Misophonia: The Sound And The Fury Of Chewing

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By Cooking Panda

Not many people actively enjoy being in the presence of noisy chewers — but for people with misophonia, the sounds of mastication can trigger extreme feelings of rage and distress (video below).

Coined by the married research team Margaret and Pawel Jastreboff in 2002, the term misophonia means “hatred of sound,” according to New York Magazine. It describes the condition which causes an individual to develop extreme negative feelings — often of anger — in response to certain noises.

Even though the specific triggers vary from sufferer to sufferer, a 2013 Dutch study in Plos of 42 people demonstrates that the condition tends to begin in late childhood to early adolescence, with the main triggers being sounds produced by the body. Loud breathing, lip-smacking, knuckle-cracking, audible chewing, or sneezing are some examples of these noises. Sufferers report that while their initial response is commonly irritation, that feeling quickly blooms into anger and later begets utter disgust. 

“The reaction is irrational,” Ms. Adah Siganoff, 52, of Alpine, California, tells the New York Times. “It is typical fight or flight… rage, panic, fear, terror and anger, all mixed together.”

Because the term has only been around approximately 14 years, misophonia does not yet rate an entry in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Therefore, the condition is little studied, and often mistaken for other diagnoses, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, or an anxiety disorder.

Misophonia has “no known effective treatment,” according to Dr. Aage R. Moller, a neuroscientist at the University of Texas at Dallas. He goes on to tell the New York Times that he believes misophonia is likely a “physiological abnormality” and probably not an auditory disorder.

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Of course, one of the most frustrating aspects of the condition, according to sufferers, is certain people’s tendency to delegitimize it. It’s not a veritable disorder; it’s a human quirk.

Barron Lerner, a professor of medicine at New York University Langone Medical Center (who penned a 2015 misophonia essay in the New York Times about his own experience with the condition) calls this the “incredulity factor.”

“I could not believe that my friends and relatives were not getting as upset at what I considered rude behaviors,” he writes. “They were getting frustrated with me for focusing on sounds they did not really hear.”

Still, various forms of treatment are being offered to those sufferers who make themselves available to it.

According to Lerner, medication can aid in the accompanying psychiatric disorders. But, as he mentions to Mercury News, cognitive behavioral therapy is usually recommended.

Check out more about misophonia in the video below:

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Sources: New York Magazine, PlosNew York Times (2), Mercury News / Photo credit: Liberty Antonia Sadler/Metro, New York Magazine, The Odyssey Online, InIvysHead

Tags: misophonia, video
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