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Misophonia: A Condition That Makes Someone Suffer in Noise

In reality, there are sounds that can annoy us. But there are sounds that can annoy and irritate people especially to people who have misophonia / Photo by: Mangostar via Shutterstock

 

Certain sounds can be considered unpleasant to the ears. For people who are affected by the disorder Misophonia, not only do they find some sounds mildly annoying, hearing some specific sounds, such as the sound of chewing, the clicking of a pen or even breathing can cause them to emotionally react in an extremely negative way.

There are only very few findings of Misophonia, so there is still an ongoing argument on whether it is a mental illness or not.  As of now, it is considered a neurological disorder, Misophonia International says. It was only formally acknowledged as a disorder in 2000, but it has not yet been included in the DSM-5. It also not identified how prevalent it actually is, but in a 2015 survey conducted by researchers from the University of South Florida, it was discovered that 20% of students in the U.S. suffer from Misophonia.

Sukhbinder Kumar and his co-authors of the study about Misophonia, which is published in the journal Current Biology, state that their research aims to make Misophonia patients more hopeful about the condition getting recognized by more doctors.

Kumar argues, “Patients with misophonia had strikingly similar clinical features, and yet the syndrome is not recognized in any of the current clinical diagnostic schemes. This study demonstrates the critical brain changes as further evidence to convince a skeptical medical community that this is a genuine disorder.”

What Is Misophonia?

According to the Misophonia Institute, Misophonia is “a severe sensitivity to specific sounds and visual images.”  Individuals with this condition may feel that others are intentionally producing those sounds to upset them, although after calming down and being away from the triggers, they realize that this is not the case. Misophonia.com states that it is literally translated as “hatred of sound.”  It is also explained that a group of sounds that a misophonic is sensitive to is known as a trigger set.

Based on the examples of bodyandsoul.com, some of the sounds that evoke a strong reaction from sufferers of Misophonia are the sound of someone popping gum, the ticking of the clock, chewing and crunching sounds, breathing, finger or foot tapping, whistling, lip-smacking, sniffing and the clicking of the pen.

Specific sounds can trigger intense emotional responses like rage, anxiety, and hatred, panic, fear, the urge to stop or kill the source of the sound, emotional distress and suicidal thoughts.

WebMD elaborates that milder reactions include feeling uneasy and disgusted, wanting to escape and feeling anxious.

One of the sounds that you must not do to a misophonic person is lip smacking / Photo by: saisnaps via Shutterstock

 

Causes and Risk Factors

Since there is not much information on Misophonia, experts have difficulty pointing out a concrete reason why people suffer from this condition. However, researchers have come up with some possible explanations.

Having Misophonia does not mean that a person’s hearing is impaired. Some doctors say that it is caused by both physical and mental factors. They infer that it is linked to the impact of sound on the brain and how it prompts the body to react automatically.

Another theory is that it is an involuntary emotional and physical reflexed which is prompted by sound. When the individual who suffers from Misophonia hears the triggering sound, it stimulates their Autonomic Nervous System which is found in the brainstem and their Limbic System which is involved in the processing of emotions.

Misophonia is not associated and it is not a hearing disorder / Photo by: Voyagerix via Shutterstock

 

Jennifer Brout, the founder of the Misophonia and Emotion Regulation Program at Duke University, claims that Misophonia is the result of not having an effective auditory gating. She explains that auditory gating is the capacity to screen the sounds that are not needed in a person’s environment. Brout says that people are unconsciously always on the lookout for anything that may threaten or harm them. Moreover, humans are designed to focus on new and novel sounds in their environment.  When the person hears the sound again if it is not a sound that signals danger, she says that the gate closes. Put simply, as people pick up new sounds, when the brain tries to identify if it is harmful or not, people begin to give it lesser and lesser attention. Since those who are affected by Misophonia do not have auditory gating or the ability to filter out sounds, repetitive sounds can overwhelm them with stimuli. As a result, this will cause the nervous system to react as if the body is in danger.

Those who have increased levels of stress, anxiety, and compulsive behavior are said to be more likely to be affected by this disorder. An individual may come to develop this condition if they have a parent or relative with anxiety who repeatedly hear the distressing sound. Being in situations or places where they cannot avoid the sound may also cause them to have Misophonia. For instance, they may be riding a car, eating at the dinner table or laying on their bed.

Management and Treatment

There are no known treatments known to treat Misophonia in particular, but patients can try addressing it in many ways. They may visit clinics that let them go through combined sound therapy and psychological counseling. Talk therapy may also help them in recovering from Misophonia.

Medical News Today suggests that they could use earplugs or listen to music with headphones on to cancel out the sounds. Patients are also advised to lessen their stress through meditation, relaxation, and rest. They should also exercise often and have enough sleep. They should also try to choose seats in restaurants and buses that keep them away from trigger sounds. Lastly, they must explain to their loved ones calmly about their experience with Misophonia.

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