My Misophonia: Not A Love Story

One nice thing about being a person with mental health issues in this day and age is that there is a lot less stigma about mental illness, and a lot more sympathy and understanding for those of us who live with and struggle with these conditions daily.

In my last post I shared that, currently, Misophonia is not actually considered a psychiatric disorder. Well, I consider it one. Too bad I don’t have any credentials! Honestly, though… the way my Misophonia feels, the way it dominates my mind and my body so completely, I just really don’t know how else to categorize or define it. How about I describe my Misophonia, and you tell me what you think?

Wikipedia says:

“A mental disorder, also called a mental illness[2] or psychiatric disorder, is a behavioral or mental pattern that causes significant distress or impairment of personal functioning.”

My Misophonia touches every moment of my day, from the instant I wake up, to when I eventually fall asleep at night. Technically, what actually occurs is the hearing of a sound – I’ll list the sounds that most trigger me most at some point – that for whatever reason my brain perceives as some kind of enemy. It varies, as there are many factors involved (including my mood at the time), but usually when my mind absorbs this enemy sound, it AND my body simultaneously react, and in a negative way. The aspect of Misophonia that I find the most distressing, other than its ability to ruin my life with so little effort, is that when I use the word negative, I probably should use the word violent.

A lot of people, when they talk about Misophonia, mention one particular triggering sound which I think most people can understand, and that is the sound of people chewing, or really, any kind of eating-related sounds. For those without Misophonia, finding themselves sitting next to a coworker who is slurping their soup might make them a little disgusted with the slurper’s table manners, and the sound might irritate them, but when the soup is gone, so is the irritation. Well, if I were sitting next to someone slurping their soup, things would not go so easily.

Physically, my heart would immediately start beating faster and harder. My chest tightens, like someone has wrapped their fingers around my ribcage and is squeezing their grip. My face starts feeling hot. Sometimes, my face feels so hot that tears start prickling in the outer corners of my eyes.

Inside my head? Well, this is where things can get a little hairy. First, there is an initial annoyance, and I review my options. Sometimes, simply removing myself from the setting is a possibility and I can easily excuse myself. But, there are occasions where that is impossible, and realizing that I’m “trapped” in a situation increases my anxiety tenfold. That’s when the anger floods my body with a river of heat that fills every limb, every pore, every cell of my physical self. Along with the anger is a bit of despair, as well. Nobody wants to feel the way this feels, and “this isn’t fair” is a common refrain.

Now, if I remain stuck next to the soup slurper, my anger will continue to escalate, until, if I still haven’t been able to escape, the anger turns into rage. And, with rage comes the scary part – the violence. Thankfully I have never found myself driven to physically hurt someone, but the fantasies of doing so… oh, they are something else entirely.

So, does that sound like something that might under the umbrella of mental illness?

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Misophonia

From Wikipedia: “Misophonia, literally “hatred of sound”, was proposed in 2000 as a condition in which negative emotions, thoughts, and physical reactions are triggered by specific sounds.”

Some key phrases from the rest of the (considerably short) Wikipedia page on Misophonia:

  • Misophonia is not classified as an auditory or psychiatric condition
  • there are no standard diagnostic criteria, and there is little research on how common it is or the treatment
  • as of 2016 the literature on Misophonia was limited
  • Misophonia’s mechanism is not known
  • there are no standard diagnostic criteria
  • it is not clear whether people with misophonia usually have comorbid conditions, nor whether there is a genetic component
  • as of 2018 there are no evidence-based treatments for the condition and no randomized clinical trial has been published
  • re: techniques to manage Misophonia: none of these approaches has been sufficiently studied to determine its effectiveness

“The diagnosis of Misophonia is not recognized in the DSM-IV or the ICD 10, and it is not classified as a hearing or psychiatric disorder.[4] It may be a form of sound–emotion synesthesia, and has parallels with some anxiety disorders.[1] As of 2018 it was not clear if Misophonia should be classified as a symptom or as a condition.”

Wikipedia

As you can see from the limited information above, the illness I suffer from – Misophonia – is not very well-studied. In fact, I’ve talked to both medical and mental health practitioners who have never heard of it. Imagine enduring an invisible sickness that plagues every aspect of your life, every second of every day, but is not even believed to exist by the people you go to for help. I am so grateful for the internet, because until I googled what I had been experiencing on a daily basis for the last twenty years, I thought I was absolutely alone. And… worse… I thought I was insane.