In this first blog entry, I would like to touch upon the topic of Misophonia, since it is something I experience myself. Misophonia is not commonly known, which means there is usually not a lot of understanding or acceptance. As many people might be unfamiliar with this condition (officially it is not even considered a condition), I will first try to explain it.
Misophonia is defined as “the hatred of sound”. It relates to very specific sounds that lead to feelings like anger, sadness or anxiety. Those triggering sounds vary between individuals, but most people with this condition mention that many of their triggering sounds are made by mouths (e.g. chewing, breathing). Misophonia is not specified as an illness or disorder, because it is not considered serious enough to be treated and there are no diagnostic criteria and nearly no research on this topic.
I know that Misophonia can be quite challenging and indeed might have a huge impact on a person’s life. I will try to explain, how some situations can feel like and what kind of reactions triggering sounds cause. Everyone experiences it in a different way and has their own coping mechanisms, but when asking several people, similarities can be found quite often.
I, myself, experience a surge of anger, as soon as I become aware of a sound that triggers me. In my particular case those sounds include: Snoring, breathing, sniffing, coughing, chewing, ticking clocks, barking dogs (from a far distance only), bass sounds that are not loud enough to be identified as music and buzzing and humming sounds.
It is important to emphasize that I am not talking about the low-key annoyance most people experience when hearing those sounds, because that is not even close to what happens inside people with Misophonia. I am talking about having bodily reactions to these sounds, like an increasing heartbeat or pricking sensation in your ears.
When you have Misophonia, you are unable to focus on anything, as soon as you hear one of your triggering sounds. It becomes the only thing you are aware of and it just does not stop. The problem with most of these sounds is that they are quite repetitive, so it simply won’t go away. They become louder and louder, the more you are aware of them. You feel this incredible anger towards the sounds and everyone that is causing them.
I am a very friendly person and would usually never say or do something rude to someone, but in those moments, I become furious. It can become so bad that I start fantasizing about hurting people. I do not have an anger or violence problem, I never have the desire to do hurt someone, but in those moments, I feel like I might lose control. I get so angry and frustrated that I either get very harsh or have to leave the room, because otherwise I could not cope with my feelings.
It makes me want to cry sometimes and it can make me feel quite lonely and misunderstood if I try to explain it. Most people will just put me off by saying: ‘Get over it’ or ‘Focus on something else’ or ‘You are overreacting’. I often feel like the only people that really understand me, are the one’s suffering from Misophonia themselves. Since it is so difficult to explain these feelings to people who do not have it, I mostly do not even attempt to.
I try to deal with triggering sounds in different ways, many of them being either trying to cover up the sound, listening to music or distracting my senses by scratching my arm or hurting myself in any way, to avoid shouting or crying. However, in the end it usually comes down to leaving the room or creating the greatest possible distance.
I don’t want to leave social situations, but I have to. It is not fun to not be able to sleep next to your sibling, partner or friend, because they are breathing too loudly. It is not fun, having to leave the bed and sleep in the living room, kitchen or even bathroom, because you can’t stay near that person without going insane. It is not fun (and of course or socially accepted) to leave the table halfway through dinner, because someone is chewing too loudly. It also is not fun to sit in the doctor’s waiting room for an hour, inertly screaming, because the clock is ticking so loudly. It really is not fun and if I could just make it disappear, trust me, I would.
As I already stated, one of the worst problems is that people really have no clue what is going on when these things happen. They will be puzzled at least and angry and averted at worst. Misophonia can make the ones, who experience it, incredibly lonely, since many interactions in our society involve eating and sleeping together or any other encounter that can lead up to one of the triggering sounds. People with this condition will almost always avoid those situations at all costs and have less and less interaction with their environment.
I only found out about Misophonia when I was 14 or 15 years old (sadly, there are many people out there, who discover it much later) and saw an Instagram post about it. I had never heard about it before, but the post was describing exactly the symptoms that I experienced. I do not remember, how I found it or who uploaded it, but I remember that I started crying after I googled it, because I had finally found a name for what I was struggling with.
I knew why my heart beating increased when someone next to me was chewing gum. I understood why my palms got sweaty and why I wanted to stomp the floor when someone next to me was breathing.
I suffered immensely before that point, because I started having problems with chewing sounds when I was around seven or eight and could not explain to my parents why I had to leave the table all the time. I simply did not know what was wrong with me, since no one I ever met either had or knew about Misophonia. Now that I know what is going on, it is still hard to deal with it, but at least I can name it. However, I have the feeling that it has become less intense over the course of the last couple of years.
Not everyone experiences Misophonia in the same way I do, since it is something highly individual, and there are several stages of intensity, but the problems we encounter are quite similar. It might also be helpful to know that at different times in your life, the condition can indeed have different intensities, so if you have Misophonia and you are lucky, at some point in your life it might get less bad. Of course, it also can become worse again, but I usually hope for the best!