Do you squirm every time you have to listen the person beside you on the bus chomp down on that apple and smack it around their open mouth as if their mother never taught them basic manners? Does the anger rise from your soul when that girl continuously pops her chewing behind you in class? Do you have to leave the room if someone breaths too loudly, or sniffles too loudly? Then my friends, like me, you may suffer from the torturous disorder that is Misophonia.
What is Misophonia?
Literally translated as ‘the hatred of sound’, Misophonia is a rarely diagnosed neuropsychiatric disorder where negative emotions such as anger, flight, hatred and disgust are triggered by specific sounds. The condition makes certain noises intolerable to the sufferer which transcends them into a state of panic or anger.
Developed by Neuro-physiologist Pawel Jastreboff, the disorder is said to develop in children through their adolescent years. The affected child will often feel a frightening and uncontrollable urge to either strike out at the person who is making the noise, or they have to flee the situation by leaving the room, or in serious cases, the building. Alternatively, many sufferers will mimic the sounds that the person is making in an attempt to cover up the noise or to communicate in a non-verbal manner that the sound is soul-destroying. This is one thing that I do subconsciously with my Father when he sniffles or coughs and I never receive a sympathetic reaction, but it does relieve the anger somewhat.
People who have Misophonia are most commonly angered by by specific sounds which include: slurping, smacking, chewing, throat-clearing, sniffling, coughing, gulping, yawning, breathing, gum-chewing and popping, snoring, humming or repetitive sounds (all of the above for me). These sounds trigger immense negative emotions combined with fight/flight symptoms such as muscle tension, sweating and a quickened heartbeat.In more severe cases, sufferers are also enraged by visual stimuli such as repetitive body movements, fidgeting and things they see out of the corner of their eye that are distracting to them.
What it Feels Like
The thing about having this disorder is that people literally think you’re nuts. You could be in a room full of people and hear someone popping their chewing-gum – it could literally be driving you insane so you look around to see if anybody is about to join you in smacking that girls chewing-gum right out of her mouth – but you realise nobody else is affected by it, at least not to the extent that you are. To help a non-affected person understand the impact that Misophonia has on someone with the disorder, they might be asked to imagine how they feel and react when they hear the sound of fingernails being scratched and scraped down a black-board repeatedly. This is what it feels like for a person who suffers with the condition, however, this example falls short of reaching the intensity a Misophonia sufferer experiences, and it also lacks the strong negative emotional component that is elicited.
The Consequences Living With Misoponia
Often, its the people who are closest to the sufferer who elicit the worst triggers. This is maybe due to the fact that you can tell your sister to kindly remove herself from the sitting room before you bash her face in if she doesn’t stop breathing so loud, whereas it would be deemed socially unacceptable to do the same to a stranger beside you on the train (I’ve been close to it mind you). As one can imagine, this can make personal relationships immensely difficult, or at the very least, produce some amount of stress and tension. Taken to an extreme, a sufferer may become socially isolated and may refrain from social events with family and friends in an attempt to reduce the stress and anger brought on by exposure to their trigger sounds. The workplace, college and school are also places of unrest for sufferers as there is no escape – the library for instance, I would class as a living hell. People, get a tissue for your issue and BLOW your noise.
Research into the Disorder
There exists a significant lack of scientific consensus as to whether or not Misophonia is an actual physiological disorder, and not just an intense shared annoyance which people feel towards certain sounds. In 2013, Amsterdam Medical Centre (AMC) researchers published a case for diagnosing Misophonia, but it has not yet been recognized by other medics and physiologists across the globe. The AMC is currently the only place in the Netherlands and in Europe where treatment is offered to sufferers, and one of the few places worldwide to acknowledge Misophonia as an actual medical condition.
Sadly, there is no defined cure for the disorder. There are certain cognitive therapies that are said to reduce the triggers, but who’s got the funds or time for that in this day and age? Personally, I’ve combated my triggers (kinda) by forcing myself to stay in the library and work, even though it may be soul destroying – when you face your fears (or phobias in this case), they always seem a little less horrible when you come out the other end. If like me you thought you were an absolute freak of nature for years for being so bothered by sounds, then you’ll be glad to know you’re not alone because over 20% of the population have to live with this being the bane of their lives. And if all else fails, ear-plugs are your only man!