What is misophonia?
Misophonia is a disorder where people have abnormally strong and negative reactions to the ordinary sounds humans make, such as chewing or breathing.
It is not unusual for people to occasionally be irritated by some everyday sounds. But for individuals with misophonia, the sound of someone smacking their lips or clicking a pen can make them want to scream or hit out.
These physical and emotional reactions to innocent, everyday sounds are similar to the “fight or flight” response and can lead to feelings of anxiety, panic, and rage.
How do you treat it?
Misophonia is characterized by a person having an adverse reaction to everyday sounds.
Mimicking offensive sounds is an unconscious response some people have to the sounds that trigger their condition. This mimicry may enable them to handle the uncomfortable situations they find themselves in better.
Individuals with misophonia have also developed other coping mechanisms to give themselves some relief.
Tips for managing sound sensitivity include:
- using headphones and music to drown out trigger noises
- wearing earplugs to limit noise intrusion
- opting for seating on buses and in restaurants that distance trigger sounds
- practice self-care with rest, relaxation, and meditation to reduce stress
- when possible, leave situations where there are trigger sounds
- seek out a supportive doctor or therapist
- speak calmly and frankly with friends and loved ones to explain misophonia
The key characteristic of misophonia is an extreme reaction, such as anger or aggression, to people making certain sounds.
The strength of the reaction, and how an individual with the condition responds to it, varies tremendously. Some people may experience annoyance and irritation, while others can fly into a full-blown rage.
Both men and women can develop misophonia at any age, although people typically start showing symptoms in their late childhood or early teenage years.
For many people, their first episodes of misophonia are triggered by one specific sound, but additional sounds can bring on the response over time.
People with misophonia realize that their reactions to sounds are excessive, and the intensity of their feelings can make them think they are losing control.
Studies have identified the following responses as symptomatic of misophonia:
- irritation turning to anger
- disgust turning to anger
- becoming verbally aggressive to the person making the noise
- getting physically aggressive with objects, because of the noise
- physically lashing out at the person making the noise
- taking evasive action around people making trigger sounds
Some people with this kind of sound sensitivity may start to mimic the noises that trigger their angry, aggressive reactions.
Simply thinking about encountering sounds that trigger their misophonia can make people with the condition feel stressed and ill at ease. In general, they may have more symptoms of anxiety, depression, and neuroses than others.