Learn About Misophonia and Therapy Options

by Barbara Foster

Do you feel anger from a particular noise every time you hear it? Has it made you feel anxious or hatred toward whatever might be making it? If so, you may have a newly identified disorder known as misophonia. Misophonia has not been classified as a discrete disorder in DSM-5, but psychiatrists have developed a diagnostic criteria and have recommended its classification as its own separate psychiatric disorder. While most people do not particularly enjoy sounds such as chewing, heavy breathing, repetitive tapping, or snapping gum, misophonia goes beyond a simple dislike of a certain noise. A specific noise acts as a trigger and sends an individual into varying degrees of anger and rage. Doctors and researchers are beginning to study this disorder more to provide answers and strategies for therapy for people who suffer from it.

About Misophonia

Misophonia is often referred to as selective sound sensitivity syndrome, or 4S. The definition of misophonia is the hatred of sound. The disorder does not particularly have to do with loud noises or loud volume. It is different from tinnitus, which is a ringing in the ears. An individual with misophonia has an intense and immediate negative emotional response to a trigger that is bothersome. Noises that are triggers are typically background noises, but can be either loud or soft. For example, a trigger could be the specific sound made by another person chewing crunchy food such as almonds or celery. Upon hearing this trigger, the individual might feel uncomfortable, agitated, or defensive. It could be hard for a person without misophonia to understand what a reaction from a trigger feels like. They might think that the person suffering needs to be more patient or tolerant when it comes to hearing and dealing with the noise. However, triggers can be absolutely unbearable to deal with for an individual with misophonia. An individual without misophonia might think of nails on a chalkboard as a reference point. Hearing this sound makes most people want to cover their ears and shout, "stop it!" This is similar to how a trigger feels for a person with misophonia.

Triggers are generally noises made by other people. There are eating triggers such as chewing, nail biting, scraping teeth on silverware, lip smacking, throat clearing, and wet mouth sounds. Breathing and nasal triggers can include grunting, screaming, sniffing, breathing, yawning, and hiccups. Body movement triggers can include tapping, typing, finger snapping, flip flop noises, and nail clipping. Triggers are not limited to these and can be any noise that causes feelings of hatred and disgust.

There is much research being done to understand everything about misophonia. Right now, it is understood that there are different degrees to which an individual might experience emotional reactions to triggers. At the most basic level, people will feel that a noise is annoying to them, but they do not have a major negative experience with the sound. Then, there are individuals who feel very tense and angry from hearing a trigger. They may feel the need to leave the room if they are hearing the trigger and have probably left the room on a number of occasions. Those who suffer to a larger degree feel a sense of panic in regard to leaving the room. They also might feel a need to say something or snap at the other person making the noise. At slightly stronger levels, a person might feel a need to sarcastically mimic the noise to point out how obnoxious they feel it is. They also feel incredibly distracted by the sound and cannot focus until it stops. At the most intense levels of misophonia, an individual will have a need to forcefully make the sound stop. Sometimes, this involves self harm as a distraction until it stops. They think about committing acts of violence to make the trigger stop, such as punching or choking the person making the noise.

Treatment

Since misophonia has only recently been formally identified and research is still being conducted on the best treatment and therapy options, there is no universally accepted treatment method at this time. Some different types of therapy that could possibly be used for treatment include Cognitive Behavorial Therapy, Neurofeedback, Tinnitus Retraining Therapy, and psycho-therapeutic hypnotherapy. There are some steps people can take outside of therapy to help deal with misophonia as well. A person could wear headphones and listen to music when they are in a setting where they might hear a trigger noise. They could also wear ear plugs. There is also an in-ear device that can be purchased which omits white noise for the wearer to hear. The goal outcome for the device is to gradually decrease the volume over time until it is no longer needed. Some support groups exist where people who suffer from misophonia can go to discuss how they deal with it. Hopefully, in the coming years, more effective therapy options will be developed by therapists specializing in misophonia.

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