Doctors look at research and identify treatment for misophonia

All people dislike some sounds. Whether it is nails on the chalkboard, a burp, someone slurping their drink loudly, or chewing with their mouth open, there are sounds most of us classify as rude and inconsiderate. The sounds don’t necessarily have to be loud or hurt your ears; they may just be impolite or gross. But for some people, the sounds are more than irritating. They are disgusting and should be stopped. A person may find himself focusing on the sounds, becoming angry, unreasonable, or uncontrolled. Someone with Misophonia, even though they realize their actions and thoughts are irrational, still wonder why no one else is disturbed by the sounds. Why can’t other people be as considerate as I am? What is it about chewing gum? Is the whole world crazy?

The difference between most people and those with Misophonia is that some normal, everyday sounds are not just mildly irritating and not worthy of attention, but are intensified to the point of being painful. Painful because they never stop, painful because many times you are stuck in that place and there is no escape, painful because there’s no control, either over the sound or one’s reaction to it. Irritation becomes disgust, disgust becomes anger, and anger may become fear.

A handful of professionals in various disciplines — among them, psychiatry, psychology, and audiology — have been laying the groundwork for the identification of and treatment for Misophonia. Current research suggests that Misophonia is caused by “enhanced connections between the autonomic and limbic systems and the central auditory processing network,” which identifies and intensifies specific sounds, creating negative associations with those sounds which then causes anxiety and anger. It’s a misdirected survival mechanism in the brain.

Imagine yourself at home at about 6:30 in the evening, expecting someone (spouse, parent, or friend) to walk in the house at any moment. Imagine that this happens almost every day at about the same time. When that person arrives, you hear a key in the door, the door opens and you hear footsteps at the door. No alarm bells go off and maybe, some days, you don’t even hear it happening because you’re so used to it. Now, listen to the exact same sounds — a key in the door, the door opening, and footsteps at the door. The difference is that it is 3:30 in the morning. Your reaction is TOTALLY different. You are fully awake, your heart is pounding, and you listen closely to determine what is happening and what you should do next. Your life may be in danger. This reaction is intended to help keep you alive. The problem with someone with Misophonia is that they have that same reaction all the time to completely normal sounds. Sounds that could, in the extreme, be irritating, but it doesn’t have to be in the extreme for someone with Misophonia to react in this way. And it happens daily – at home, at work, at school. There is no escaping these sounds. Sometimes even isolation doesn’t work.

Since Misophonia usually starts surfacing between the ages of eight and fourteen, a child with Misophonia is thought to be difficult simply because of their age. They’re just being a kid. But while Misophonia looks like an uncooperative child, it is a child in turmoil with a condition which, without professional, knowledgeable help, will continue on this path and, in all likelihood, will become worse. They are not making it up. They are not imagining it.

While it is known by only a few and understood by even less, Misophonia is real and there is help.

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