound etc.
Some Interesting Points About Misophonia:
- More women than men are suffering from misophonia.
- The first symptom if misophonia tend to develop before puberty, generally between the ages of 9 to 12.
- A person having misophonia generally has good hearing.
- People with misophonia tend to have higher IQs.
- It is often genetic.
- Initially it is developed from the sound of a family member then more sounds are added over time.
- People who experience misophonia have formed many online support groups. Just Google it and you will find plenty of them. This can drive a person with misophonia to avoid such gatherings.
- A documentary about misophonia titled “Quiet Please” has been released in 2016.
Causes of Misophonia:
At Newcastle University, UK, Sukhbinder Kumar and his team performed a series of tests on 42 volunteers, that include 20 misophonic people and 22 who don’t have it. Both groups listened to triggering sounds for the misophonia, such as chewing, swallowing, coughing , yawning and breathing noises. And neutral noises, such as the sound of rain. And unpleasant sounds, such as a baby crying.
They noticed that both groups reacted to the neutral and unpleasant sounds in a nearly similar fashion. But when they heard trigger sounds, the misophonic people experienced increased heart rates and skin conductance, which are signs of the body’s “fight or flight response”.
Brain imaging of volunteers revealed that people with the misophonia have an abnormality in the emotional control mechanism between the frontal lobe and the Anterior Insular Cortex (AIC) – which causes their brains to go into overdrive on hearing trigger sounds. They have structural differences in the areas of their brains tasked with regulating emotions.
Misophonia Coping Strategies:
1. Deep Breathing:
Try to focus on your tasks, actions and your breath. It will help you feel calm at the time of triggers. Practice deep breathing.
When specific sounds fill up all of your hearing, and make you irritated,you just want the sounds to stop. Take out your headphones and listen to the music that you love.
3. Try Earplugs:
Earplugs are a great coping strategy that not enough people use. When you can’t avoid being around unwanted noises, earplugs are the excellent thing. Earplugs help you by muffling sounds, dulling them so they don’t reach the inner ear at full force.
4. Practice Meditation:
Meditation boosts your focus and concentration and makes you become oblivious to the irritating sounds around you.
People who regularly meditate, improve their mental focus as compared to non-meditators. They are better at putting their mind at ease.
If you are in a trigger situation, and you are feeling uncomfortable, move away. Or ask them to stop if you can. If you’re eating with your family and you are in bad situation then find an excuse and escape. Go to the washroom or outside, take a deep breath and chill out for a while. Then go back to your family with a cool mind.
Having a lot of stress can affect your misophonia terribly. What normally wouldn’t trigger you too badly would trigger you ten times more because you’re so stressed out. Stress can send misophonia into overdrive. Try to fight depression.
When you’re feeling relaxed you have more time and brain to react to it.