Letter to Friends, Family, and Co-workers
I’m giving you this letter to explain a condition called misophonia.
This disorder is not well-known to the public. As research continues, this should change. So far, misophonia presents as a neurological condition. This means it is a problem that affects the nervous system.
Symptoms & Triggers
People who have misophonia have strong negative emotional reactions to certain sounds. These reactions range from annoyance to disgust or even extreme rage. Many mouth and nasal sounds are problems for people with misophonia. Chewing, slurping, sniffling or breathing are common problems for people with misophonia. But other things can be triggers too: the sound of a pen clicking, heel-tapping, typing or crinkling are also problem sounds. Most people don’t pay attention to the sounds that bother those who have misophonia. Also, some people also have visual triggers. They can have the same reactions by seeing certain things. These visual triggers might include jiggling legs or other repetitive movements.
Each person has individualized triggers and reactions. Mild cases may involve being tense or feeling irritated. More severe cases can involve outbursts of anger. And perhaps the visualization of violent encounters. In most cases, people exposed to a trigger will want to make the noise stop immediately. They may also immediately remove themselves from the source of the sound.
People with misophonia have no control over what will trigger them. They also have limited control over their reactions once triggered. The problematic sounds automatically produce an emotional reaction. And those reactions often include a fight or flight reflex. This autonomic response is the same as when a person perceives there to be a harmful event occurring.
Many people with misophonia think they are the only ones with sound sensitivity. Some report that before learning of misophonia, they thought they were “crazy.” Or that they were somehow odd, impatient, and very different from other people. To them, their situation seemed unique. But, people with misophonia are very aware that other people don’t react to sounds the way they do.
Those with misophonia may try many different things to avoid or cope with their triggers. They often employ the use of earplugs and headphones. Also, they might eat in isolation or avoid people/places that contain trigger sounds. Using medications or alcohol/drugs are other possible coping methods. Psychological approaches such as therapy or counseling are possible ways to cope. Unfortunately, none of these strategies appear to provide universally effective relief. Misophonia leaves people feeling misunderstood, isolated and hopeless. In extreme cases, sufferers may become depressed.
Those with misophonia are unable to tune out typical background noise. They can experience information overload, making concentration at work or school difficult. Their situation can be so intense that it sometimes makes them want to drop out of school or quit a job. Special accommodations at work or school can be a big help.
Family members and friends don’t always understand the nature of this condition. They may tell the sufferer to “get used to the sound” or to ignore their triggers. It is helpful to note that a person with misophonia doesn’t choose to be sensitive to certain sounds. Nor can they decide what to be sensitive to or whether to react in some manner to their trigger sounds.
People sometimes make trigger sounds on purpose to antagonize the person with misophonia. This action can be very upsetting to a person with misophonia. Most people don’t taunt others with neurological disorders like autism or epilepsy. But misophonia is not very well understood. So those with this “new” disorder are not always given similar accommodation.
Imagine the typical reaction most people have to fingernails scratching down a chalkboard. Some people find this extremely irritating, and some find it intolerable. People with misophonia have a similar reaction as this to their trigger sounds. But it happens to them a LOT and over common, everyday sounds. But the reaction to misophonia is much more intense and is automatic. It can include actual panic and ever-growing anger.
A person with misophonia can respond with annoyance or anger towards a trigger sound. When they do, it can be frustrating for the person making the sound. In that emotional moment, it can be difficult to distinguish between the noise and its maker. It’s not hard to see that this reaction can lead to tension between people. Awareness of this possibility can help both parties during the trigger event.
In conclusion, I hope this letter has given you a basic understanding of misophonia. Thank you for taking the time to read the letter. I know you may have questions, and I’d like to answer them and further discuss the subject with you.
Here is a website that provides information about misophonia: Misophonia Online
There is a Facebook group called the Misophonia Alliance. It provides support to people who are in a relationship with a person misophonia (family, friends, spouses, co-workers, etc.)