Misophonia, translated to “hatred of sound,” is a chronic condition that causes intense emotional reactions to specific sounds. The most common triggers include those provoked by the mouth (chewing gum or food, popping lips), the nose (breathing, sniffing, and blowing), or the fingers (typing, clicking pen, drumming on the table). Reactions to the specific sound may be mild or strong and include anxiety, disgust, rage, hatred, panic, fear, or a serious emotional distress with violence and suicidal thoughts. Symptoms usually start in childhood or in the early teenage years, and severity increases over time.
The cause of misophonia is not yet known. Research has suggested it may relate to parts of the brain that are responsible for processing and regulating emotions. Many people with misophonia have relatives with similar symptoms.
Misophonia does affect daily life, but it may be managed by combining different therapies such as sound therapy with counseling, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and exposure, and dialectical behavior therapy. Hearing plugs or aids, antidepressant medications, and an active lifestyle (to manage stress) may also be helpful.
It is important to note that misophonia is not listed in any psychiatric classification systems. Some researchers believe misophonia should be considered a new mental disorder within the spectrum of obsessive-compulsive related disorders. Others think it is a feature of a broader syndrome of sensory intolerance, rather than a separate disorder.
A number of sounds can elicit the agitation characteristic of misophonia. Chewing noises are probably the most common trigger, but other sounds such as slurping, crunching, mouth noises, tongue clicking, sniffling, tapping, joint cracking, nail clipping, and the infamous nails on the chalkboard are all auditory stimuli that incite misophonia.
Most of the sounds that trigger misophonia are produced by the human body, but some misophonics become annoyed by the sounds of inanimate objects, such as clicking of a remote control or the whirring of a motor, although the degree of irritation is not usually as severe. Interestingly, people who suffer from misophonia do not experience irritation when they produce the same exact noises themselves.
There are degrees of severity misophonia, and it can be heightened in times of stress. Comorbid conditions include obsessive-compulsive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder, but interestingly, there is not an association with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Most people who experience misophonia have enough insight to understand that their level of agitation is not reasonable or fair and would like to reduce the symptoms. A few common methods of self-treatment include simply leaving the room, wearing headphones, or finding a way to drown out the noise. Self-distraction is a more advanced and difficult technique of managing symptoms and it is easier to practice distraction in times when personal stress level is low and when the noises themselves are less agitating. Some misophonia sufferers cope with the feelings of turmoil by mimicking the annoying sounds, which seems to disempower the sounds while also possibly allowing an acceptable ‘venting’ of some of the illogical rage.
There have not been studies looking at therapeutic treatment for misophonia and at this time there is no standard pharmacological approach. It appears to be a disorder that is likely to be self-diagnosed. In some instances, friends or family members who are repeatedly the targets of anger may identify the problem. But, it is possible that some sufferers could lack the conscientiousness to insightfully self diagnose themselves or that some misophonia sufferers could become violent, believing that the perpetrator of the noise is to blame.
It turns out that people who suffer from misophonia do, in fact, have real physiological effects when they are exposed to the provoking sounds. The few studies of the physiology of this condition demonstrate that physical responses include measurable autonomic responses that are not seen in a control group.
Courtesy of MedlinePlus from the National Library of Medicine