Do you find yourself clenching your teeth or hands, wanting to scream with rage or bash something for what seems like no reason, except that someone nearby is clicking a pen, munching on carrots, or slurping their drink? Have your loved ones and friends laughed at you because you feel such strong emotional responses to sounds others don’t even seem to notice?
Then you may have misophonia. It’s literally a condition that’s “hatred of sound.” Not all sounds, but specific ones that trigger a negative, very real physical response.
People who have this are disturbed by harmless stimuli of ordinary sounds that trigger rage. Such sounds as other people brushing teeth, eating, breathing, sniffing, talking, sneezing, yawning, walking, chewing gum, laughing, snoring, whistling or coughing; certain consonants; or repetitive sounds. Loud or soft it doesn’t matter to the offended.
Sounds silly, right? Not to the one that has it. Like me.
There is no cure. The noise can put the sufferer in full force fight-or-flight response.
My top noise triggers:
1. Animals licking themselves
This sound literally drives me INSANE. Ask my husband and son who laugh at me every time our cats do it. I yell at the cats to stop and either must leave the room – or toss them (with affection of course. Animal-lovers please take note). The worst offenders are dogs. Visiting friends with them can be hard. When secret friendly toe-nudges in the dog’s side don’t work I have to make up an excuse to leave the room (dog owners beware!)
What are you eight years old? Folks who do this at the water fountain at work need to read the sign I posted over it. NO SLURPING.
3. Nail clipping
A message to the men who seem to do this at every job I have had: STOP! This is only done in your bathroom at home. And did you ever wonder where those clippers go? I’ve confiscated several when you weren’t at your desk. I rummaged through your drawers until I found the offending item.
Clip. Clip. Clip.
Bash. Bash. Bash.
4. Munching Cheerios
Okay, I forgive my husband for this one. The man eats Cheerios every day of his life. He’s too nice a guy to yell at, so I leave the room. This is why we never eat breakfast together. If he switched to oatmeal we could be okay. I even forgive his occasional coffee slurp, but the dirty look reigns.
Misophonia is a complicated and little understood disorder that affects a person’s sensitivity to noise. The word ‘misophonia’ was invented by Dr. Pawel Jastreboff to try and clear up the misunderstanding. Misophonia can also be associated with tinnitus, a noise or ringing in the ears that affects 1 in 5 people.
Misophonia segment on The Today Show
Do you have misophonia? If certain sounds drive you to a flood of reflexive rage and panic with a storm of fight-or-flight reactions (adrenaline flooding, face flushing, heart-pounding) then you could.
Folks with this disorder have sometimes been categorized as having Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Nothing to be laughed at, this sound intolerance condition can have a negative impact on your life affecting social interactions and work or family life. It doesn’t mean that a person with this is sad or depressed. It’s a sound sensitivity syndrome to be managed.
How to overcome your noise sensitivity?
1. Know your noise triggers and remove yourself from the situation or add other noise to drown out the offending one.
2. Do what makes you happy! Don’t let this sensitivity stop you from doing what you love.
3. Try and visualize the sound being something else. For example, nail clipping as the clipping of rose bushes (doesn’t work for me, but let me know if it does for you!).
4. Talk to your doctor if it’s affecting your quality of life.
Are you sensitive to certain noises? What sorts of sounds literally drive you into a rage?
Randi Sherwood says
My daughter has this – she can’ stand crunching! Like chips, crackers, popcorn or even vegetables & lettuce. But unfortunately for her others can’s stop making these noises, and she can’t leave the table when we are all eating. I can only imagine what will happen when her “future” husband crunches his food, poor thing. So, she has gone to the school of hard knocks in our house, we try not to make too much noise but that’s not always possible.
Randi, that must make it quite difficult for her. I wonder if visualizing the noise being something else would help her? Or having other other noise to drown it out, like music on with dinner.
Coughing, rustling of plastic bags, a metal spoon stiring against a ceramic bowl and all loud noises are the things that unhinge me. I nearly have a panic attack when exposed to loud noises. Interesting post. I didn’t realize there were others this sensitive to noise.
Tori, some loud noises bother me too. Have you tried any techniques to help you deal with loud noises that put you in a panic? Often, its the soft ones that jar me though. I think this is why I like to write at Wegman’s as the low droning buzz blots things out for me. I can’t write at the library as when noises do happen in the still quiet it’s very jarring to me
My biggest technique is to avoid loud places if I can. I have a hard time voluteering with the girls scouts. The tone and volume of girls voices in a room full of hard surfaces is impossible for me to tolerate without a panic response. I also avoid certain restaurants. The other sounds, I either leave the room or try to breathe.
Merry Jones says
Thanks for posting this! My daughter has this BIGTIME. She complains that I breathe too loud, can’t tolerate the dog’s snoring, freaks when people chew gum around her–or (God forgive them) smack their lips. I heard about this condition about a year ago and was relieved to find out she wasn’t just being difficult, that she had a condition with a name. She also has mild OCD and takes anxiety pills, which help a little. But I still breathe carefully when she’s in the room.
Merry, it’s hard that it’s also mixed in with OCD and anxiety issues as well. You must be relieved to know now what the issue is and to work around it. My mother would suck her teeth as a habit at times and the noise was so stressful to me that I had to leave the room or yell at her – for not doing anything wrong. But I’m sure it’s hard to breath quietly. Does adding other noise help her? Even a white noise machine, perhaps? I have to wonder if this issue is something more and more people are experiencing nowadays with life stress on the rise and more expected of us all the faster our society moves. Would be fascinating to see a study done on this. Thanks for sharing!
Heather Stoner says
I just talked to Randi about this blog entry and had to come read it. I think I have this too. I don’t feel rage or flushed, but I feel stress in the pit of my stomach and severe annoyance. My poor husband, he’s not allowed to whistle, rub his hands together, lick his lips, chew with his mouth open (which is gross regardless), turn the turn signal on in the car before he’s about to turn, the list goes on and on. My dad has tinnitus, I wonder if there is a connection.
Oh Heather – I’m laughing and cringing all at the same time. I am so wondering now if more females have this than males. And if so – why? And I get so annoyed as my hubby puts his turn signal on a mile before he turns PLUS he beeps any ANY CAR that seems like it may pull out in front of him or get near him like he’s a little old lady. I had not heard of rubbing hands together – but I know whistling bothers many. I love to whistle but will make sure not to do around you. 🙂
THANK YOU for posting this. It’s gotten much worse for me over the last few years. I had to laugh because of what you said about your husband and wanting him to eat oatmeal. My husband DOES it oatmeal every day, and it drives me CRAZY. The sounds his lips make with the oatmeal in his mouth, that little smacky sound….OMG. Makes me want to run away just typing about it. Sniffling is my biggest trigger, though. I want to start carrying around small packets of tissues to give to people to use so that I won’t have to listen to them sniffling. Eating is easier to get away from; I eat alone while at work. It was such a relief to find other people who have this!