Something to Chew On

When she was a kid, torture for one 23andMe customer was having to sit at the dinner table listening to her father chew his food.Little Girl Eats Popcorn

This was long before she knew the scientific name for what she was experiencing. She’d just grip her fork and try to fight the fury bubbling up inside as her dad finished his meal.

In a 23andMe community forum on the condition, the customer said she’d only known two other people with the problem; one was her daughter, the other her half-brother. Misophonia – from the Greek meaning hatred of sound – is characterized by feelings of rage triggered by people munching, chewing, sipping and chomping their food. And it turns out there’s a genetic component to the little understood condition, according to research by 23andMe.

Many of those who have misophonia are unaware that it is a condition at all. They just know the sound of someone eating popcorn, or crunching down on an apple or smacking their lips sparks an overriding feeling of anger. It actually isn’t just the sound of eating; a variety of sounds can spark rage in those with the condition, including the sound of other people breathing.

That can make interpersonal relationships a bit difficult especially if you have to ask another person to, you know, stop breathing. Unusual as it sounds, misophonia is more common than one would imagine.

In an internal study of about 80,000 customers who have consented to research on the subject, 23andMe researchers found that about 20 percent said they were “filled with rage” by the sound of others eating. The researchers also found that the condition was more commonly reported by women than men. And the study identified a specific variant associated with misophonia among people of European ancestry.

The variant is near the gene TENM2, which plays a role in brain development.

Learn more about misohonia here.