There’s a name for the phenomenon.
The sound of chewing can drive plenty of people up the wall, down the street, and around the corner. It’s the favorite sound of approximately no one. However, if a person’s reaction to sounds like yawning and chewing is severe, the culprit might be misophonia, a disorder also known as selective sound sensitivity syndrome. The phenomenon occurs when a trigger, usually a specific noise, creates an extreme emotional response.
This is no small annoyance. While the sound of chewing may elicit an eye roll from some, for those with misophonia, it can prompt panic or rage. As described by Dr. James Cartreine in a post on the Harvard Health Blog, “People with misophonia are affected emotionally by common sounds — usually those made by others, and usually ones that other people don’t pay attention to. The examples above (breathing, yawning, or chewing) create a fight-or-flight response that triggers anger and a desire to escape.”
The term misophonia, from the Greek ‘miso’ (hatred) and ‘phonia’ (sound), roughly translates to “hatred of sound.” The disorder usually develops in adolescence and is thought to be related to the connections between sound, the brain, and the body. As reported by TIME, “Over the years, scientists have been skeptical about whether or not it constitutes a genuine medical ailment, but now new research led by a team at the U.K.’s Newcastle University has proven that those with misophonia have a difference in their brain’s frontal lobe to non-sufferers.”
Because of the extreme responses triggered, misophonia can make everyday situations challenging. However, there do exist strategies and therapies that have had some success in treating people with misophonia. You can learn more at the education and advocacy research group Misophonia Association.
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Have you ever heard of misophonia? As a relatively recently recognized disorder, there is still much to be learned about the condition.