There are plenty of people who can say that there are noises that annoy them. For some, it is the sound of a person chewing. For others, it can be the sound of a fire crackling. For some, these sounds are just annoying. For others, these sounds can make a person so angry that it feels as though that are in the midst of a life and death situation. The people who take these sounds so seriously have a condition called, misophonia.
What Is Misophonia?
Misophonia is a mysterious condition that causes the sufferer to experience strong negative emotions in response to everyday sounds. These people can experience anger or extreme anxiety when they hear sounds such as humming, chewing, and even breathing. Years ago, these were trivial annoyances; however, studies have shown that this is a real condition, and it is more severe than you may have thought.
There are some people who don’t believe that this is actually a disorder. According to Damiaan Denys, a professor of psychology at the University of Amsterdam, it actually is a disorder. He says that some people get annoyed when they go to the movies, and the person on screen is chewing; however, there are patients who really do suffer. According to Professor Denys, this condition has resulted in couples getting divorced, and people quitting their jobs. Because there isn’t much awareness surrounding the disease, children with misophonia have been diagnosed with more severe disorders like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or autism.
Scarcely Researched and Not Formally Recognized
Unfortunately for the people who suffer from this disorder, it hasn’t been researched with too much depth. Also, it is not yet formally recognized as a psychiatric or neurological condition. The psychologists who have treated patients who have such distress when hearing certain noises are confident that it is a genuine disorder, and should be taken seriously by the medical community.
Ali Mattu is an assistant professor in medical psychology at the Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York City. Ali says, “I completely believe it exists, based on the research and based on my interaction with patients.” Although Ali isn’t sure exactly what it is, he does believe it exists, and it can be very serious.
A Slightly Different Brain
Although the underlying cause of misophonia is not fully known, scientists believe that it is caused by the way a person’s brain processes certain sounds, and how it reacts to then. Professor Denys and his colleagues were sure that the brain is what causes this condition, so they performed a study.
The Study- Misophonia: Why Do Some Sounds Drive People Crazy?
The study performed was published on May 17th in the Journal of Scientific Reports. During the study, they monitored the brains of 21 people who suffer from this condition and 23 healthy participants. They had them watch video clips of triggering sounds such as lip-smacking, neutral events, a person meditating, and a gross scene from a movie. The only clips that caused a different response between the two groups were the misophonic clips. When the participants with the condition watched the lip-smacking videos and the heavy breathing videos, they reacted with intense anger and disgust. Their heart rates also spiked. Their brain scans showed hyperactivation of the salience network, which is a brain area that directs our attention to the noticeable things around us.
This wasn’t the first study of its kind, but the results matched the results that were published in the Journal of Current Biology. In this study, it was discovered that when people with misophonia hear trigger sounds, it sends them into overdrive, and it activates brain areas that are responsible for regulating fear and other negative emotions.
Treating the Condition
Because the research into this condition is so new, there are no standard guidelines for treating it. This is also because experts have not agreed on a psychiatric definition for it yet. Currently, therapists are using a variety of techniques to calm the emotions that occur when hearing the trigger sounds.
The next time a friend or family member starts to freak out when they hear you chewing loudly, breathing loudly, or making another trigger sound, you should take their feelings seriously. There is a very good chance that they are suffering from misophonia, and they are really struggling to keep their emotions in check. Earlier, people thought that those with this condition were just over exaggerating or seeking attention. Thanks to the new research available, we now know that the emotions that come up are real and in some cases, cannot be controlled. From now on, be patient and understanding. They are suffering more than you ever knew.