What It's Like to Live With Misophonia?

31 August, 2020
For those who live with misophonia, it can be torturous for individuals unless they develop proper strategies for coping with the situation. This rare problem isn't even recognized as an official illness.

Misophonia is one of those conditions that remains invisible to almost everyone. Those who live with misophonia live in absolute torture as the result of insignificant noises that most other individuals don’t even notice. For example, the sound of a person chewing gum, the pitter-patter of the rain, of the scratching of a pencil on paper.

What makes things even worse is that many health professionals disregard the complaints of those who experience misophonia. They tend to label these patients as maniacs, bipolar, or schizophrenic.

To live with misophonia is no small feat. Patients not only have to deal with the suffering that they encounter in the face of constant intolerable stimuli. They must also face the generalized lack of understanding of the problem. What’s more, there’s no treatment currently available for this selective hypersensitivity to sound. 

What is misophonia?

The term misophonia literally means “hatred toward noise”. It refers to a disorder in which individuals express a disproportional rejection toward everyday noises. It’s defined as a pathological form of acoustic sensitivity.

When people with this disorder hears certain noises, they experience irritation and a desire to scream or hit something. Noises as common as the sounds of breathing can produce feelings of rage, anxiety, and panic.

Not all people with misophonia are sensitive to the same sounds. The most common triggers have to do with food–chewing, sipping, swallowing, etc. However, annoying noises like the creaking of a chair or the tapping of fingers can also be triggers.

Sensitivity to noise.
Patients with misophonia suffer on a daily basis due to insignificant sounds.

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The causes and symptoms of misophonia

Misophonia was only recognized as a medical issue in the 90s. However, the scientific community has yet to entirely accept it as an illness. To date, there are few doctors that are competent when it comes to diagnosing misophonia.

Everything seems to indicate that people suffer from this disorder due to a neurological problem. According to available research, these individuals display unusual activity in the anterior insula. Experts believe there to be an anomaly in the processing of emotions, derived from perception.

This problem is cataloged as a symptom more than a clinical condition in an of itself. It tends to appear during childhood, but there are cases of misophonia arising later in life. Besides extreme selective sensitivity to sound and the anxiety this produces, there are no other visible manifestations of this condition.

There are no specific tests for determining whether a person is suffering from misophonia or not. Rather, diagnosis is usually the result of observing an individual’s reaction to certain sounds. While many people may have a distaste for certain sounds, those who live with misophonia display disproportionate reactions.

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What is it like to live with misophonia?

A woman covering her ears.
Diagnosing misophonia isn’t easy, since there’s no specific diagnostic test available for detecting this disorder.

Misophonia completely alters a person’s life. One of the first consequences is social isolation and the loss of one’s family support system. Depending on how great a person’s intolerance is toward everyday sounds, he or she may need to isolate from others in order to avoid extreme discomfort and anxiety. This is especially true since the aversion almost always has to do with noises another person makes.

The situation can be very tiring and impede individuals from working away from home because doing so exposes them to constant noise. The inability to eliminate sounds like a computer keyboard or someone else’s breathing limits a person’s chances of social integration.

Those who live with misophonia sometimes choose to use headphones and listen to music all the time, since most don’t have an aversion to melodious sound. This allows them to distance themselves from the noises in their environment. In the same way, individuals may use earplugs, noise-canceling headphones, or noise-canceling helmets.

Is there anything that can be done?

Currently, there is no treatment for misophonia. Just the same, there are several investigations underway regarding the issue.

In the meantime, patients should work on developing adaptive behaviors. In other words, discover strategies that prevent the need for social isolation. Psychotherapy is especially beneficial in these cases.

Relaxation and meditation techniques can also be helpful. They offer effective tools for overcoming anxiety once it appears. In any case, it’s important for patients to talk with their close friends and family so they can be aware of the condition and understand it.

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