Misophonia and the Sinister Nature Behind Sound
Misophonia is a neurological condition that causes severe sensitivity to sound, that would otherwise be background noise. These are typically soft and repetitive such as chewing, pen clicking, keyboard typing, bass in music, breathing and so on.
The most commonly mentioned symptoms are:
Involuntary Fight/flight, intense irrational negative emotions and psychological distress/pain, but sufferers can also experience physical sensations, unwanted sexual arousal, and physical pain in addition.
This condition is little known, having been coined 2001, so research is in its infancy. Because misophonia is not included in the DSM-5, it is difficult to get a diagnosis. Naturally, this means there is no direct treatment or medicine. Music therapy and exposure therapy can be tried, but it is risky as it can make reactions worse depending on the person.
Life is cumulative, so the negative effects of this condition add up, meaning it gets worse with age.
Sufferers typically cope by wearing headphones, ear plugs, playing background music or leaving the triggering environment. These are not options in places like classrooms, religious institutions or other places that require undivided attention, so other measures might be taken.
Unfortunately, discrete self harm is not uncommon, especially if unable to block out or escape triggers. Other coping mechanisms can include stimming, playing with stress toys and mimicking the trigger.
It is much easier to cope in the digital space. The mute button and captions are a misophone’s best friend. Captions are often not associated with misophonia, which goes to show how crucial accessibility in technology is.
Although this won’t stop the reactions, making life style changes that lessen stress on the body has its benefits, as there is less stress to be compounded when facing triggers. These include getting healthy amounts of sleep, exercising, healthy eating and quiet alone time.
Misophonia and Brain Structure
According to the ground-breaking study “The Brain Basis for Misophonia”, there is a difference in frontal lobe connections between the cerebral hemispheres. The network of connections are complex and involved in sensory information, memory, olfaction (sense of smell), and the Amygdala (fight/flight).
In other words, certain areas of the brain are not connected properly, which causes them to function abnormally.
The brain has a hard time picking out which sounds are and are not worth hyper-focusing on. The anterior insular cortex, or AIC has greater activity towards trigger sounds because this is where emotion and sensory stimuli are processed.
Sufferer’s know the sounds that set misophonia off are not dangerous or even a big deal, yet the brain is wired to sound the alarm regardless. Unfortunately, there is no off switch. The way the body reacts is uncontrollable, and navigating life is difficult. Some become suicidal or resort to self harming behaviors because of the ongoing toll on the body.
Misophonia is more than disliking certain sounds. It can be debilitating. Life is cumulative, so negative effects of this condition add up, meaning it gets worse with age.
If you are a parent/guardian and your child suspects they have misophonia take them seriously.
If your friend or someone you know tells you they have misophonia, be there for them, even if you don’t understand what this condition is like.
Showing support by spreading awareness, providing a listening ear, giving space and reasonably accommodating sufferers goes a long way.