What is Misophonia?
Have you or someone that you know been out to a restaurant and all you can hear is the sound of them chewing? You may have been slightly affected by it, but for someone with a misophonia condition, this situation can bring up anger or emotion— so much so that they might need to leave the table. Misophonia, ‘the hatred of sound’, is a sound sensitivity condition that causes people to get emotionally triggered by specific sounds and visual stimuli — like chewing, breathing, and whistling. Specific sounds like chewing create a fight-or-flight-response in people who have misophonia and trigger negative thoughts, emotions, and physical reactions.
What are the symptoms?
It affects some people worse than others and it can lead to isolation from those trying to escape triggered sounds. Symptoms of misophonia seem to appear around the age of twelve but it can also occur later in life. Misophonia is an understudied subject and it is not accepted as a disorder by the DSM-5 or the ICD-10, this is most likely because there lies an ongoing debate about how to diagnose and classify the condition. Recent studies suggest that Misophonia is more common for people with underlying conditions like OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder), mood disorders, ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), and Autism. Regardless of its classification, it exists as a daily struggle for many, and in order to avoid misophonic outbreaks, people go through extreme discomfort with impaired lives.
Dutch researchers examined 25 healthy and 25 misophonic patients using an fMRI scanner to measure brain activity. Both groups were shown neutral, aversive, and misophonic video clips. An example of a misophonic clip shown was a man-eating carrots. The findings show that misophonic patients were triggered with anger, disgust, and sadness by a man-eating carrots in the right anterior insula (AIC) and right ACC (anterior cingulate), which is to be expected because it is the part of the brain that regulates heart rate and anger. This is important because it confirms that these parts are responsible for misophonia. Additionally, the study also unexpectedly found high brain activity in both test groups in the right superior frontal cortex when shown misophonic and aversive clips, the part of the brain responsible for the recognition of human bodies and faces. The researchers do not understand how it relates directly to misophonia but the importance of this is it leaves room for more studies.
What to do about Misophonia
Multiple studies and ongoing misophonia trials exist around the world. People with misophonia are seeing improvements in their daily lives by wearing earplugs, headphones, or trying out cognitive behavioral therapy. We recommend visiting your local healthcare provider if you have further questions or concerns.