General

A Letter for my Family and Friends:

I’m giving you this letter because I want you to understand more about the medical condition called Misophonia which is also sometimes referred to as Selective Sound Sensitivity Syndrome or (4S). This disorder is being researched by the medical community and it is a condition that is thought to be a neurological disorder which means it is a problem that affects the body’s nervous system. 

People like me who have Misophonia typically have strong negative emotional reactions, ranging from annoyance to extreme rage, to a variety of sounds many of which are associated with mouth and nasal sounds such as chewing, slurping, sniffling or breathing, but in all honesty can be anything and are different for each person dealing with the condition. However, these strong emotional reactions can be triggered by many different sounds such as pens clicking, heel-tapping, typing, crinkling, dogs barking, etc. Some Misophonia sufferers also have visual triggers such as jiggling legs or other repetitive movement which can cause an unwanted reaction.  

Again, each person has their own triggers and emotional reactions.

While mild sufferers of Misophonia may feel tense or irritated, more severe cases can involve uncontrollable outbursts of anger and even the visualization of violent encounters. In almost all cases, a person exposed to a trigger event will want to make the noise stop immediately or remove themselves from the source of the source of the sound as quickly as possible. For me, my mechanism for coping is headphones. Lots of headphones

It is important to realize that a person with Misophonia has no control over what will trigger them and limited control over their reaction to being triggered. Once hearing an offending sound, that person’s emotional centers are automatically activated. A fight or flight reflex is very likely to occur much as it is when a person experiences (or perceives there to be) the presence of a significantly harmful event. There is often a strong need to flee the scene. 

Many people with Misophonia suffer for years believing that they are the only ones experiencing this problem and that they must be crazy.  They think they are in a unique situation because they are aware that others do not seem to even notice the noises that cause them so much trouble.  

Sufferers may try many different things to avoid or cope with their triggers including using earplugs/headphones, eating in isolation, using white noise generators, avoiding people or places that often produce trigger sounds, using prescribed medications/alcohol/drugs and possibly using some psychological approaches such as therapy or counseling. Unfortunately, none of these strategies appear to provide universally effective relief. Misophonia leaves people feeling misunderstood, isolated and hopeless. In very extreme cases, sufferers can become deeply depressed. 

Those with Misophonia are unable to tune out noises that are considered by most to be typical background noise. They experience constant information overload, making concentration at work or school difficult. Their situation can be so intense that it makes them want to drop out of school or quit a job. Special accommodations to reduce or eliminate trigger sounds at work or school can be a big help and allow the sufferer to learn in a receptive atmosphere and/or work more productively. 

Family members and friends, who may not understand the nature of this condition, may tell the sufferer to “get over it” or otherwise minimize the situation. A person with Misophonia doesn’t choose to be sensitive to certain sounds and cannot decide what to be sensitive to or whether or not to be bothered by their trigger sounds. Occasionally a friend, family member or co-worker may create a sound that the person with Misophonia is sensitive to on purpose. This is extremely upsetting to a person with Misophonia and could easily be considered a cruel and thoughtless thing to do. 

Imagine the typical reaction most people have to fingernails scratching down a chalkboard — this is extremely irritating and even intolerable to some. This is somewhat similar to the uncontrollable reaction those with Misophonia experience with every trigger noise, although the Misophonia sufferer’s experience is much more intense, automatic and can include actual panic and ever-growing anger. 

When a sufferer responds with annoyance or anger toward a trigger sound, it may be met with annoyance and frustration by the person making the offending noise. In that emotional moment, it is very difficult for the sufferer to distinguish between the noise and its maker. Actions and reactions by the sufferer and the noise maker can cause unpleasant situations and have a negative effect on personal relationships. Until an individual with Misophonia can seek help in alleviating/managing reactions, friends and family can help by remaining calm during trigger noise situations and try to understand that the sufferer’s reaction is to the offending sound and not to the person making it. 

Hopefully, this letter has given you an introduction to the sound sensitivity known as Misophonia. Thank you for taking the time to read this letter and I know you probably have questions. I’d like to answer your questions about how Misophonia affects people and further discuss the situation with now or in the future.  

Here is a website that provides more detailed information and can point you to other online resources: http://www.misophonia.com/ 

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2 comments

  1. Wow, I might be a sufferer. My eldest chews with her mouth open despite me snapping at her every time, and my youngest taps everything but most irritatingly the spoon on the dining table! I pray for strength daily!
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