Chew on This

After reading a recent Slate piece, we thought it might be worth taking one more bite at Misophonia.mouth

It’s one of those conditions that you might not know is a condition, even if you have it.Misophonia – from the Greek word meaning hatred of sound – is characterized by feelings of rage triggered by other people chewing, sipping or chomping on their food. It’s more than just not liking bad manners at the table, but a real visceral reaction to that sound or other kinds of sounds such as sniffing, lip-smacking and even other people breathing.

Many with the condition have the same kind of surprised reaction that writer Megan Cartwright described in her Slate article.

Other people have this?! “ she asked.

She thought it was just her.No other people have it, but often just think that it’s just them. Although Cartwright looks at a few recent small studies a little skeptically, 23andMe recently conducted an internal study looking at more than 90,000 customers who have consented to research and found that about 20 percent reported that they were “filled with rage” by the sound of others eating.

The percentage found in 23andMe’s study was similar to the numbers found in a study cited by Cartwright that was done last year by psychologists at the University of South Florida. That work also found that the condition appeared to be associated with psychiatric conditions such as anxiety, depression and obsessive compulsive disorder. But other researchers said characterizing the condition, as a psychiatric disorder is a mistake.

She interviewed Dutch researcher Pawel Jastreboff, who with his wife and co-researcher, Margaret Jastreboff, first came up with the term misophonia. Pawel suggests that the condition has more to do with learned behavior by an individual with an existing sensitivity to sounds.23andMe’s research, which focused on people of European ancestry, identified a specific genetic variant, , associated with misophonia that is near the gene TENM2, which plays a role in brain development.

  • Lori

    My 14 year old daughter has Misophonia. Sounds have bothered her since she was about 9, but when she turned about 12.5, it became immensely worst. She has many, many triggers. Just now she was so filled with rage at the way that my hands sound on the steering wheel while driving that she had a complete meltdown, grabbing the steering wheel and moving it side-to-side while screaming at me. Unbeknownst to me, this has now become a new trigger but she had been keeping it in for a month because she knows there is absolutely nothing that I can do about it. She keeps a lot in all day, the way that other people breathe, walk, bones crack, eat, chew, clinking of any type, etc. are part of her everyday, moment by moment struggle. Many times the only way we can communicate is that we text each other because certain sounds I make such as the letter “s” “ch” “K” “cks” etc. put her in an angry frenzy. Unconsciously, she mimics when people speak. If I say a word with an “s”, she will “SSSSSSSSS” as if making fun of me and then go on talking to me as if she did not just do that. It is very painful to watch, because there is no peace for someone with misophonia. We have tried anti-depressants, many different white/grey/pink noise, many different head phones, etc. Nothing helps her. She has tried relaxation exercises, retraining the brain, et. al. Cannot eat around other people, finds being on a plane torture, does not go to movies, etc. She just wants to be normal.

  • Stuart O’Neill

    Unfortunately I’m well familiar with the problem. It absolutely should be considered a mental health issue. As you point out, and this direct comment is the first I’ve seen in print, depression and anxiety can be by products of the problem. I’m a chronic depressive and at the same time have Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

    This has caused no end of grief in my life. I’ve had the same doctor, a well known bio-chemical psychiatrist [my term], and a psychologist for 20 years. I’ve learn to retrain myself in the reactions to the trigger while also taking three medications. Frankly since I started trying to get control of my life so late I’ve had to learn how to live my life all over again. Of course we didn’t know there was a specific syndrome for all of it. I stmbled across a NYT article on the topic. That was maybe 3 years ago or less.

    To date I’ve learned to ignore my reaction until I just can’t anymore. At that point I just leave wherever I’m having the problem. I find myself looking for the ‘right’ table/booth at a restaurant or public place. I deliberately look for people chewing gum or ice. Ice used to drive me into a rage. Now I take it as long as I can then I just leave. Generally I look for the table farthest away from people. There is such a thing as the Human Herd Instinct (Google it…really exists) so many times I’ll sit alone and soon there will be someone next to me. I hold my breath and hope there’s no problem. Sometimes i just move.

    In time I’ve toned down my reactions. They’ve not gone away. But I’ve never been married and I know for a fact this issue has poisoned two relationships. They just don’t understand why I must ask them to refrain from certain behaviors. I tell them that I know it makes no sense whatsoever but to please honor the fact I have no control.

    Boy that’s a great way to try to become a step-dad.

    I hope Lori see’s this long comment. The only way I can control the reaction once I can tell I’m starting to spiral out of control is to take a quick acting medication like Aprasolam (Xanax). If you look at the medical studies there is no other medication more recognized as effective as this one. It has been a lifesaver for me. I’m not a doctor but we went through 15 years of trying medications or combination of medications. I take three medications today and I can live with the problem if I control my surroundings.

    It’s terrible as it can, as you can imagine, poision relationships of all types. There isn’t an answer yet but today we can take the edge off of the reaction. I have to say with out have both types of doctors it would never have worked, It hasn’t worked in the sense that it doesn’t exist anymore. But I can live without the raging most of the time.

    Don’t accept the medical ‘ model’. Look for someone who thinks outside the lines. The medical model treatment might have sent me over the edge.

  • I had my hearing tested in a research program at MUSC. The young man came out of the sound booth to gush about my super powers. “You have the hearing of an eight-year-old!” he exclaimed. It doesn’t fill me with rage, it has always made me think that people are so damned inconsiderate to leave me no choice but to become intimately acquainted with their mastication. And don’t get me started with wind chimes! Ack!

    Yesterday, traffic was stopped, waiting on a train. The guy in the next lane had that thumping, sub-sub-woofer going that hurt my chest and ears so bad, I u-turned and joined traffic again several blocks back. THAT sort of pain will induce a bit of self-preserving frantic survival instinct. Not sure what might have happened if I couldn’t escape it.