Misophonia: When Sounds Attack

Select sound sensitivity syndrome, sound-rage. People who are sensitive to certain sounds sometimes cope by blocking them out. Misophonia, literally “hatred of sound”, was proposed in 2000 as a condition in which negative emotions, thoughts, and physical reactions are triggered by specific sounds.

I like to think I’m a pretty chilled out person. Generally, I’m laid back and don’t get too annoyed, and I’m trying to be a positive and “half glass full” kind of person more and more in my life. However, there is one thing that I will not ever be able to tolerate. Okay well a couple of things, but they’re all linked.

Noises.

Not just all noises in general, because that would be madness. But specifically a number of noises that my fellow humans make.

People with misophonia are generally “triggered” by different sounds, but the most common are eating or chewing loudly, slurping, and coughing or sniffing. As I get older, much to my dismay, I’m finding more noises which are being added to the list. It started with noisy eating. Having to live in a boarding house where you’re surrounded by people every minute of the day, there wasn’t always an escape. Dinner time in the dining hall was often an absolute nightmare, spent staring into my own food or shoving my headphones into my ears to avoid having to listen to the lip-smacking, juice slurping shenanigans that my peers were partaking in.

Then, any sort of crunchy food being eaten was added to the list. If you decide to eat an apple or crisps in close proximity to me then I simply cannot take responsibility for what might happen. This might sound a little dramatic, and you might be thinking I’m just an aggy mare who’s using “misophonia” as an excuse for being a dick. I wish that was the case. I wish these sounds didn’t make my blood boil or make my palms sweat with anxiety.

I need you to understand that this isn’t just the usual reactions to specific sounds. For example, imagine yourself sitting at a lovely restaurant enjoying a 5* meal, and there’s a baby incessantly crying. On and on and on this baby cries. Eventually, you’re going to feel a little irritated, and maybe a bit short tempered aren’t you? That isn’t your fault- the human body is emotionally wired to feel distressed when we hear a baby crying; a vulnerable being in need is calling out for help so you cannot ignore that.

No, I’m talking about blinding rage when I’m sat next to somebody in a meeting who’s chewing their fingernails. I mean actual tears being shed when somebody scrapes their bowl over and over again. I’ve had to actively avoid dinner dates with certain friends because I will inevitably spend the evening watching their meal being thrown around in their gob, and will spend the whole time focusing on trying to concentrate on what they’re saying but really just wanting to gouge out my own eyes with a fork… any excuse to get away from the chomping and crunching.

The worst thing is, once you pick up on a sound, there’s no going back. Have you ever seen the How I Met Your Mother episode where the glass shatters whenever the characters realise something negative about each other? I’ve been on dates when the glass has shattered: he chews gum with his mouth open. Sat at work when the glass has shattered: they keep clearing their throat repeatedly. Stuck in a car with somebody when the glass has shattered: they breathe far too loudly to be healthy.

I’ve done a little research on misophonia, to quiet that voice in my head which tells me not to be so dramatic, to calm down. Turns out, there’s an actual International Misophonia Research Network; who knew?! They explain the following…

What does science tell us so far?
Misophonia appears to be a neurologically based disorder in which certain auditory stimuli are misinterpreted as dangerous. Individuals with misophonia are set off, or “triggered” by repetitive, patterned-based sounds, such as chewing, coughing, pencil tapping, sneezing, etc. Some individuals with misophonia also describe visual triggers.These stimuli, or triggers, cause severe physiological and emotional stress.


Sounds (and sights) that other people may not even notice can make a person with misophonia feel bombarded by stimuli and can even propel them into the “fight/flight” response

See? It’s neurological. I really can’t help it.

My last long term relationship was a nightmare: we both had misophonia. We’d eat crisps in separate rooms, yoghurt pots were banned in the house, and we’d rile each other up when our taxi driver was chewing gum. I mean, at least we both understood where the other was coming from, but I assume that from the outside, we just looked like a bitter pair who went around glaring at people in restaurants and both sitting in public places with our headphones in to avoid any trigger sounds getting to us.

Look, all I’m saying is, it really isn’t my fault if I stare at you with tears in my eyes in the cinema as you graze on popcorn, tossing it nonchalantly into your chops and wash it down slurpily with your coke. I mean, at least wait until a loud bit in the film!? And don’t blame me if I stop arranging to meet you for lunch because you sound like you’re eating gravel whenever you eat any sort of food. Who chews soup?!

I think it’s about time I rounded this up. I need to go for a little walk and do some breathing exercises to calm down. Like I say, I think I’m generally a chilled out person… but type too loudly or whip out an apple in my company and we’re over.

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