When considering what it is that makes an individual’s blood boil and why it is they might erupt into a fit of rage occasionally, like Howard Beale in the classic satire film Network (“I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!”), there is one rage catalyst most people will fail to associate as a rational reason to behave entirely irrational.
This term literally means “hatred of sound”. The clinical diagnosis deals more specifically with a hatred of naturally occurring human sounds. Experiencing rage due to being cut off in traffic is one thing I think we can all empathize with, but people diagnosed with misophonia are lit into fiery rages from the most subtle of human sounds such as people masticating food, chewing gum, or even simply breathing.
These triggers do not require extreme cases like obnoxiously chomping on food with an open mouth, aggressively smacking on gum, or breathing heavily. Everyday sounds like these, which most people do not even notice, are what send those enduring misophonia into an anxiety-ridden fit of rage. It is worth noting, someone with this diagnosis is generally not bothered by their own human sounds and nor do the sounds of animals eating, licking, or breathing disturb them.
Symptoms of Misophonia
Symptoms include extreme distress, anger, and anxiety leading to a “fight or flight” scenario, in which someone experiencing misophonia will likely have to leave certain settings or face the threat of erupting into a spontaneous rage among friends or strangers, whom would not understand the sudden volatile reaction they would receive for simply biting into a carrot or crunching a potato chip. There is little middle ground, or coping, when these encounters happen. Here are some testimonials of individuals experiencing misophonia:
- A married couple who eats their meals in separate rooms of the house they share because the wife cannot bear the sound of her husband eating.
- Another married couple with a husband who attests that if he and his wife pick up fast food and eat in their car then he has to turn the radio up until all of his wife’s chewing sounds are completely drowned out, leaving them unable to even converse between bites.
- One account describes a college student suffering from misophonia who briefly details one of her experiences of attending class by explaining, “Immediately after hearing one of my triggers, I become enraged. I become very hot, tingly, and anxious.”
- Another college student claims assorted mouth noises, sniffling, and gum chewing make her chest tighten and her heart pound. She claims, “This condition has caused me to lose friends and has caused numerous fights.”
A Controversial Condition
Misophonia became an official psychiatric disorder recently when an Amsterdam based research team arrived at the diagnostic classification. It is a controversial condition, little is understood about it, and there is no known cure for it. However, many researchers concur misophonia is linked to other psychiatric disorders such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety, and depression.
Research has concluded that misophonia generally surfaces during adolescence and continues throughout adulthood. While there is no known cure, those experiencing the condition will often wear earplugs, headphones, or make use of anything that will create noise to overcome the subtle sounds that make their blood boil.
Misophonia is most commonly associated with human chewing but also includes severe aggravation towards other actions like whistling, humming, footsteps, tapping objects rhythmically, coughing, sniffling, and throat clearing.
So, the next time you are in the break room at work eating lunch with coworkers and you find yourself clenching your fists with white knuckles, face reddening, and giving a threatening glare to the person across from you, please try to remain calm, put down the fork, and try to catch your breath. You might have misophonia and no humanly generated sound is too quiet for its quirky, irate sensibilities.
Featured photo credit: Neil Guegan/cultura/Corbis via nymag.com