Leiden Psychology Blog

Misophonia: when the sound of slurping drives you crazy

Misophonia: when the sound of slurping drives you crazy By Dmitry Kalinin

The sounds of other people eating, slurping, smacking their lips, or chewing can be pretty annoying. Yet, in some people hearing these sounds leads to blood-boiling rage: a condition called misophonia.

Misophonia (literally 'hatred of sound') is a relatively unexplored condition, but according to several psychiatrists misophonia deserves its own place in psychiatric diagnostic manuals. Depending on severity, misophonia can lead to serious disturbances in daily functioning. For example, misophonics try to avoid situations where certain triggers could be present as they are terrified of having an uncontrollable burst of rage. As a result, patients are likely to end up in social isolation. As one misophonia sufferer  -TV host Kelly Ripa- once explained: "The sound of people chewing really enrages me. If my husband eats a peach I have to leave the room, otherwise I will scream and yell. Dinnertime is a very stressful event and puts a large strain on our family life."

Although scientific studies on the etiology of misophonia are rare, Edelstein et al (2013) recently investigated arousal of the sympathetic nervous system in misophonics – the part of the nervous system responsible for regulating ‘fight-or-flight’ responses. In this study, electrical conductance of the skin and the amount of sweat produced were examined in response to auditory stimuli (skin conductance response, SCR). Because sweat production cannot be controlled by the will, SCR is a measure of arousal of the sympathetic nervous system. The stimuli in the experiment covered a range of ‘trigger’ sounds and predicted emotional responses in misophonic subjects obtained from an earlier experiment.

Misophonics were found to have significantly higher SCRs in response to auditory stimuli (but not to visual stimuli) than  non-misophonic controls. This finding indicates that misophonic patients have abnormally high arousal of the sympathetic nervous system. The authors furthermore argue that misophonia parallels a condition known as synesthesia. "In synesthesia, as in misophonia, particular sensory stimuli evoke particular and consistent, additional sensations and associations." The authors discuss the possibility of using brain-imaging findings in synesthetes, for example to test the hypothesis that there is an abnormal connectivity between the auditory cortex and limbic structures underlying sound-emotion synesthesia.

It remains a matter of debate whether misophonia can be seen as a distinct psychiatric disorder, because in a study describing a series of case reports it has been suggested that misophonia is likely to be a symptom of obsessive-compulsive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and/or schizotypal personality disorder.

If you want to ‘diagnose’ yourself, you can do the test online (in Dutch) at Psychologie Magazine 'Test hekel aan geluid', or check the freely available scientific publication by Schöder et al (2013) for the proposed diagnostic criteria.
 

7 Comments

Ricky Smith
Posted by Ricky Smith on July 22, 2017 at 11:54

Hi jiska Paper!
Nice post . Very informative.Great article.
Thanks for sharing.smile

Heartbeat
Posted by Heartbeat on May 19, 2016 at 01:16

My life has been a living hell because of my extremely loud and noisy neighbors. Apart from me suffering from misophonia, the noise my upstairs neighbors make is unbearable. They would move furniture and run or play soccer late at night. All day, I don’t get to hear anything they do. They’re so quiet and nice.The loud noise starts after midnight probably around 11, or 12 and it goes on until dawn. It is so irritating. It is strange how my brain reacts differently to certain noises though. For example, I have an air conditioner that as soon as I turn it on, it makes such a loud noise but I can easily tune it out and sleep peacefully. Sometimes it gets a lot louder when it is on for longer hours but I still don’t have any difficulty falling asleep!. But, if I hear the slightest noise of my upstairs neighbors moving some furniture or clopping around, I get frantically aggravated. It’s such a mystery how some sounds are tolerable and others incredibly agonizing.

Tom Porpiglia
Posted by Tom Porpiglia on August 12, 2015 at 03:07

The fact that this article makes a distinct connection between misophonia and limbic systems fight/flight/freeze response indicates that traumatic events are involved in the origin of this condition.  Therefore, if trauma is involved this is not a psychiatric condition.  At least one of these comments involves a “traumatic event” (rosaind martin).  My guess is that what ever sound was going on when her father poured the ice water over her head “created” the sensitivity and became a “conditioned response” to “irritating noises” (Pavlov’s Dogs 101).

It is quite possible that Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT/tapping) can help with this condition because research has demonstrated that EFT down regulates the responses of the limbic system to stressful, painful memories.  Much of the research was done on combat veterans and others who have experienced war related traumas.  85% of the veterans treat experienced a 63% reduction is symptoms in a short period of time and the outcomes were sustainable over time.  Many physical symptoms were tracked and invariably decreased.

Trauma is very personal and up to individual interpretation.  It is also possible that people are unaware they have been traumatized, and yet the body remembers it.  Emotional issues are often at the base of physical conditions and the research has indicated that relieving the emotional issues often relieves the physical symptoms.

I just started working with a client with this condition, and I know there is trauma involved.  What I don’t know yet is when this condition started w/respect to the trauma.  When I know more, I’ll post some information.  In the meantime, I suggest investigating the possibility of working with a very qualified EFT practitioner, like myself, to help with this condition.

rosaind martin
Posted by rosaind martin on March 16, 2015 at 02:11

when I was 5 my father became so enraged that I accidentally gulped my cold milk he poured his glass of water with ice on my head.  I grew up a very quiet person (71 now).  My father killed himself soon after so his rage was very real.  I wonder why specifically a mouth-oral-oriented sound might have such a strong reaction.

ella
Posted by ella on October 9, 2014 at 09:47

so where is the test?

nikki
Posted by nikki on May 20, 2014 at 04:33

Wow. I seen a post about this on facebook and now have been reading up on it for hours…. since I was about 10 I can really remember chewing driving me insane. I would often have to leave the table or get stomach aches prior to eating at relatives or friends houses because I knew the sounds were overwhelming to me. Pens clicking, rattling in the car, having the stero too low with people talking over top, definitely slurping, low whistling, scratching are some other sounds that make my blood boil and quite often my chest tighten…I guess kind of like an anxiety attack but not as extreme? Or is it? I dont know but. Ive always thought that I was just over senstive or had some sort of anger issues..reading through this comforts me knowing im not the only one but also scares me that I could have a real disorder…. hmm… still taking thia all in….

Paul
Posted by Paul on March 31, 2014 at 15:38

I have been suffering from this condition since I can remember. I am now 38 years old. Chewing (crunchy or chewy with saliva sounds), clipping finer nails, gulping a drink, snapping / popping chewing gum, et. al. These sounds truly kick my fight/flight response into over drive. In most situations I am unable to flee which make my fight response trigger and I see red. I truly go into a rage. I was on Cymbalta 60mg for a few years and this seemed to attenuate the problem but it did not make it go away. I am now off Cymbalta and have notice a marked return in my misphonia. I do not want to go back on Cymbalta so I was hoping for some other resources. I need to find a specialist in this are in southern NJ or Philadelphia.  For reference I also self diagnosed myself with spatial synesthesia.

Add a Comment

Name (required)

E-mail (required)

Please enter the word you see in the image below (required)

Your own avatar? Go to www.gravatar.com

Remember me
Notify me by e-mail about comments