Tales of a Misophoniac
If I’m ever forced to listen to your open-mouthed chewing noises — if you’re munching your popcorn behind me in a movie theater, if you’re smacking your gum next to me in an elevator, or if you’re slurping your soup in front of me in a restaurant — you can rest assured that while I may be smiling politely, beneath the surface I am a boiling cauldron of rage and disgust silently wishing that I could duct tape your face shut.
I’m terribly sorry for reacting that way, but I really can’t help myself. You see, I have misophonia, a psychiatric disorder in which certain aversive human sounds trigger impulsive aggression and extreme negative emotion.
It may not be listed in the DSM-5, but Arjan Schröder and his colleagues at the University of Amsterdam certainly think that it deserves to be. In a 2013 study, they suggested that misophonia should be classified as a discrete psychiatric disorder on the Obsessive-Compulsive spectrum. They identified the most common irritants as eating sounds, including lip smacking and swallowing; breathing sounds, such as nostril noises and sneezing; and hand sounds, such as knuckle-cracking and pen clicking. (Oof. Just thinking about that list turns my spine to glass.)
Like most people who suffer from misophonia, I lived with symptoms long before I heard of the condition, and I was relieved to discover that not only did it have a name, but I wasn’t alone. There are plenty of people out there like me who also have to suppress the urge to literally rip the throat out of a noisy swallower like Patrick Swayze at the end of Road House.
Of course, as a psychotherapist, dealing with misophonia can be a bit tricky. Clients can be the source of irritating sounds, and while I’m ashamed to admit it, sometimes I have to consciously set aside my negative emotions and remind myself to remain professional. Then again, the condition can also be a source of special bonding if I realize that a client is a fellow sufferer. I can offer an informal diagnosis, and together we can explore possible cognitive-behavioral treatment methods.
Misophonia is still poorly understood, and people are hesitant to talk about what feels like an aggressive overreaction to something as harmless as chewing sounds, but as someone who knows all too well what it feels like, I take the condition seriously.
If you live in Tennessee and want to discuss your therapeutic options for dealing with misophonia, feel free to contact me. I’m more than happy to chat with you.