Published on Jan 23, 2020 and last reviewed on Jan 12, 2023 - 4 min read
If you cannot stand the sound of others chewing or biting, or if these sounds drive you crazy, then this article might give you some answers. Read about the causes, triggers, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options for misophonia.
Do certain sounds irritate or drive you crazy, but others seem to be fine with it? It can be a sign of misophonia, which is defined as a strong hatred for certain sounds. It is a disorder where specific sounds trigger unreasonable emotional or physiological responses. On hearing the sound, patients either get angry or annoyed or feel like running away. This condition is also called selective sound sensitivity syndrome.
Most people find noises made by others while eating, breathing, or chewing to be the triggers for misophonia. Some of the other sounds that act as a trigger are typing, finger-snapping, pen-tapping, and sound of the car wiper. In some cases, people with misophonia also have a similar reaction to repetitive actions.
Misophonia in ancient Greek means “hatred of sound.” A study that was conducted recently showed marked differences in the brain structure and the way their brain reacts to hearing trigger sounds on an MRI. In severe cases, these sounds can also cause a fight-or-flight response, which can lead to isolation, depression, and avoidance. As this condition was identified recently, there are no criteria for diagnosing this disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). Some doctors are in support of including this condition under “Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders.”
There are various sounds that can trigger this, but the most common triggering sounds are:
Clearing the throat.
Smacking the lips together.
Slamming the car doors.
Sound of crickets and other insects.
Sometimes, the following visual triggers can also result in misophonia:
Getting angry or becoming aggressive on hearing people make certain sounds is the characteristic sign of misophonia. Different people react to the sounds at different intensity. Some patients might get annoyed or irritates, while others may feel the need to run away. This condition can affect both men and women of any age, but symptoms usually develop during the teenage years.
These are the most common responses or symptoms of misophonia:
Verbally or physically abusing the person making the sound.
Throwing or breaking the object making noise (like a clock).
Avoiding the person who is making the noise.
An urge to flee.
Even thinking about these sounds can trigger symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression in such individuals. Apart from the symptoms that are listed above, the triggering sounds can also cause the following physical reactions:
A rise in body temperature.
Such patients avoid social gatherings, eat alone, do not go to restaurants, etc., which can lead to depression.
People with OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder), anxiety disorder, and Tourette syndrome are found to be more prone to develop misophonia, but the exact cause is still not known. This condition also affects people with tinnitus, which is a condition that results in ringing or other sounds in your ears.
As of now, there are no standard diagnostic criteria for misophonia. For years, misophonia was misdiagnosed as with anxiety disorder, phobias, and mental conditions. The following unique characteristics can be used to distinguish misophonia from other conditions:
The symptoms of misophonia usually start between the ages of 9 and 12.
Women are more susceptible than men.
Such people have higher IQs.
New triggers can develop over time.
It often runs in families.
Misophonia has to be differentiated from hyperacusis (heightened sensitivity to particular sounds), which can be checked by an ENT surgeon.
There is no cure for this disorder, but the symptoms can be managed with the following treatment options:
Tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT) - patients are taught how to tolerate different sounds better.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) - it helps recondition the patient to handle the negativity associated with triggering sounds. Listen to sounds of nature, waves, rain, etc., reduces the symptoms by 85 %.
Counseling - counseling is done for both the patient and his or her family.
There are no medications available to treat misophonia, as of now. Most people feel better and can handle the condition with the help of these treatment options.
Here are some things that you can try to help relieve symptoms of misophonia:
Use headphones or earplugs to reduce trigger noises.
Perform relaxation exercises and meditation to reduce stress.
Sit away from other people in a restaurant and bus.
If you find it hard to manage sounds, then leave the place if possible.
Talk to your family and friends about the sounds that you do not like.
Maintaining sleep hygiene and having a proper sleep schedule is helpful.
Using sound protection or noise cancellation device when required.
Never ask a person with misophonia to just ignore the sounds and try to be fine with them, as it will not be of much help. This condition is similar to depression and needs proper management by a healthcare professional. If your child has this condition and if you are not sure how to help your kid, consult a psychiatrist online now.
People with misophonia tend to react in an aggressive manner to simple everyday sounds, such as clicking a pen continuously, chewing sounds, snoring, breathing sounds, cough sounds, sounds of keys, etc. In such conditions, they get angry easily and even attack the person creating the sounds or break and damage the objects. So if a person gets easily triggered by such sounds, they may have misophonia.
Upon the presence of auditory triggers, misophonic people get irritated, agitated, develop a feeling of disgust, hatred, and fear.
The root cause of misophonia is not yet clear. But scientists believe that it is due to the abnormal way the nervous system perceives and reacts to these normal or irritating sounds.
A person can develop misophonia all of a sudden. Also, triggers of misophonia can instantly drive such people crazy and respond in an inappropriate manner.
Misophonia may or may not worsen with age. New potential triggers can also develop with progressing age.
Misophonia is not a form of autism, but misophonia can coexist or co-occur with autism spectrum disorders.
Although inconclusive, studies reveal that misophonia could be quite common, with at least 20% of the population being affected, especially girls of the pre-pubertal age group. But still, it is regarded as a rare disorder.
Misophonia is not a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder, but it can co-occur or coexist with it and several other disorders like eating disorders, personality disorders, etc.
Misophonia is found to occur in people with existing anxiety disorders. The role of anxiety in misophonia is unknown.
Misophonia is due to an abnormal autonomic response of the human brain to potential triggers that do not trigger such reactions in the majority population. It does not hold a place in the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (DSM-5), which is used by the mental health experts of the United States.
It is a rare disorder and is not considered a disability as of now due to limited conclusive studies and research.
Frequently exposing oneself to triggering factors voluntarily can help in its management. Tinnitus training therapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy are also beneficial. Audiologists, psychologists, and mental health experts will be able to help people with misophonia.
- Use earphones when in areas with possible triggers like a public gathering, restaurant, etc.
- Use hearing aids that constantly emit inbuilt sounds.
- Practice stress management techniques.
- Psychological or behavioral counseling sessions can also be beneficial.
- Tinnitus training therapy.
There is no permanent cure for this condition at present; however, management methods are available to deal with misophonia and associated symptoms.
Last reviewed at:
12 Jan 2023 - 4 min read
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