What is Misophonia?

  For people with a rare condition known as misophonia, certain sounds like slurping, chewing, tapping & clicking can elicit intense feelings of rage or panic.
Photo illustration by Meredith Rizzo/NPR

Almost everyone can be distracted by certain noises, like foot tapping. But for some people, these noises can cause them to feel like they’re going insane.

This condition is called misophonia — intense emotion induced by highly specific sounds. These sounds are usually very ordinary, like mouth sounds, and the cause is unknown.

“Chewing is almost universal. Gum chewing is almost universal. They also don’t like the sound of throat clearing. Coughing, sniffing, nose blowing — a number of things,” says Jaelline Jaffe, a psychotherapist in Los Angeles who specializes in misophonia. ” “It’s as if the survival part of the brain thinks somehow it’s being attacked or it’s in danger.”

The problem is visibility. Misophonia has been identified so recently that it’s not listed as a diagnosis in medical manuals. To date there have been few studies, and many doctors are unaware of it, usually misdiagnosing it as a mood disorder. Plus it’s hard for non-sufferers to understand how severe the symptoms can be. The condition is frequently accompanied by anxiety or depression.

So if you know someone who is especially sensitive to ordinary sounds, you can learn more from “Misophonia: When Life’s Noises Drive You Mad” by April Fulton (https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2019/03/18/702784044/misophonia-when-lifes-noises-drive-you-mad?). The photo came from that site.

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