If there are certain sounds that trigger an extremely negative reaction in you, from rage or annoyance to disgust or even panic, You could have a condition called misophonia. Trigger sounds can vary from person to person, including sipping, swallowing, inhaling, lip smacking, sniffing or even the snapping of pens, the rustling of papers or the ticking of a clock. But WWhatever sound is offending for a particular person, it tends to evoke a strong emotional reaction, disproportionate to the offensive sound, and which may include bodily reactions, such as an increase in heart rate or blood pressure.
“It’s not a benign thing, but rather a condition where people really struggle when they hear particular sounds, often from particular people,” said Eric Storkprofessor of psychology at Baylor College of Medicine whose research focuses on misophonia.
On the outside, aversion to a particular sound might seem like a small thing, but for people struggling with misophonia, it can cause them to avoid certain triggers altogether or avoid specific situations. where these sounds might be present. “These sounds create an increased level of distress, but also a fairly significant level of impairment in daily functioning,” Storch said.
Tips for dealing with misophonia
There has not yet been much research on misophonia, which means there is still only limited evidence on the most effective coping mechanisms. What is clear, however, is that simply avoiding the trigger sound is generally not an effective strategy, as it can have an even greater negative impact. “The more you avoid, the more likely you are to avoid, and then you start to disengage from the world,” Storch said.
Instead, strategies for coping with misophonia often focus on reframing the trigger sound. to make it less emotionally impactful, or focusing on the importance of participating in an event, even when trigger sounds are associated with it.
For the first strategy of reframing the trigger sound, the general concept is to think of similar sounds that are less emotionally charged, to help reduce the emotional impact. “If you’re able to reconceptualize that, instead of chewing, it could be someone walking on snow with boots on, or instead of a trigger person chewing, maybe you imagine a toddler chewing, that can be an aspect that really dampens the emotional salience,” Storch said.
For the second strategy, the focus is on the ability to participate in meaningful activities, such as attending a family dinner, even in the presence of trigger sounds such as chewing. “We’re really working on developing a skill set, to be able to deal with those situations and to deal with those situations with that skill set, instead of backing off and avoiding all the things that are important to you, but which are a bit of a pain,” Storch said.
There is also additional evidence that cognitive behavioral therapy can help with misophoniaalthough research on its effectiveness is still very limited.