Have you ever heard a noise that made you want to scream? Or listened to a pen clicking or gum popping and felt like you might go crazy? For a small percent of the population, this is an everyday occurrence. For these people, loud chewing isn’t just a pet peeve. Specific sounds trigger intense physiological responses like extreme anger, panic, or a fight-or-flight response. This is a sensory processing disorder known as Misophonia, the strong dislike or hatred of certain sounds. So, what is Misophonia and how do you know if you have it?
What is Misophonia?
Misophonia, sometimes known as Selective Sound Sensitivity Syndrome, is a disorder that triggers strong emotional and physical responses that could be perceived as unreasonable, as the most common trigger sounds are small sounds that others might not pay attention to. This could include yawning, chewing, swallowing, or even breathing. For about 15% of the population, these small sounds are described to “drive them crazy” on a daily basis. Sounds like the keys on a keyboard tapping, a mouse clicking, or other small repetitive sounds can trigger intense emotional responses in people with this disorder. Visual stimuli can cause the same reactions, like watching a person eat or repetitive motions. According to an article from WebMD, researchers believe people who suffer from Misophonia may already have an issue with the way sound is processed and filtered in their brains. The repetition of certain sounds in people with this disorder is believed to exacerbate their existing auditory processing problems.
Reactions to misophonic sounds can range from mild to severe. These responses could look like:
- Triggered Flight Response
- Functional Impairment
- Emotional Distress (Crying, Yelling, etc.)
Those who suffer from Misophonia may all-together avoid being in situations where their trigger noise is present. Common misophonic sounds include slurping, crunching, mouth noises, tongue clicking, sniffing, tapping, gum chewing, joint cracking, coughing, and much more. For many, this can affect their relationships, their social lives and even their quality of life. Normal things like going to a restaurant or seeing a movie in theaters is a daunting task and a panic-inducing thought for some.
What Causes Misophonia?
It has been found that the Anterior Insular Cortex (AIC), the part of the brain that plays a role in both anger and in integrating outside inputs (such as sounds) with inputs from organs such as the heart and lungs, causes much more activity in other parts of the brain during trigger sounds in people with Misophonia than people without it. Specifically, the AIC in people with the disorder causes an excess of activity in the parts of the brain responsible for fear, long-term memories, and other emotions. Though it is not known what causes Misophonia or why some people have it, researchers have found that most people with the disorder report symptoms beginning around the ages of 9 to 13, though the development has not been found to be tied to one specific instance.
Is Misophonia Treatable?
Currently, there is no straightforward cure or treatment for Misophonia. Learning to manage it can be difficult and coping mechanisms can range from auditory distractions, such as headphones and white noise, to seeking cognitive behavioral therapy or treatment at a Misophonia clinic. Sound therapy has also been found to be helpful to some by working with audiologists in tandem with counseling. A device similar to a hearing aid that creates a sound like a waterfall can be used to distract from trigger noises and help reduce the severity of the resulting reactions. Another way to manage Misophonia is by changing your lifestyle to include regular exercise, healthy sleep habits, and practicing stress management. Having a support system is the most important part of managing Misophonia. The Misophonia Association, based in Oregon and California, has several informational resources, and holds a yearly convention designed to help sufferers manage their disorder. Doctors interested in learning more about Misophonia can find more information through the International Misophonia Research Network Misophonia-Research.net, and friends, family or parents can learn more about the disorder with the help of the free resources that Misophonia-International.com offers.
Do you think you may be suffering from Misophonia? Let us help you take back your life by connecting with you with the right mental health professionals and the right support groups. Find out more at FMHWC.org or call (702) 731-0909 to schedule a virtual or an in-person appointment today.
Schröder, A., van Wingen, G., Eijsker, N. et al., (2019, May 17). Misophonia is associated with altered brain activity in the auditory cortex and salience network. University of Amsterdam. Retrieved December 27, 2022, from https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-44084-8#author-information
Cartreine, James, PhD, (2019, June 24). Misophonia: When sounds really do make you “crazy”. Harvard Health. Retrieved December 27, 2022, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/misophonia-sounds-really-make-crazy-2017042111534#:~:text=What%20is%20misophonia%3F,and%20a%20desire%20to%20escape.
WebMD Editorial Contributors, (2020, December 13). What Is Misophonia? WebMD. Retrieved December 27, 2022, from https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/what-is-misophonia
Brout, J., Edelstein, M., Erfanian, M. et al., (2018, February 7). Investigating Misophonia: A Review of the Empirical Literature, Clinical Implications, and a Research Agenda. Frontiers in Neuroscience. Retrieved December 28, 2022, from https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnins.2018.00036/full#h1
Category: Mental and Behavioral Health