Misophonia – Definition, Causes & Treatment
What is Misophonia?
Misophonia is a strongly aversive response or abnormal sensitivity to certain specific sounds, irrespective of their volume and often made by other people.
People with misophonia struggle to tolerate specific sound triggers. Common trigger sounds include:
- The sounds of other people eating/breathing/swallowing etc.
- Repetitive sounds (eg a pen tapping, keyboard tapping)
- Dogs barking
- Neighbour’s music
- Noise from a nearby factory
Exposure to trigger sounds in people affected by misophonia can involuntarily result in strong emotional responses of irritation, anger, intrusion and disgust.
Misophonia involves an abnormal perception of loudness and a heightened awareness of trigger sounds. It may develop when those sounds become perceived as an intolerable intrusion into one’s sense of personal space.
What can cause Misophonia?
Misophonia often stems from an aversive reaction to specific sounds made by family members and/or environmental sounds in childhood or teenage years.
When misophonia develops, everyday sounds begin to appear unnaturally prominent and increasingly annoying. Following exposure to some or many of these sounds, high levels of irritability, anger and disgust can develop. This reaction can escalate to an involuntary rage following exposure and can generalise to include more and more sounds.
Those affected can feel overwhelmed, embarrassed, ashamed and guilty by the intensity of these emotions and fear their ability to control them or resent being exposed to their trigger sounds.
How common is Misophonia?
Online forums, support groups and media attention in the last few years have raised awareness of misophonia, suggesting it is more widespread and can potentially encompass a more severe level of a reaction than was originally considered.
Misophonia is not listed in the current DSM-5 or ICD-10 systems but is currently being investigated with regard to classification as a discrete psychiatric disorder, overlapping with many features of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
Treatment for Misophonia
- Understanding the central auditory pathway, including the mechanisms of misophonia
- Management of hypervigilance towards the auditory environment
- Sound enrichment strategies, including the creation of a “safe space” where sound enrichment strategies can be used to create an “auditory bubble” providing a cocoon to shield from trigger sounds and detachment from the environment.
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