Do you ever get annoyed by perfectly ordinary sounds that people hear every day? Do you avoid having dinner with family and friends because the sound of people chewing or slurping makes you want to strangle them? Would you rather let mosquitoes bite you all night than stay in the room where a person is snoring? Do you feel like you are the only one suffering and no one else understands? Well, you are not alone.
Well, you suffer from this little-known disorder known as Misophonia. Chances are, you’ve never heard of it, nor does your family know anything about it. Misophonia has not yet been classified as a discrete disorder in the DSM-5 or ICD-10. Misophonia is not caused by hearing impairment. It is a condition where when a person hears specific sounds, they react negatively- an immediate negative emotional response follows. This can range from slight annoyance to rage and panic.
Misophonia means ‘the hatred of sound’. A person suffering from Misophonia does not hate all sounds. There are specific sounds which can negatively affect a person with Misophonia. This collection of specific sounds that invoke a negative response may vary from person to person and is known as their ‘trigger set’.
Common triggers include chewing, slurping, throat clearing, tooth sucking, humming, muffled talking, heavy breathing, raspy voices, snoring, yawning. The sound made by ticking clocks, chainsaws, AC, clattering dishes, babies, animals can be triggers too. Specifics sights too can become triggers over time. Hair twirling, chewing with mouth open, fidgeting, repetitive movements, tapping, nail biting are common examples.
What are these negative emotional responses? People with Misophonia cringe when they hear their trigger sounds. It causes them to feel rage which makes them misbehave with people around them. Flight or fight response can occur. They try to distance themselves from the trigger or lash out at the source of the sound.
One might also cause self-harm in response to their trigger sound. Some people cry or scream when they are triggered. Mimicking the trigger sound is common too and makes the person feel better, somehow.
This strains personal relationships the most as people with this disorder isolate themselves so that they cannot harm the people they love. While they can ask the ones close to them to stop, they cannot control the conditions of their work place, and this causes stress. One cannot expect another who is not suffering from this disorder to understand what it feels like. The rage, panic and misbehaviour might seem like an overreaction to them.
The ones suffering from Misophonia often cannot share their problems as they are mocked by their loved ones or are asked to ‘adjust’ and ‘grow up’. Sometimes their friends repeat the sounds like a joke while not knowing how much pain that causes.
Is there a cure? Some people think that hearing the trigger sounds, again and again, may result in desensitisation, but that does not help. Distancing oneself from the trigger, using ear plugs, sound machines help at times. Thinking about positive thoughts may help too. The research for a cure is ongoing.
What we can do is make people aware of this disorder. Everyday life for a person suffering from Misophonia is hard enough; they do not need insensitive people around them to make it worse.
If you are reading this and can relate, take a self-test today to find out if you are suffering from this disorder here.