Chewing or heavy breathing noises drive you crazy? You may have misophonia

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You hear your spouse breathing nearby and you instantly get angry. Your 6-year-old yawns and it triggers a fight-or-flight reaction in you. You avoid restaurants because you can’t stand the sound of chewing. Sounds other people don’t even seem to notice, drive you up a wall. You might have misophonia.

The little-studied disorder means people are "affected emotionally by common sounds."

According to Harvard Health, these noises can trigger a fight-or-flight response that can translate into anger or a need to escape the situation.

It affects some worse than others and can lead to isolation, as people suffering from this condition try to avoid these trigger sounds. People who have misophonia often feel embarrassed and don’t mention it to healthcare providers — and often healthcare providers haven’t heard of it anyway.

Nonetheless, it is a real disorder and one that seriously compromises functioning, socializing, and ultimately mental health. Misophonia usually appears around age 12, and likely affects more people than we realize. 

[Misophonia: When sounds really do make you "crazy"]

NPR recently published a story chronicling an 18-year-old Pennsylvania student who suffers from misophonia. The teen told NPR that during dinner with family, her heart would pound and she would either start to cry or get really intensely angry.

NPR said even the sight of someone chewing gum, a specific smell, a finger tapping on a table or a pen clicking could trigger negative reactions.

There is some good news. Misophonia clinics exist throughout the U.S., and treatments such as auditory distraction (with white noise or headphones) and cognitive behavioral therapy have shown some success in improving functioning.

For more information on this study, please click here or contact the Misophonia Association.