One of the more pernicious side-effects of misophonia, particularly when one is lacking the proper coping skills, is isolation. When it seems as if trigger sounds may pop up anywhere one goes, and lead to internal mayhem one does not know how to deal with, the easiest solution often seems to be staying home, avoiding social interaction altogether. Though this may help avoid one problem, unfortunately, it creates another. Isolation can lead to loneliness and disengagement in adults, and, importantly, may stunt social development in children and adolescents. This can be distressing for misophonia sufferers and their families. Parents of misophonia kids and teens may wonder, how can I encourage my child to socialize, despite his or her sound sensitivity? The good news is, though it may not seem possible, there are several strategies you and your child can use to help ease socializing for him or her. This is certainly not a lost cause, for any misophonia sufferer. Below are a few helpful tips:
Take a break
When sensory stimuli is overwhelming, whether at home, in the classroom, or out with friends, your child can learn to “take a break” from the situation. By politely excusing him or herself to the hallway, restroom, or outdoors, your teen can create a short time away from the bothersome stimulus. This can be a respite, in which your child’s nervous system can return to homeostasis. Oftentimes, after a break, a child can return to a room with noxious noises feeling much calmer. Here is a sample accommodation letter that can be printed and brought to your doctor to personalize.
Advocate for yourself
Though it may be particularly difficult for easily-embarrassed teens, self-advocacy can go a long way to helping misophonia sufferers feel more confident in their environments. In school or at work, self-advocacy may mean pushing for necessary accommodations, and fighting through bureaucracy, however with friends and peers, this is a much simpler process of explaining the disorder in easy-to-understand terms. You may want to work with your teen on how best to explain misophonia to his or her friends, in as much or little detail as he or she feels comfortable sharing. Once your child feels his or her friends understand the disorder, he or she may feel more comfortable leaving the room when trigger sounds are present, putting in headphones, and using other coping skills.
Choose social engagements wisely
Living with misophonia does not mean one cannot spend time in whichever social situation he or she would like, however, it does mean certain situations will be easier to handle. For example, if one is bothered by chewing and swallowing sounds, but not by loud music, it may be far more enjoyable to attend a concert than to go to a restaurant. Likewise, if a teen suffers from hyperacusis (sensitivity to loud sounds), he or she may have an easier time going for a walk with a friend, rather than to a large party. Generally, if misophonia teens feel empowered to select activities that suit their sensory needs (outdoor activities, activities where trigger sounds are not often present, etc.) they will be able to enjoy time with friends with reduced anxiety. This is not to say anyone can completely prevent trigger sounds from occurring, but may simply reduce that likelihood.
Continue to Build Coping Skills
Though it is a long road, the surest way to encourage social interaction from your misophonia teen is through building coping skills. The more your child feels that he or she has the tools to deal with misophonic triggers as they arise, the more comfortable he or she will feel in a variety of environments. This can be achieved through working with a professional, or multiple professionals, in various fields, from psychology, to audiology, to occupational therapy.
The most important tip we can offer is to not give up! Sensory issues can sometimes make the world seem terrifying, with a trigger sound around every corner, however having misophonia does not mean you cannot enjoy your life. With some extra planning and effort, your teen can and should have a full social life. You can find coping tips here.