Did you know that one in five people are so averse to loud noises that it hinders their everyday life? For many living with Misophonia, even the most basic tasks can become near impossible to complete if a specific sound is disrupting their mindset.
So let’s take a closer look at Misophonia and why this mysterious psychiatric disorder is affecting so many people and their everyday lives.
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Misophonia, Misophonic Disorder or Sound Sensitivity Syndrome as it’s sometimes known, is a poorly understood psychiatric disorder characterized by extreme negative emotions triggered by a hatred of sound. Misophonia sufferers are often unable to control their physiological reactions to certain noises and auditory stimulation.
They experience strong emotional reactions from sound sensitivities that vary from person to person. These include intense anger, anxiety, disgust, fear, sadness, and even physical pain. While some individuals with Misophonia feel better when around loud noise that masks quieter trigger sounds, others become enraged by adding more annoying sounds and would rather sit in silence.
For some, this comes hand-in-hand with a heightened response to visual stimuli as well as low sound tolerance. Some may find that visual stimuli distract from the sounds and background noise, while others, especially those with comorbid conditions such as Autism Spectrum Disorder or Generalized Anxiety Disorder, may find it adds to the sensory overload.
People with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), especially Misophonia, typically report feeling annoyed, irritated, disgusted or angry when exposed to everyday sound triggers. Misophonic triggers include chewing noises, breathing deeply, eating food, talking too loudly, laughing, crying, sneezing, coughing, or clicking sounds. It’s the strong physical reflex and emotional reflex that means it’s often labeled as an explosive disorder.
Some people with misophonia report experiencing negative physical reactions as well as mental reactions. Examples of both include anxiety, fear, panic attacks, depression, insomnia, headaches, stomach aches, nausea, dizziness, muscle tension, fatigue, tinnitus, ringing ears, and vertigo.
The most common trigger of a misophonic reaction is hearing another person make noise. For example, you might hear someone chew gum while sat next to you on the bus, or laugh during a movie. You might notice that you become irritated when you hear someone yawning or blowing their nose.
Other triggers include motor sounds such as someone tapping their fingers, or oral sounds such as lip-smacking, breathing, and chewing. Masking these common sounds helps alleviate some effects of Misophonia, but not in every case.
Many people who experience Misophonia don’t even realize they have it. But those who do say they’re feeling very isolated and distressed. They describe aversive sounds as extremely unpleasant or annoying, and experiencing physical symptoms of anxiety.
Some people with Misophonia report being triggered by everyday noises such as chewing gum popping, tapping fingers against desks, or even breathing. Others are triggered by specific sounds, including crying babies, barking dogs, or slamming doors.
People who suffer from misophonic symptoms usually describe themselves as being under constant attack from misophonia triggers. They might say things like, “I’m always angry,” or “My brain feels like it’s exploding.” Others describe having a sense of impending doom, or feeling like they’re constantly under attack. The physiological response can feel like the fight-or-flight response is constantly switched on as a result, and thus be exhausting.
There are many theories about what might cause Misophonia, including genetics, brain chemistry, and even environmental factors like stress. But scientists don’t know exactly why it happens.
Some researchers think that misophonia could be caused by abnormal connections between parts of the brain responsible for processing sound and those involved in emotions, otherwise known as the auditory cortex. Others believe that there may be a link to serotonin levels, while some suggest that misophonia’s relationship with the auditory cortex is closely linked to anxiety disorders.
Most sufferers report having had strong reactions to loud sounds in their daily life since childhood (Pediatric Misophonia), though some say they developed a later diagnosis of Misophonia because of trauma.
Misophonia is known to be comorbid with many other chronic conditions and mental disorders as well as neurodevelopmental disorders such as Autism and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). These include Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
There’s no known cure for misophonia, but some neurodivergent people find relief from treatment for Misophonia that helps reduce the intensity of their reaction to trigger sounds. These include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, medication, and sound masking devices.
CBT teaches patients how to identify triggers and learn coping strategies. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is used for a variety of personality disorders including Comorbid Obsessive-Compulsive Spectrum Disorder and Bipolar Disorder (BPD). CBT doesn’t “cure” misophonic reactions in Autistic people, but rather teaches coping strategies to mitigate negative behavioral responses as they occur and turn them into something more positive.
Some medications can help calm emotional responses and negative reactions that come with Misophonia. That’s especially the case for anxiety-based conditions such as PTSD, Bipolar Disorder, and Comorbid Obsessive-Compulsive Spectrum Disorder, where sound triggers a trauma response and increased brain activity.
In recent years, sound masking devices have appeared on the market such as the Flare Audio Calmer earbuds that offer a life-changing experience by reshaping the ear canal. These earbuds are designed to filter out triggering frequencies from reaching the auditory cortex whilst keeping a level of volume that makes everyday life manageable.
It has a similar effect to those who use neutral sounds such as white noise to mask symptoms of Misophonia. In this way, the filtering of frequencies can also help with conditions that affect daily functioning such as Tinnitus.
With the right help and support, anyone with Misophonia can enhance their quality of life, whether that’s through CBT, sound therapy, or using a product like the Calmer earbuds. Everyone’s experience of Misophonia is different, so it’s vital for us all to communicate and be respectful of the demands of others, no matter how irrational we feel they may be to ourselves.
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Last Updated on December 23, 2022 by Neurodadversity
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