Misophonia Is Much More Than Sound Rage

12/02/2016 11:18 am ET Updated Dec 05, 2016

A disorder callously dubbed “Sound Rage” by media, misophonia has received marginal attention. Most stories follow a similar rhetoric. A person is so “enraged” by sounds that their normal day-to-day life is impaired. A special focus has been on “chewing rage.” Media has marveled at the thought of an apple, popcorn, or crunchy food causing a severe aversive reaction. Reporters are not entirely to blame for this. Sufferers can become confused too. This can be attributed to information that has circulated and not been vetted. It could even be attributed to the name itself, meaning “hatred of sound.”

Though, we don’t really hate sound. Actually, some of us may be bothered by sensations entirely out of the realm of auditory. But, spreading like wild-fire, the concept of “sound rage” has mesmerized the curious, and added more paralysis to an advocacy world already crippled by lack of public tolerance and belief. As an advocate, I feel it is part of my job to help people to understand the disorder. I do not necessarily blame the media or the public for their lack of understanding ― after all, science is only beginning to understand the condition.

Misophonia sufferers, which may be overlapped with SPD SOR (sensory over-responsivity), commonly report several “triggers” that have nothing to do with sound. In fact, most of the senses seem to be incorporated. Second to auditory stimuli, visuals have been reported as highly intolerable. This could be swaying motions, tapping (even without sound), or legs shaking. While some of these may have a sound attribution, it is not necessarily always the case. While there may be more senses involved, the following are widely reported.

Sound: Sound triggers are widespread and often repetitive. Tapping, chewing, breathing, coughing, snoring, clicking, jingling, sirens are all common triggers.

Visual: Can be related to sounds, but not always. Tapping, swaying, leg bouncing, foot shaking.

Touch: Often under-reported, touch symptoms can feel almost creepy crawly. Synthetic fibers, nylon, denim, wet fabrics, porous materials, and often velvet.

Smell: May be mistaken for “scent allergies,” scent triggers commonly cause a headache or nausea. Often brought on by chemical-products like perfume, but they can also include natural products. Axe body spray, cleaners, fabric softeners, lavender.

When living with a sensory disorder, especially misophonia, there is a lot more to worry about than just sounds. While the sounds (and visuals) are most life-altering, that does not mean that the other symptoms are not important. An over abundance of these triggers has been known to cause migraines, fatigue, and nausea. The sensory system is a delicate balance, that few aside from occupational therapists understand. Susan Nesbit, OT, advises persons with misophonia, “When possible, modify your environment to reduce the frequency  (number), the intensity (strength), and the duration (length of time) of the triggers. Modifying the environment is helpful for persons with misophonia and/or SPD.”

Education is the most powerful tool when it comes to understanding sensory disorders like misophonia. More research is needed, and especially, more understanding. As the scientific community becomes more aware of the sensory world, it is important that advocates are research out and bridging the gap in understanding. Misophonia is not only NOT sound rage, it is much more encompassing.

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