For most people, the sound of someone chomping on their food can be slightly annoying. For some though these kinds of sounds can be reason enough to fill them with rage and fury.

Fight or flight

The sound of someone smacking their lips or clicking their pen makes a person who deals with misophonia want to scream or hit out. This disease is so much more than being a bit irritated by everyday sounds. For people with misophonia it can be hard or even impossible to just live their lives. You can compare the physical and emotional reactions with the ‘fight or flight response’: it leads to feelings of anxiety, panic and rage.

Losing control

So how do you know that your reaction to certain sounds may not be completely normal?

Look out for these symptoms:

  • irritation turning into anger
  • disgust turning into anger
  • becoming verbally aggressive to the person making the noise
  • getting physically aggressive with objects because of the noise
  • physically lashing out to the person making the noise
  • taking evasive action around people making trigger sounds

Studies also found that people with misophonia experience a number of physical reactions such as:

  • pressure throughout the body, especially the chest
  • muscle tightness
  • increases in blood pressure
  • more rapid heartbeat
  • increases in body temperature

Eating and more

Dutch researchers found out that eating sounds are the most common triggers (81%). Loud breathing or nose sounds (64,3%) and finger – or hand sounds (59,5%) are popular triggers too.

People typically start showing symptoms in their late childhood and early teenage years. It mostly starts with one specific sound, but additional sounds can bring on the response over time. You realize your reaction to the sounds is quite excessive and the intensity of your feelings can make you think you’re losing control.

Sometimes even thinking about the sound the noises that trigger misophonia can make people feel stressed and ill at ease. In general people with misophonia show more symptoms of anxiety, depressions and neuroses than others. One study found that 52.4 percent of its participants with misophonia could also be diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD).

misophonia

Teach yourself to cope

So what to do when you have this disorder? The bad news is that there’s no specific medication or treatment yet. There are different ways to learn yourself cope and find some relief.

Tips for managing sound sensitivity include:

  • using headphones and music to drown out trigger noises
  • wearing earplugs to limit noise intrusion
  • opting for seating on buses and in restaurants that distance trigger sounds
  • practice self-care with rest, relaxation, and meditation to reduce stress
  • when possible, leave situations where there are trigger sounds
  • seek out a supportive doctor or therapist
  • speak calmly and frankly with friends and loved ones to explain misophonia

And one more important thing: telling a person with misophonia to just ignore those triggering sounds is the same as telling a person with depression to ‘snap out of it’. It’s not helpful and can make the person who’s facing this struggle feel even more lonely.

Support groups like Misophonia International give useful information and bridge the gap between research and those affected by the condition.