Misophonia. You may not have heard of it, but you probably know someone who has it. You may even experience misophonia and not even know. If the sound of open-mouthed chewing or roaring motorcycles sends you into an inexplicable rage, then I have news for you.
Coined by Drs. Pawel and Margaret Jastreboff in 2001, the term “misophonia” is an auditory disorder that causes a fight-or-flight response in the affected listener upon hearing their “trigger sounds.” For many people with misophonia, this usually includes mouth noises.
I am blessed in that I have moderate to mild misophonia. With background noise to drown out offending noises, I can cope in my day-to-day life. After joining a misophonia support group, I realised just how much this disorder can impact people’s lives. Going out into the world can be a traumatic experience for someone with severe misophonia.
We are fairly new to the “disorder scene” but people with misophonia need support, and we truly appreciate it, even if this disorder isn’t the easiest to understand. If you know someone with misophonia, here are the things they will want you to know, and might be too afraid to ask:
If We Ask You to Wait, Please Wait!
Growing up with misophonia, I struggled with hearing mouth noises, especially people eating crunchy foods. Watching family members bust out a packet of crisps in a deathly silent living room made me anxious before they had even started eating. Often times I begged them to wait until I could find the remote to turn the TV on, or play some music. But as with most misunderstood or unrecognised disorders, I was told to stop being so silly.
If someone with misophonia asks you to wait either until they’ve left or until they’ve initiated a counter-measure before making their trigger noise, please do it. Trigger noises cause immense distress in people with misophonia, and the best thing you can do to help, even if you don’t understand it, is to listen to what they need.
We Can’t Help It
After hearing a trigger noise, someone with misophonia can be overcome with feelings as gentle as irritation to something as huge as full-blown rage. This reaction is completely beyond our control, and although we do our best to suppress our reactions, it isn’t always that easy.
If we take our anger out on you, it’s not personal, we’re sorry. Unless you made the noise, then we’re probably going to avoid you for a little while.
Don’t Tell Us to “Get Over It” or Call Us Attention Seeking
Trust us, we don’t want this. Telling us to “get over it” is about as useful as telling with someone with depression or MS to “get over it.” It won’t work, and it just makes the person you said it to feel more distant from you, and misunderstood.
My luck struck a second time when I married a man who, despite not understanding misophonia at all, never once accused me of making things up, and always does his best to help me avoid my trigger noises. You don’t have to understand misophonia to help a loved one who experiences it, you just have to accept it exists. We can just as easily change our skin colour than this disorder, and nobody should have to feel bad for experiencing it.
This is a time when misophonia is still a huge mystery, with researchers still unsure what causes it or how to treat it. So people with misophonia need more help and understanding now than ever. If you know that a loved one experiences misophonia, support is key. While horrible noises are only a small annoyance to some, to others, the impact is huge. The help we need doesn’t take much effort, but every effort you make for us is appreciated more than you know.