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Easily Annoyed By The Sound Of People Chewing? You Probably Have Misophonia

Easily Annoyed By The Sound Of People Chewing? You Probably Have Misophonia

Smack-smack-smack-crunch-slop. The person across the table from you is doing it again. It’s been like this for three straight days. The headphones you brought aren’t going to cut it.

Why is the sound of the person at the table chewing away on her lunch disturbing you to your core? According to research done in 2013, it’s because you might have misophonia.

What’s That Again?

Misophonia is defined as a hatred of sound. However, having misophonia is more nuanced than that. People with misophonia don’t hate all sounds. The sounds that provoke episodes of anxiety, social isolation, and depression are usually those that are repetitive and easily ignored by the majority of the population.

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It is reportedly common among those suffering from tinnitus. Those afflicted with tinnitus account for roughly five to 10 percent of the adult population in the United States. There is debate whether misophonia is its own psychological disorder, or an aspect of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Regardless of its place in psychology, experts agree that misophonia, OCD, and anxiety disorders have close relationships.

Because of a decreased tolerance for sound, people who are likely sufferers of misophonia will avoid social situations that might involve even the possibility of repetitive noises like people chewing or pens clicking. Even the tapping of a hand can be enough to trigger misophonia. Social avoidance to this degree can lead to depression because of the isolation it causes.

One sufferer reported no longer being able to eat meals with her own husband. “The reaction is irrational,” she stated in a N. Y. Times article. Another sufferer reported fixating on the noises which sparked the aggression or irrationality, which led to near insomnia.

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Research has shown that misophonia and the tolerance of noises such as sniffing, chewing, or pen clicking may exist along a spectrum, like the Autism Spectrum. Some people are simply annoyed by the sounds; others are so angered they are pushed to fits of rage or into states of anxiety.

Nowhere may this spectrum of misophonia be more prevalent than the workplace, for both triggers and those who are sensitive to them. There’s the foot tapping, the pen clicking, even the clacking of long fingernails on a keyboard. However, in a workplace, there are very few outlets for the therapies and behaviors associated with dealing with misophonia.

What To Do About It

Misophonia and its associated anxieties can be especially hindering when in the workplace. You can’t just raise your hand and ask your boss to move you away from that musical colleague with the twitchy fingers. Even if you do ask to be moved, your misophonia will likely lead you to be afraid of the change. You may worry that the person you sit next to this time will be just as twitchy. You can’t just yell, “stop it!” at your neighbor, though some people with misophonia have been known to deal with their triggers by doing so.

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Unless you work for a place that actively supports mental well-being, you might have to suffer alone. It’s a relatively new disorder, and isn’t currently part of the DSM-5 or other diagnostic manuals. However, there are therapies available that help alleviate some of the anxiety of coping with misophonia. The most common are Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Neurofeedback, and Tinnitus Retraining Therapy. Trying a combination of these or other therapies will be more effective than picking just one.

One CBT used mimics the noise prompting the misophonia. Another is to actively engage in something else during the situation that causes the anxiety. If mealtime is when your misophonia typically presents itself, make sure you are conversing with people at the table and not simply eating. Having or creating distractions of your own will help you focus on something other than what is compelling you to throw your dinner roll across the table at the “offender.”

There’s An Upside?

If you take Misophonia.com’s test and find you may indeed have the disorder (or you just can’t stand it when you hear the ticking of the clock in the next room), don’t despair. There are upsides. For example, you may be as intelligent as Charles Darwin and Marcel Proust.

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Northwestern University conducted a study on sensory gating, and found that the leakier their sensory gate, they more creative they were. Those who were unable to filter out all the inconsequential noise were more likely to have higher creative intelligence.

Whether you’ve self-diagnosed or you’ve been to a mental health counselor to discuss the reasons for your depression and social isolation and have narrowed them down to a leaky sensory gate, having misophonia doesn’t have to be debilitating.

Just remember that Chekhov probably had misophonia, too.

Featured photo credit: 115H/Gratisography via gratisography.com

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H. E. James

Writer and researcher

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Last Updated on September 20, 2018

How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

Being in a hurry all the time drains your energy. Your work and routine life make you feel overwhelmed. Getting caught up in things beyond your control stresses you out…

If you’d like to stay calm and cool in stressful situations, put the following 8 steps into practice:

1. Breathe

The next time you’re faced with a stressful situation that makes you want to hurry, stop what you’re doing for one minute and perform the following steps:

  • Take five deep breaths in and out (your belly should come forward with each inhale).
  • Imagine all that stress leaving your body with each exhale.
  • Smile. Fake it if you have to. It’s pretty hard to stay grumpy with a goofy grin on your face.

Feel free to repeat the above steps every few hours at work or home if you need to.

2. Loosen up

After your breathing session, perform a quick body scan to identify any areas that are tight or tense. Clenched jaw? Rounded shoulders? Anything else that isn’t at ease?

Gently touch or massage any of your body parts that are under tension to encourage total relaxation. It might help to imagine you’re in a place that calms you: a beach, hot tub, or nature trail, for example.

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3. Chew slowly

Slow down at the dinner table if you want to learn to be patient and lose weight. Shoveling your food down as fast as you can is a surefire way to eat more than you need to (and find yourself with a bellyache).

Be a mindful eater who pays attention to the taste, texture, and aroma of every dish. Chew slowly while you try to guess all of the ingredients that were used to prepare your dish.

Chewing slowly will also reduce those dreadful late-night cravings that sneak up on you after work.

4. Let go

Cliche as it sounds, it’s very effective.

The thing that seems like the end of the world right now?

It’s not. Promise.

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Stressing and worrying about the situation you’re in won’t do any good because you’re already in it, so just let it go.

Letting go isn’t easy, so here’s a guide to help you:

21 Things To Do When You Find It Hard To Let Go

5. Enjoy the journey

Focusing on the end result can quickly become exhausting. Chasing a bold, audacious goal that’s going to require a lot of time and patience? Split it into several mini-goals so you’ll have several causes for celebration.

Stop focusing on the negative thoughts. Giving yourself consistent positive feedback will help you grow patience, stay encouraged, and find more joy in the process of achieving your goals.

6. Look at the big picture

The next time you find your stress level skyrocketing, take a deep breath, and ask yourself:

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Will this matter to me…

  • Next week?
  • Next month?
  • Next year?
  • In 10 years?

Hint: No, it won’t.

I bet most of the stuff that stresses you wouldn’t matter the next week, maybe not even the next day.

Stop agonizing over things you can’t control because you’re only hurting yourself.

7. Stop demanding perfection of yourself

You’re not perfect and that’s okay. Show me a person who claims to be perfect and I’ll show you a dirty liar.

Demanding perfection of yourself (or anybody else) will only stress you out because it just isn’t possible.

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8. Practice patience every day

Below are a few easy ways you can practice patience every day, increasing your ability to remain calm and cool in times of stress:

  • The next time you go to the grocery store, get in the longest line.
  • Instead of going through the drive-thru at your bank, go inside.
  • Take a long walk through a secluded park or trail.

Final thoughts

Staying calm in stressful situations is possible, all you need is some daily practice.

Taking deep breaths and eat mindfully are some simple ways to train your brain to be more patient. But changing the way you think of a situation and staying positive are most important in keeping cool whenever you feel overwhelmed and stressful.

Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

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