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Annoyed By The Sound of People Chewing? You Might Have Misophonia

Annoyed By The Sound of People Chewing? You Might Have Misophonia

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.

Misophonia.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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Last Updated on December 2, 2018

How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life

How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life

Ebb and flow. Contraction and expansion. Highs and lows. It’s all about the cycles of life.

The entire course of our life follows this up and down pattern of more and then less. Our days flow this way, each following a pattern of more energy, then less energy, more creativity and periods of greater focus bookended by moments of low energy when we cringe at the thought of one more meeting, one more call, one more sentence.

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The key is in understanding how to use the cycles of ebb and flow to our advantage. The ability to harness these fluctuations, understand how they affect our productivity and mood and then apply that knowledge as a tool to improve our lives is a valuable strategy that few individuals or corporations have mastered.

Here are a few simple steps to start using this strategy today:

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Review Your Past Flow

Take just a few minutes to look back at how your days and weeks have been unfolding. What time of the day are you the most focused? Do you prefer to be more social at certain times of the day? Do you have difficulty concentrating after lunch or are you energized? Are there days when you can’t seem to sit still at your desk and others when you could work on the same project for hours?

Do you see a pattern starting to emerge? Eventually you will discover a sort of map or schedule that charts your individual productivity levels during a given day or week.  That’s the first step. You’ll use this information to plan your days going forward.

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Schedule According to Your Flow Pattern

Look at the types of things you do each day…each week. What can you move around so that it’s a better fit for you? Can you suggest to your team that you schedule meetings for late morning if you can’t stand to be social first thing? Can you schedule detailed project work or highly creative tasks, like writing or designing when you are best able to focus? How about making sales calls or client meetings on days when you are the most social and leaving billing or reports until another time when you are able to close your door and do repetitive tasks.

Keep in mind that everyone is different and some things are out of our control. Do what you can. You might be surprised at just how flexible clients and managers can be when they understand that improving your productivity will result in better outcomes for them.

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Account for Big Picture Fluctuations

Look at the bigger picture. Consider what happens during different months or times during the year. Think about what is going on in the other parts of your life. When is the best time for you to take on a new project, role or responsibility? Take into account other commitments that zap your energy. Do you have a sick parent, a spouse who travels all the time or young children who demand all of your available time and energy?

We all know people who ignore all of this advice and yet seem to prosper and achieve wonderful success anyway, but they are usually the exception, not the rule. For most of us, this habitual tendency to force our bodies and our brains into patterns of working that undermine our productivity result in achieving less than desired results and adding more stress to our already overburdened lives.

Why not follow the ebb and flow of your life instead of fighting against it?

    Featured photo credit: Nathan Dumlao via unsplash.com

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