One common misconception is that misophonia is a hatred of any background sound.
Actually the trigger sounds can be quite specific.
Most misophonia sufferers are fine with ambient or background noise: music, people talking and so on.
The problem is with certain (usually repetitive) sounds.
It’s the clack clack clacking of someone walking around in heels… or someone quietly (or loudly) sniffing… or someone coughing… eating… chewing. These are sounds that can trigger a misophonia episode.
Tell this to a non-sufferer and 8 times out of 10 they’ll say: “yeah I find that annoying, I know what you mean”. But this is different. While a non-sufferer might find it annoying, distracting even, someone who has misophonia will have an internal reaction that’s off the scale.
It’s quite literally a sense of total, all encompassing panic. A completely irrational, over the top switch into emergency mode. Every fibre of your being goes on high alert. Your body initiates its ‘freeze-fight-flight’ mechanism while your mind races with crazed, panicked thoughts and scenarios.
Let’s look at a real world example. If someone’s slurping their soup, here are some of the thoughts that might race through a misophonia sufferer’s mind:
“How is it even possible that they’re making that much noise? Do they now how disgustingly unbearable that is? WHY IS NO-ONE ELSE SCREAMING?”
“What if I was to fling that soup bowl right out of their hands and throw it on the floor?”
“I need to get out of here NOW or I’m going to explode”
These are genuinely the kinds of thoughts that will race through a sufferer’s head. Sometimes it’ll be more severe (“I want to hurt this person”) sometimes less, depending upon the trigger or the sufferer’s current state of mind.
It’s extremely rare for someone with misophonia to actually resort to confrontation or physical violence. For the vast majority of us it’s a tortured, internal battle because in almost all other ways misophones are rational, intelligent people. They don’t actually want to harm anyone and outside of an episode, when reflecting, they know that the problem lies with them.
Typically during an episode a misophonia sufferer will either:
a) Run: Find a way to get away from the sound (make an excuse to leave the room/go to the loo)
b) Suffer: Sit there and suffer in silence, rage bubbling inside, unable to do anything at all until it stops
c) Mimicry: Mimic the sounds or facial expressions of the person triggering
d) Confront: Sometimes a sufferer might ask the person making the noise to stop
If you’re reading this as a sufferer, don’t worry – you’re NOT crazy.
If you’re reading this as a friend or family member of someone who suffers from misophonia then if there’s one thing you take away from this website, I hope it’s the realisation that misophonia is real and that it affects people deeply. It’s not an ‘overreaction’, it’s a condition that needs our support and understanding.