Misophonia: The Selective Sound Sensitivity Syndrome

Misophonia is a selective sound sensitivity syndrome where people have strong emotional reactions to common sounds, in which certain sounds trigger an outburst marked by irritation, anger, or aggression. Many people that suffer from Misophonia can react in various ways ranging from annoyance, running away, or even rage where individuals lash out violently.

Misophonia is still quite a poorly understood, and under researched condition and the term literally means “Hatred of Sound.”

Before the term Misophonia was coined in the year 2000, the condition already existed but was more commonly known as selective sensitivity disorder. Awareness however has increased quite exponentially as many more individuals realise that they actually suffer from it and that they, in fact, are not going crazy. It is a legitimate sensation that they are experiencing.

In layman’s terms, people would hear a certain sound that can send them into a frenzy. Each person is unique though and not everyone would react or be affected by the same sounds. Examples of the type of sounds would include:

  • Chewing of Food
  • Pen tapping
  • Chomping of teeth
  • Slurping
  • Swallowing
  • Throat clearing
  • Lip smacking
  • Sniffling
  • Breathing, Yes BREATHING
  • Nose whistling
  • Snoring
  • Writing
  • Paper Rustling
  • Ticking of a clock
  • Typing
  • Slamming of a car door
  • Birds chirping

For the person with misophonia, emotional reactions to this kind of trigger may seem impossible to control and involve anger directed at the person who was making the noise. Afterward, the individual may feel bad or guilty for getting mad over a sound, even though at the time their actions seemed justified. Not everyone might feel it was justified and many people still might not feel that this is legit, but it is.

For this reason, many people with misophonia suffer effects in their daily lives.

An example for myself is the tapping sound of a dripping kitchen or bathroom tap or the slight movement of a door that a window is blowing against. The sound might seem minuscule. Most people don’t even hear it, but I can get so extremely worked out by it and go into an anxious panic attack trying to get the sound to stop.

Another ridiculous one for me is the sound of polystyrene. Breaking it into pieces or just the pieces rubbing against each other. It feels to me like a million tiny worms are boring a hole throughout my body leaving me unable to move. That is how it feels as soon as I hear that unique sound.

For people who suffer from this condition, the triggering sounds can be similar to what it would be like for the everyday person to hear nails on a chalkboard. In general, these triggers are sounds that do not bother other people, or that they barely notice.

The exact causes of misophonia are not known though, but there are a number of factors that may play a role and give an insight into what might be occurring.

  • Brain chemistry: Some research suggests that people with misophonia may have greater connectivity between the anterior insular cortex (AIC), an area of the brain important in emotional processing, and the auditory cortex.
  • Other mental conditions: People who also have obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), Tourette syndrome, and anxiety disorders are also more likely to have misophonia.  
  • Tinnitus: Misophonia is more common in people who also have tinnitus, a condition in which people hear noises, often a ringing sound, that no one else can hear.
  • Genetics: Misophonia tends to run in families, so it is likely there is a genetic component that increases the risk of developing the condition.

Luckily, there are more treatments available in today’s modern age. From therapy to using white noise machines to counter the sound. Some people might struggle with it in a mild condition while others really need to plan their days around it. However you might be experiencing it, just remember, there is help and it is always worthwhile to speak to a medical professional to seek advice and start treatment to reduce your discomfort.

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