Have you ever noticed that the noise of someone eating or snoring infuriated or disturbed you so badly that you had to react somehow? Then you might have misophonia. Pretty name for a mental disorder.
Also called Selective Sound Sensitivity Syndrome (4s), misophonia is an intense reaction to various stimuli such as sounds or sights. It is a neurological condition that makes any specific stimuli initiate an immediate and involuntary response from your brain, triggering a feeling of extreme anger or anxiety. For instance, it can clench your jaw or tense your muscles and you feel the urge to get away from this noise by all means.
What is Misophonia?
Misophonia can occur at any age, it is triggered by an experience. One day you hear a specific, random sound, something happens in your head and it makes you flinch. Then it is likely to never stop. You will always have this protective reflex when hearing this sound. It can be anything; something that a healthy mind would not even notice. Chewing, breathing, fingers cracking, pen clicking, whistling, birds chirping… This has nothing to do with the volume of the sound, but with the sound itself. As soon as you hear it, even in a distance, you snap.
“Misos” means dislike or hatred, “phonia” means sound; Misophonia means ‘hatred of sounds’. This name was first mentioned in 2001 by Pawel and Margaret M. Jastreboff. The condition had only been considered an illness since 1990, it is recent, and this explains why it is not well recognized nowadays. Misophonia is not currently in the standard classification of mental disorders that mental health professionals are using, it is not a part of doctors’ trainings, though it can get very serious.
A pathology you can identify
Tom Dozier is a behaviorist who made a lot of research about misophonia. He wrote various articles on the topic, his name is most likely to come up if you search the net. On top of that, he holds daily sessions of support through the process of healing. According to him, severe enough misophonia can, if not treated, make every day a torture for its host. Sadly, it can even lead to suicide. Indeed, if a noise cannot be avoided, it attacks someone’s mental health really badly, since they feel assaulted by those sounds all the time.
Misophonia often comes with anxiety, depression or eating disorders. There is a scale evaluating the severity of one’s misophonia: the Amsterdam Misophonia Scale. It is based on the Yale-Brown Obsessive-Compulsive Scale made to measure OCDs. Consequently, it is a condition that is very easy to diagnose. It only takes a test with the triggers which can be very fast.
A pathology you can treat
Many treatments are available today to reduce misophonia severity. For instance, Chris Pearson developed a kind of hypnotherapy especially for it. Dozier’s Trigger Tamer Apps, designed to help and accompany people with misophonia throughout their therapy, provide an additional exercise. Dr. Mitchell’s cognitive behavioral treatment can also provide solutions. However, the first step towards healing is for the person to know what misophonia is, only then the different therapies have the chance to be efficient. There are as many different journeys to full recovery as people with misophonia. Usually, it takes 3 to 6 months of therapy to greatly reduce severity, if not heal completely.
Everything one needs is to understand that the fact that those reactions and violent thoughts that occur every time they hear or see something are not to be taken lightly; it is a disease and as a disease, it can be effectively treated and often eliminated.
A pretty name for a mental disorder
Today, almost every time I mention misophonia to someone, I am likely to get this answer: “What is misophonia?”. However, misophonia exists, you have already encountered it, maybe you live with it yourself. It affects 10 to 15 % of the population and definitely deserves your attention. Knowledge is the first step towards healing.
If you know someone struggling with it, you should know how to react: you should not get mad at them, neither should you try to “reason” them into not reacting, not paying attention. You should, instead, comfort them, because they could be having a really hard time: talk to them, help them relax. Take it seriously. This disorder needs to be acknowledged by the medicine institutions to make the diagnose easier and more accessible. It will be a lot more efficient if people know about it. From now on, when hearing the word “misophonia”, you will be able to understand what kind of suffering is hidden behind that beautiful name.
“Believe that it is real, because it is very real”
Ferrer-Torres, 2021, Covid and Misophonia
Dozier, Lopez, and Pearson, 2017 Diagnostic Criteria for Misophonia