Misophonia

The ‘Chilli Pepper’s song, ‘Under The Bridge’, makes me want to punch a wall. Actually, there are lots of songs that make me want to punch a wall – Shanice’s classic ‘I love your smile’ is another. 

I’m not by nature a violent person, I haven’t got the energy – but it’s incredible just how music and sound can affect your emotions. I can understand the music that makes me feel happy or sad, but angry? Is it a connection to the song that I’ve forgotten? Or do I just hate the style or the voice?  

Unless I’m having a particularly weird day, I generally don’t listen to things that evoke rage within me, but sometimes you just can’t escape. Music in a shop, or someone playing their iPod out loud on a bus.  And it’s not just music. 

Sounds can cause great annoyance within me.  Obviously there are some that need no explanation like a morning alarm clock, but the sound of someone eating a bowl of cereal? It just seems irrational how much that makes me shudder. 

But it turns out – it may not be irrational. In recent years, a condition known as ‘Misophonia’ has been gaining more coverage. Also called ‘Selected Sound Sensitivity Syndrome’, Misophonia literally it means ‘A hatred of sound’ – (miso, hatred – phonia, sound) and was coined by US scientists Pawel and Margaret Jastreboff in 2001. 

Researchers don’t yet know what causes Misophonia, but they believe there is an abnormally strong reaction of the Limbic (our emotions) System and the Automatic Nervous System (bodily control). Both these systems are closely connected to our Auditory (hearing) system and so some sounds activate the ‘fight or flight’ response – giving way to feelings of anger, or anxiety and the need to get away from it. 

According to Misophonia UK, an organisation set up to raise awareness and provide information and support:

  • The age of onset will often be around 10-12
  • The ‘trigger’ sounds which tend to be most difficult are connected with eating and breathing
  • The reaction starts with the sound (or some aspect of the sound) and often develops to include actions associated with the sound and even anticipation of those actions
  • The closer the sufferer is emotionally to the ‘trigger’ person, the more offensive the sound tends to be
  • The reaction is experienced most commonly as extreme rage

So, it’s quite possible that someone in my family is responsible for my reaction to the sound of someone eating a bowl of cornflakes, but I also hope that this can in some way explain my extreme dislike of certain songs. I’ve just chanced listening to the Shanice song again and my reactions are still the same - three bars in, involuntary shuddering and the instant feeling of wanting to rip my head off. 

Thankfully, I only experience rare and mostly mild moments of this, but for others it can be quite a debilitating condition. For more information about this, check out http://www.misophonia-uk.org/

 And just for fun, see if Shanice causes the same amount of rage in you.

 by Simon. February 2014.

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