I always knew that sounds can trigger frustration. When I was little my auntcouldn’t stand us eating crisps in her presence, and I myself could never be in the same room as my best friend when she tucked into a juicy apple. But I never paid much attention to the intensity of the situation, I merely passed it off as a temporary irritation. Until a few months ago…
Let me first tell you a little bit about misophonia and its detrimental effects to a happy, healthy lifestyle/living environment, and then I’ll fill you in on my personal experience. Misophonia isn’t classified as a disorder just yet, but phycologists are working on that. It is a selective sound sensitivity syndrome that can cause partial to severe emotional distress.
These include eating, breathing and swallowing sounds, as well as pen clicking, foot tapping, joint cracking and white noise. Experts theorise that misophonia is somewhat caused by enhanced neural connections in the brain between the auditory, limbic and autonomic systems.
The limbic system generates emotions, while the autonomic system is the part of the nervous system that regulates certain body processes. To put it in layman’s terms, the autonomic system’s ‘sympathetic division’ causes palms to sweat, pupils to dilate, and hair to stand on end. Is the connection starting to make a little bit more sense now?
So, in January I moved in with my boyfriend and his two huskies. I absolutely adore all three of them and having us all live together is the best thing that I could ask for. Except, my personal struggle with misophonia has taken its worse toll on me, in the form of an innocent dog happily going about cleaning himself. Let me just say, I’ve grown up with dogs my whole life. But suddenly, the intense, slow, wet and repetitive sound of a dog licking himself started causing anger, anxiety and rage inside of me that I have never seen before.
At first I tried to brush it off, and figured that he just always caught me at a bad time. Eventually it got worse: his lapping tongue became louder, his throat switched from making slurping, mushy wet sounds to making deep, coarse and parched sounds that made me think of the driest, most shrivelled up dessert in the world.
I would lie in bed and fixate on the continuous, displeasing sound of tongue against skin and hair. And it wouldn’t stop. What felt like hours would go by where I tried to control my growing rage and irritation, but he just carried on and on, and on. It started to compromise my healthy lifestyle. It made me toss and turn in my sleep, I had to leave the room for long stretches of time, and it has even made me cry before. But the worst of it all, it slowly made me start disliking the poor animal, which is when I decided to draw the line and do something about my dilemma.
Today, since I started reading up on misophonia, I am doing a lot better. A form of cognitive behavioural therapy, called “exposure and response prevention,” has been shown to be effective for misophonia sufferers. The one thing I have to always remind myself is that our dog has absolutely no idea what he is doing wrong, and that he doesn’t understand why he makes me so angry. It also helped me a lot to know that I am not the only one suffering from this disorder, and that through focusing on external anxiety problems I can combat misophonia.
If you know anybody who is suffering from misophonia, it is important to understand that they too cannot control the symptoms that derive from a seemingly unnoticed sounds.
You may want to watch one of the DVD’s from the ‘Living With’ series, offered to you by MediHelp’s HealthPrint programme for added insight on symptoms of and treatments for disorders that put your healthy lifestyle at risk.