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Misophonia: Definition, Causes, & Treatment

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov
This lesson goes over a rare condition known commonly as misophonia. You'll learn its definition, what sounds it might involve, how a person reacts, as well as its causes and treatments.

Misophonia

Nope, not the sound of miso soup -- although that must be one delicious sound. Misophonia, or selective sound sensitivity syndrome, is the dislike or hatred of (specific) sounds. 'Miso-' means the dislike or hatred of something, as per misogyny, and '-phonia' is a condition ('-ia') of sound ('-phon-').

Let's learn more about this condition.

More on Misophonia

On that note of miso soup: one example of misophonia is the dislike of hearing someone slurp or chew. Even the sound of someone yawning or breathing can be very irritating to someone with misophonia. Other sounds people with misophonia may not like include whistling, fidgeting, a pen clicking, wiggling a foot, or one that most of us can relate to: scratching a chalkboard with your fingernails.

While many of us don't like that latter sound and might be kind of annoyed by it, our annoyance ends there. It's just a thought and nothing more. But people with misophonia might have a severe reaction to the noise. They might move away or run away from it. They could panic because of it. They might become enraged by it or feel hatred towards the person making the noise. They might physically attack the person making the noise or even have suicidal thoughts as a result of the noise.

This disorder is more common in women and most often starts around age 9-13.

Causes & Treatment

No one knows what causes misophonia for sure. The ears themselves aren't to blame in this condition; rather, it's the way the brain reacts to the sound that is most likely the problem. For instance, one study found that people with misophonia have increased activity in the anterior insular cortex portion of their brain when they hear a trigger sound. This is a part of the brain that processes emotions.

Treatment options for this condition are varied. For some, antidepressant medications might help. Others might be helped along with hearing aid-like devices, except they don't so much amplify the annoying sound. Instead, they create distracting sounds for the person. The noise could be something like that of a waterfall. The idea is that this noise would distract the person from the trigger noise.

Actually, a similar strategy is employed when types of psychotherapy, like talk therapy and sound therapy, are combined to help treat this condition. A physician in charge of the therapy would set up background noises in order to counteract the annoying sound during a therapy session.

The person with misophonia could also try to wear earplugs and set up spaces at work or at home where the noises that bother them do not occur. Exercise and sleep can help counter the stress associated with this condition as well.

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