I have a condition called Misophonia.
I didn’t realize I had it until I was in my late thirties. I mean, I knew something was wrong, but I didn’t know there was a name for it.
Misophonia is a condition in which a person reacts extremely negatively to certain sounds that most people take little or no notice of. (Misophonia.com)
I stumbled across an article online that explained all of these feelings I’d been having for years. It described the condition in such detail, of the emotional reactions I’d been having, that I sobbed after i read it. The words that escaped my lips were “thank you”.
I no longer felt crazy. I felt justified. Validated.
Misophonia is unknown to many and most times when I describe it, people will often say ‘oh yes, I have that. I hate it when…”
While people have pet peeves to some noises, it’s different for someone with Misophonia.
The closest I can come to describing having Misophonia is having a intense emotional reaction to certain noises. Where, upon hearing that noise, I want to run from a room screaming. Or, when on certain days when I’m hyper sensitive to my trigger noises (usually when I’m really stressed), I can feel my own blood pressure shoot sky high and I feel as if I want to rip my own skin from my own bones.
It sounds dramatic, I know.
But if you have Misophonia, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
I can be sitting on a crowded train, with people talking on the phone, people having conversations all around me and I will hear the man on the other side of the carriage jiggling his leg. All sounds disappear into the background and my sensory nerves will stand on end and zero in on the sound of his leg thump thump thumping on the carriage floor. It’s like a movie, where the spotlight goes straight to that sound and everything fades into the background.
I can be walking in a crowded pedestrian area and someone will be walking somewhere within a radius of about 25 feet of me wearing flip flops, dragging their feet. That scraping noise against the pavement. I have to stop in my tracks and wait until they are out of hearing distance before I can continue on. I have been known to scream out at them ‘pick up your fucking feet!’ before. Not a proud moment, for sure.
I can sit in a crowded café and tune everything out. It can be as loud as hell with people talking and people eating. Restaurant noises don’t bother me. In fact, I find it the perfect place to work. But here’s the hardest one for me to admit: I can’t eat dinner with my family without some kind of noise in the background. I can’t listen to my husband eat without wanting to cry. I can’t listen to my daughter chew without wanting to tell her to stop. I have to have some noise – television, music, anything – to drown out those same noises that don’t bother me in a noisy restaurant. I can even eat with them in a noisy restaurant and it doesn’t bother me – because I can’t hear them eating with all of the ambient noises.
I can be sitting at a table working, with my husband at the other end and he will start sniffing. All sense of concentration will leave my brain. Any thought will disappear where all I can hear is him sniffing. Sniff. Sniff. Sniff. I will ask him if he needs a tissue. I will strategically place tissues within his reach. Most times I will leave the room and count to ten just to keep my emotional reaction in check. I’ve been known to break down completely at this. On more than one occasion. It’s actually a pretty constant reaction.
What is Misophonia?
Most people who suffer – and I say that word carefully because we do suffer – have similar triggers. There is no cure.
Up until a few years ago, medical practictioners didn’t even known what we were talking about. I’ve had many doctors blow me off when I’ve tried to explain it.
There are now studies to determine the cause and hopefully find a cure, but it’s still new. Researchers are diving deep trying to understand the condition.
I put it down to a mental health issue. It is certainly something that triggers in our heads. Psychological or chemical, it’s unknown at this point.
Studies do show though that most of the time it begins in childhood and progressively gets worse as people age. Yeah, another yahoo for old age – not.
As mentioned, eating is a big one. I remember my mother eating at the kitchen table when I was young, hearing her jaw click when she ate. I remember saying something to her then about how it bothered me. I remember her telling me to get over it, that she couldn’t do anything about it. Telling me that I needed to focus on eating my meal. She was perplexed as I was.
I can’t standing people chewing gum. It’s like a cow chewing it’s cud. I can’t stand the sound of people chewing – period.
Sniffing is a major trigger for me. Rich is a sniffer. I have left tissues for Rich strategically around the house and in the car before, because when it’s cold or first thing in the morning, he’s a major sniffer. He doesn’t even know he does it . Many times, I have left the room. I’ve screamed at him. I’ve cried. It’s one thing for me that will trigger a meltdown. Some days I put headphones on so I don’t hear him. Other days I will be in a completely different part of a house so I don’t have to listen to him, but like that train carriage, there can be all kinds of other noises, but I will still hear him sniff. He’s learning, after many years and many meltdowns, to always have tissues around. We usually have three boxes in the car at any given time and I generally have a travel pack or two in my handbag.
If someone is near me, clicking a pen or tapping a pencil, I want to reach across and rip it from their hands.
If someone is humming, I have to leave the room completely. Whistling though doesn’t bother me.
If someone is speaking and they start smacking their lips, I don’t hear anything they are saying but their lip smacking. If someone does that auditory sound of filling silence while looking something up while on the phone, that da,da,da sound, I want to hang up the phone immediately.
People chewing nails. People tapping fingers repetitively. People running dry hands together.
All of these are triggers for me.
How I Cope with Misophonia
I guess I’m one of the ‘lucky ones’ because I’ve been coping with this for so long that I’ve learned some coping mechanisms:
I always having headphones around. It’s best if they are noise cancelling ones, but even those cannot completely block the noise when you have Misophonia. Believe me, I’ve invested a LOT in headphones and even the standard Apple ear pods work in a pinch.
I give myself permission to walk out of a room. If something has sparked a trigger, I will find some excuse to leave a room, if only temporarily. “Sorry, I just need to use the bathroom”, is a quick exit. While this doesn’t work on a plane, I have found that I can use this technique for a lot of scenarios. I will sometimes find something I have to suddenly ‘tend to’, which will have me leave a room quickly. While it’s not always socially acceptable, it’s better for me to be awkward, than to lose my shit on someone for something they may not even be aware they are doing.
I always have something on hand to distract me. If I’m on public transport, you’ll often find I have headphones on and my head in my phone (or a notebook or a paperback). But it has to be something that has my complete attention.
If I’m walking behind someone who’s dragging their feet, using wearing flip flops/thongs or slides, as I said, I will stop mid-step, let them continue on their way and, once I can’t hear them anymore, will continue myself. Slowly.
If I am eating, there always has to be some kind of noise in the background. A noisy restaurant. A television. Something.
If there is someone I care about who is sniffing, I will ask them to blow their nose or place tissues around the place strategically. I will also hand them a tissue directly. If it’s someone I don’t know who’s doing the sniffing, I have been known to ask: “May I offer you a tissue?”
Of course, I’m still learning. What I have to remind myself often times though is this is my issue, not theirs. It’s up to me to cope with it or remove myself from the situation.
Otherwise, you would have read about a crazy woman going ballistic on the train in Sydney about a year ago, on the guy who sat across from her, as he jiggled his leg, sniffed up a storm and chewed his nails while he chatted on the phone about last night’s football game. I was very close to losing it completely on him as I had not only left my headphones at home, but also my phone.
Where I Find Support When Travelling
I belong to a couple of Misophonia Facebook groups and I read posts in the Misophonia Forum (see the end of this post for more).
They are all supportive outlets.
I appreciate the Facebook groups because most people are on Facebook and it’s a safe place as these are closed groups. People share information, studies, as well as their challenges. It’s also a diverse group of people in these groups, from suicidal teens who think there is something seriously wrong with them, to older people who have given up all partner-type relationships because of the negative affects Misophonia has had on their lives.
We sometimes have people join who don’t know have Misophonia, but may find they have similar symptoms. They usually leave the group quickly when they understand their symptoms are surface symptoms and not truly Misophonia.
Because many practitioners don’t know about Misophonia, or don’t believe it to be real, many people in the group are self-diagnosed. But within these groups are doctors and researchers who validate that it truly is a real medical issue. Some have Misophonia themselves and it has compelled them to be the voice of this condition, or be the researcher all working toward finding help or a cure.
I follow the research. I follow the comments on the facebook groups. I support those young ones who struggle with it, offering them coping techniques that I’ve learned over the years. It’s something that can really have a negative effect on the psyche. My support in this is not something I take lightly.
Normally I am passive in asking for a share, but for this, I encourage you to share this information with friends and family.
Misophonia is still relatively unknown and the more information we can get out there, the better.
There is support for Misophonia:
I encourage anyone who feels they may have Misophonia, to please check out this website,: Misophonia.com
On that website, the Misophonia Support Forum is supportive and information.
I recently found this article from Psychology Today that describes the symptoms really well in an interview with a sufferer.
Facebook Misophonia Support groups:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/215425251964374/ — Australia and New Zealand support group
And of course, I’m always here should anyone have questions.