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Family Feud: Misophonia and its Family Impact

Misophonia can have a major, negative impact on any relationship you’re in.

This is the sad truth for the majority of sufferers out there. A lot of misophonia sufferers end up fighting with their families quite a bit. It can be hard for anyone to share a living space with their parents and siblings, doubly so when they have misophonia.  A lot of my memories of my childhood include quite a bit of fighting with my parents. We are very close now and always have had great relationships, but there was a lot of arguing and emotions. Luckily, I’m an only child, because I can only assume that I would have lost my mind if I had to deal with a loud younger sibling or an older sibling who wouldn’t respect me, and whatever else people with siblings had to go through.

My parents are my biggest triggers, as much as they avoid triggering me. My dad loves music and works with music. This means that he listens to it all the time, which would drive me crazy as a child. Some people like having the television on as background noise, but he likes listening to the oldies radio station. Hearing muffled noises triggers me and I would hear them for hours at a time, which was my version of hell. This became way worse when he got an expensive, powerful sound system that provides clearer, louder music that can be heard basically throughout our entire house. I’ve thought of stealing the remote to that stereo and snapping it many times. He would also never use headphones when he would play computer games or work on his sound effects and music cues for his job as a sound tech for a theatre, which meant that every few months he would spend hours on end creating a whole new sound script for the play his workplace was performing. He often just told me to stay upstairs on those days.

The most common, universal issue for misophonia sufferers is dealing with family meals. A lot of families hold dinners near and dear to their hearts, as it is, ideally, a time where everyone gets together and enjoys a meal together while they have a nice conversation. This can be nearly impossible for sufferers. The thought of being within a few feet of a group of people chewing and talking and using utensils can be a nightmare, yet so many people are forced to eat with their families. Large parties with extended family can be even worse, like holiday dinners, as eating dinner together goes from a few people like your parents and siblings at the table to suddenly including all of your aunts and uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews, and grandparents.

The problem is that a lot of family members find that misophonia sufferers are either faking it or trying to control them. Of course, we know this is not true, but it is understandable. Reactions to being triggered can often be very noticeable and might seem dramatic to people who don’t suffer from misophonia. Here’s the positive part: There are ways to avoid a lot of common fights. It starts with knowledge. If you nicely let your family know that you do have this neurological disorder and that you’d appreciate their help, chances are that they will attempt to help you. Using coping methods is also a major help. There’s no reason to eat dinner silently, so try putting on some white noise or music in the background. If you know you’re going to be triggered, like it’s taco night and you hate crunching noises, just don’t eat together on that specific night.

Families may also find ways to avoid triggering you entirely. For example, they might learn to just not eat snacks if you’re in the room. If their nose is stuffy or running, they may just blow it instead of sniffling or breathing loudly. Fights are caused by a lack of understanding, so you can avoid them by spreading awareness and information. Remember, families are meant to love and support you.

By Victoria MacNeil Leblanc

College Misophonia Sufferers

College misophonia sufferers face troubles that many students have never imagined.

I’m a college sophomore, soon to graduate from my community college (yay!) And from my time there–2 years–I have had to deal with countless triggers from other classmates and from the professors themselves.

Let me tell you, it’s HARD to concentrate on a lecture when your own professor triggers you. All I hear is the trigger noise and the screaming voice in my head telling me to “just leave and forget school and go live in the mountains with your boyfriend where it’s nice and quiet and no one can trigger you”.

But alas, reality kicks in sooner or later.

For the past two years, I’ve been wearing earplugs to school and bringing a pair of over the ear headphones along to put on during lectures. The headphones ruin my cute outfit, but I gotta do what I gotta do.

This year, I had the brilliant idea to pick five 3-hour classes (four of them are once a week, hence why they’re longer. I took an American Sign Language class that was twice a week and the class was about three hours) and one regular class (twice a week, usually an hour and 30 minutes). So I have had to wear my headphones for most of those classes, and man did my ears and head hurt from wearing the headphones for such a long time. But, it was either wear the headphones or never step foot in class again. No pain no gain, right? ?

When I wore the headphones, I didn’t play any music or white/brown noise because I wouldn’t be able to hear my professor. I tried it in one of my classes and I was lost the entire time. I go to college to learn, not to get lost in my comfortable world of music and brown noise. My aunt always tells me to “get out of my comfort zone”, so I suppose I’m doing that on a daily basis already by not letting my misophonia control me so much at school, even if she doesn’t think I am.

Sometimes, when I’m having a really bad misophonia day, headphones don’t work either…I can hear a trigger noise through my headphones and I feel like I’m going insane. I mimic the sound and sit there trying to retain what my professor is saying, but I never can, so I have to go through my book and skim the chapter we covered.

I don’t have a huge problem with classmates being triggers. There’s the occasional foot tapper, the one that eats during class, the two people whispering to each other during class, and the one weird person slurping water from his HAND (yep, that happened once!), but my headphones drown most of that stuff out. It’s the professor that’s usually the main problem. I can still hear my classmates, but not as much as I would if my headphones were off or if I wasn’t wearing earplugs.

I fear one day I’ll say to myself “I’ve had enough” and just quit school and get a job somewhere that only requires a high school diploma and an Associate’s Degree (which I’ll be getting soon!). But I know my family would be disappointed, and my boyfriend would worry about our future together, so that keeps me from being dumb. For now, anyway.

In the end, the way I cope isn’t the best, but it’s all I can do. I’ve tried going to an audiologist for assistance (hearing filters), but that didn’t go as planned because they never got back to me. I rely on earplugs 24/7 and headphones for situations where if I leave due to a trigger, I’ll feel rude/miss out on something. I know putting in earplugs for long amounts of time can’t be at all healthy, but what else can I do? Would I be willing to try going without earplugs? Only if there was a better alternative. Like the equivalent of earplugs, but they work like earphones and filter out all the offending noises. ? I hope this was a good read, thanks for reading!

Long Car Rides and Misophonia Simply Don’t Mix

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If you’ve ever been on a long field trip, whether it’s to visit family or go on vacation (or a combination of both), and you were stuck in the car with all kinds of triggers, you know what I’m talking about. It’s probably the worst thing to anticipate and go through, especially if you HAVE to go on the trip because your family is saying “You have to go. This is why it is always important to have insurances like One Sure Insurance covering your cars, you never know when you will need to make an unexpected trip, Get the facts here”

Don’t get me wrong, I love my family and I love spending time with them, it’s just most of my family basically live on the other side of the world. And since I don’t see them often, when a trip is planned, I have to go and I get extremely anxious.

I’ve learned to prepare like crazy when trips like these spring up out of the blue. I prepare two ways. The first way is mentally. I have to acknowledge my anxiousness about the trip, and then let myself know that I’ll be ok. That doesn’t get rid of my anxiousness, but it brings it down a lot, which helps me think more clearly. The second way I prepare is by bringing my over the ear headphones to plug into my phone and listen to music in the car. If not music, then I listen to brown noise on an app.

Second, I bring things to read in the car, and that can range from 300 page novels to a single comic book. If the ride is long, I make sure to bring a couple books and a few comic books (if you’re interested, I love to read Spider-Gwen and Girl Thor ?).

This year, I’m visiting my aunt, uncle, cousin and his wife and children in New Mexico. I live in California. You can guess how long of a car ride that’s gonna be. LONG. So I must be prepared in order to survive (sounds like I’m preparing for a zombie apocalypse or something!). Thankfully, my relative that’ll drive me up there knows I have misophonia. She likes to play music in the car if the ride is long, so I can understand that. However, if the music starts to trigger me, I can ask her to either turn it off, turn it down, or just put on my headphones and listen to brown noise. This is just what I do when I’m stuck in a car for a long time with no way to escape, and I hope it helps you.

I’m so thankful I have my relative’s support, because I know many of you don’t have support from your family, and I think that’s terrible. When I first started experiencing misophonia, my parents didn’t support me either. I went online and showed them evidence that what I was experiencing was real and valid. That’s when they started to be more supportive. If you’ve already tried this and your family still isn’t supportive, just know that you are valuable and neither your family nor misophonia should make you feel any less. I encourage you to keep trying if it’s safe to do so (by “safe”, I mean if your mom or dad or other relative don’t start yelling at you and start triggering you on purpose when you bring up misophonia, then you should persist in trying to help them see that misophonia is real, and that their support is vital).

Thanks for reading!

Impacting The Entire Family

When you read this, you may think that I am the worst person in the world, and I don’t think I would disagree. This is the story of how Misophonia ruined my relationship with my mom. I ask that you please refrain from judgement. If you suffer from Misophonia, you will understand. If you are a parent of a child, who suffers from Misophonia, view my perspective as a window into the experience and challenges you and your child will face. Misophonia does not only affect the sufferer, but also everyone involved in their life.

Growing up, My mom was my worst trigger.

One of my earliest memories, was when I was about three or four years old. I was sitting with my mom, when she leaned over and told me, “I want to tell you a secret.” I was so excited! “A secret!?” I thought, “Mommy is going to tell me a secret!” I anxiously leaned in to hear, only for her to pop a handful of potato chips in her mouth and proceed to crunch them in my ear, laughing. I will never forget that day, or the anger, and hate, that I felt at that moment. I wanted to hit something… hard. I wanted to hit, or throw something at my mom. That’s terrible, but why would she do something so rude? Isn’t she supposed to teach me manners? Did she really think that was funny? From then on, things progressively got worse. Mom’s favorite lunch was peanut butter sandwich, potato chips, and a tall glass of Pepsi packed with crushed ice. All of these involved triggers for me. First, she would break ice cubes up with a spoon clanging the ice against the glass. Afterward, her ‘dessert’ was crunching that ice when the Pepsi was gone. When she would speak, the sound of the peanut butter residue lingering in her mouth made the most awful squishy sound. Cringe!Another big trigger for me was her voice and her singing... I never liked to have the radio on because she always wanted to sing along. She had a bit of southern twang that drove me over the edge, especially when she would mispronounce certain words. Even though I would correct her grammar, she continued her mispronunciation, and I was convinced she was purposefully doing it to annoy me. She would snap and say, “I can’t help the way I talk.” I was only asking her to use the word the correct way. Why couldn’t she just pronounce the word correctly? Why didn’t she realize how bad it distressed me? I’m sure she saw my pain.

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Because of the torment, I would often run and hide in my room. “Why? Why does she have to crunch everything?” I would think to myself, “this is worse than nails on a chalkboard.” These sounds would send me into fits of rage. I would throw things, punch my pillow, or bed. Once, I even put my fist through the wall. No matter what I did, I was never able to release that anger, it only seemed to build, and fester inside me. “Why are you always so hateful?” she would ask me. At one point, I overheard my mom telling my dad, that she thought I needed tranquilizers. Could you imagine hearing your mother say that as a kid? All I would think, were things like, “Gee, mommy, that really couldn’t make me feel like any less of a freak,” Why did she hate me? Why didn’t she understand, she was so mean! No, I did not need a tranquilizer! I just needed her to stop these terrible noises. Why couldn’t she see that it wasn’t my fault? Why do these simple things affect me like this severely?

My resentment towards her grew with each passing day…

It’s a shame, growing up thinking you hate your mother, the woman who gave birth to you. This is the woman that was supposed to love, and protect me from hurt, but she was the primary source of my pain. Sure, I loved my mom because she was my mom, but at the same time I hated her, and I had no respect for her because of the way she treated my brain ticks. Most people have fond memories of their childhood, but all I have are negative recollections of anger, frustration, rage, hate, and disgust. In my late teens, my mom and I got in a big argument. She triggered me with something, and I exploded. She said, “If you do not have anything nice to me, don’t say anything at all” So, I took her seriously. Mentally, I had, had enough. I literally stopped all communication with her, and my life was very peaceful. It was great! For almost two years, the silence between us continued. Two glorious years of tranquility. I was confused, I figured that I would miss having a mom, but I didn’t. Whenever she would extend the olive branch and try to talk to me, I justignored her. Why ruin the peace and quiet?

Then, my father passed away. We had to make arrangements for his funeral; We had to talk to each other. We put a Band-Aid on our relationship. Shortly after, I decided to move into my own apartment, near her, but I did not see mom much. My visits were limited to mandatory holidays and an occasional phone call. Why would I intentionally subject myself to the aggravation? I knew exactly what would happen: I would visit, get irritated, get a migraine and go home hating my mom more than ever. I never invited her to my apartment either. How would I handle her triggering me in comfort zone?

grandma-and-grandsonAlthough, I thought she was the worst mom in the world, she was a wonderful grandmother.

So when my son was born, I wanted the two of them to have a close relationship. At the age of five he developed symptoms of OCD.  While most people would chalk up his actions as bad behavior or tantrums, grandma learned what she could about OCD and would go above and beyond not to trigger his OCD. I always tried to limit our conversations to topics about my son and I always tried to do most of the talking so she would not be able to trigger me. It was still very tough for me to spend time with her and I would always leave her house in a very irritable mood. She drove me crazy, but she loved Kevin. I had to find some way to get past it.

With age, comes hearing loss. Personally, I was looking forward to this. However, when it hit my mom, she became a very loud talker, as if the frustrations with her couldn’t get any worse. She would get angry with me for asking her to quiet down. “Well, I don’t realize I am talking so loud, you could just tell me nicely!” However, I really couldn’t. The sudden earsplitting voice echoed to the pit of my stomach, sending shooting pangs of nausea, and tension, through my entire body. It was like an electric shock. I didn’t want to snap at her, it was just a reflex.

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Between her coughing, labored breathing, and the clicking sound of her oxygen tank, it was way too much for me to be around.  Anytime I tried to have a conversation with her, I always ended up frustrated and enraged. Why did I have to call her? It is her life’s mission to drive me crazy? I was not there for her last days; I just could not bring myself to visit her. I tried to go visit a few times, but I would just find myself pulling over to the side of the road, with a massive panic attack. It was physically impossible for me to go see her, the mere thought of this caused such severe anxiety that I was making myself physically ill from the anticipation of the triggers. This is not normal! Why can’t I just go see her? I told myself it was because I cannot deal with death, which is true, but there had to be more to my apprehension. What could it be? I decided that to go talk to a psychiatrist. During my intake appointment with the doctor, I mentioned that sounds and noises made me very upset and angry. I told him that, I mentally and physically, could not deal with them, but my words were disregarded. I guess it must be all in my head, how can I be such a monster? I was given a prescription for some anxiety pills, which did allow me to attend the funeral service.

I was sad that my mom passed, but at the same time I felt a tremendous wave of relief. This is not right, I should be more upset. My sister is falling on the floor in tears, and I have a few that occasionally will well up in my eyes.  Is this my way of coping with death? My lack of emotion caused additional animosity with my older sisterI tried to explain the anxiety and panic attacks to her, but in her eyes I was just being selfish. I was never there. I just let her take care of Mom, on her own. How do you explain that your mother absolutely infuriates you, that being around her has given you thoughts of suicide, that you have chosen to avoid situations that make you feel as if the only way out is death?

Today, I know that I am not a monster.

I am not a bitch, I am not crazy, and I don’t have anger management issues. It turns out, that my whole life, I have suffered from a neurological condition called “Misophonia.” There is a medical reason which explains how I can go from the sweetest person in the world to the meanest monster in the blink of an eye. Misophonia… a name for the “sounds of torture” I have experienced my whole life. We all grieve in our own ways. I went through a period of going through everything, and getting rid of it. The doctor explained, that, for me, I was “purging my grief by purging my belongings.” It sounds strange, but it actually provided me with great comfort. To this day, whenever I try to think happy thoughts of my mom, all of those pent up emotions come flooding through the gates in my brain and I do not know if I can ever truly forgive her. Yes, I know it is not her fault, it was my condition, but it is pretty hard to dismiss the forty plus years of blame, hatred, and rage because of a simple brain tick. I cannot get those years back. I can never talk about a happy childhood. Misophonia has taken that away from me. This is something I need to process. Can I find the closure and forgiveness that I need? I am really not sure. This is something I need to deal with in my own way, in my own time. Now, I need to take care of me and finding ways to get through each day with Misophonia, until someone can provide me with answers.

In hindsight, the more I learn about Misophonia, the more I see that Misophonia inhibited any type of healthy relationship I could have had with my mom. If she had known I was suffering from a neurological disorder, she would have learned what she could to help me, and not trigger me. If she had known, maybe we could have had a healthy relationship. If only there were ways to prevent this for future families… I have chosen to share a very personal story with you in hopes that it will help you fight for a stronger relationship with the Misophonia sufferer in your life.

It was such a relief to learn that what I suffer from is not a flaw in my personality, and also, that I am not alone in my experience. There are other people that have the same thoughts and feelings, and have felt the way that I have. Many Misophones have similar relationships with members of the families. There are people out there, right now, that are undiagnosed and suffering in silence as I did: blaming themselves, hating themselves, and thinking they are the worst people on the planet.

This is why we are raising awareness.

 

Everyone Needs a Best Friend that Understands

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A few years ago, I posted on Facebook that I had misophonia. I was extremely nervous because most of the people in one Facebook group, the Misophonia Support Group, had negative experiences. I explained it as best I could, and the people who saw that post and commented have been nothing but supportive, which is amazing. My best friend, Elizabeth, of like 10 years (maybe more, we’ve lost count!) has also been supportive, in more ways than she thinks. She is the one on the left in the picture.

I want to highlight one instance in which she helped me immensely while we were hanging out at her house. Now studying in New York, she came down to visit, and during one of the times we were hanging out, we were watching TV. We were watching Cutthroat Kitchen, an intense cooking competition, and at least two of the contestant’s were triggering me with their sharp/whistle-like “s” sounds. I was trying to enjoy it, but I was visibly irritated, and I plugged one of my ears and tried distracting myself on my phone. It was at that moment when Elizabeth got up to do something, and she asked “You ok?” Without thinking, I said “Yeah!” And I smiled. I realized my mistake as soon as I said that. I was so used to saying “yes” to that question, because when I’m being triggered, I can’t concentrate on trying to explain why I’m not ok.

However, when Elizabeth went to sit back down, she grabbed the TV remote and turned the volume down. The best part? I didn’t have to ask her to do anything, she just did something that helped me, whether she knew it or not. I smiled slightly, and immediately felt better. The trigger noises were reduced to a more tolerable level, and I could deal with that. I silently thanked Elizabeth and thought about messaging her later that what she did helped me cope a lot better. When I got home, that’s exactly what I did, and she said it wasn’t a problem at all.

I was lucky enough to meet Elizabeth and become best friends with her, and it’s amazing that she knows when I’m actually ok, and when I’m not ok. I am aware that many misophonia sufferers have best friends who aren’t that supportive. I’ve read many posts on misophonia groups detailing their negative experiences during hangouts with their best friend, from doing the trigger more just to annoy them, or actually ceasing to do the trigger but seem annoyed that they had to stop.

I am sorry for everyone who has a best friend that isn’t supportive. Perhaps starting a conversation about misophonia with them and encouraging them to ask questions will help. Perhaps your best friend just doesn’t know enough about it, and doesn’t see it as a big deal. You could print/bring up articles from the web on your phone and show them that you’re not making it up if they’re hard to convince. I’m incredibly lucky that my best friend is as supportive as she is, and I can’t stress enough how much that means to me. It’s important for everyone’s best friend to be supportive, because it’s mostly their support that keeps you going, and keeps you from giving up.

Who Discovered Misophonia?

Almost every article about the origin of misophonia begins like this: “Misophonia, which means ‘hatred of sound” was termed by Jastreboff and Jastreboff in 2001.”​

After this cursory mention of the Jastreboff’s and their role in naming misophonia, academic authors often jump to their own interpretations about the disorder. This leaves readers wondering why these two esteemed doctors at Emory University thought to conceive of a new disorder in the first place.

In order to comprehend a newly proposed disorder, it is important to understand its history. If we don’t, members of the medical community often regard these disorders as “unreal” because descriptions of them have been haphazardly built out of ambiguous bits of information that ultimately don’t add up to anything grounded in theory. I like to call this process the “dominos of disbelief”. Misophonia is a very real condition that has unfortunately fallen victim to this phenomenon. In order to help put together the puzzle pieces of misophonia, let’s talk about the conception of the disorder, and the doctors who named it.

While working in their audiology clinic, the Jastreboff’s (who happened to be married) observed that some people reacted to sounds, such as chewing, pencil tapping, keyboard typing, and coughing, with high levels of irritability, sometimes to the extent of rage, or disorientation. This group of patients responded to “repetitive” and “pattern based noises.”

Unlike their patients with hyperacusis (a disorder in which individuals feel pain in response to loud sounds), individuals with misophonia appeared to respond to “repetitive” and pattern-based sounds with autonomic arousal. That is, upon presentation of such stimuli, patients reported rising stress levels (such as elevated heart beat, muscle tension and sweating) along with strong negative emotions. This was different from what the Jastreboffs had seen with regard to other forms of “decreased sound tolerance” such as tinnitus (ringing in one or both ears), hyperacusis, and phonophobia (fear of sound often secondary to hyperacusis).

Due to the high cost of research the Jastreboffs did not study their misophonia theory, but ventured to begin treatment at their clinic based on methods previously used for tinnitus and hyperacusis. Since then a small body of academic literature coupled with a great deal of popular press has emerged replete with consistent misunderstandings about the Jastreboff’s original concepts. Lets begin to set the record straight.

Although the Jastreboff’s suggested that misophonia involves negative associations between auditory, cognitive and emotional areas of the brain, they did not view misophonia as a “psychiatric disorder” and certainly not any specific one such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (personal communication, 2015). Similarly, the Jastreboff’s ideas about misophonia treatment were based on neuroplasticity (the brains ability to reorganize itself based on making new associations). This treatment has its roots in their tinnitus and hyperacusis retraining therapy. It is not simply “exposure therapy” as it is often described. Unfortunately, both research and treatment has followed some of these misconceptions.

Taking this step back, how should we conceptualize misophonia? I think a judicious way to describe the disorder is as one in which auditory stimuli provokes a neurophysiological response with accompanying negative, emotions, cognitions and behavior. Misophonia should not be referred to as a psychiatric disorder.

How should therapists treat misophonia? Therapists and doctors must be very clear that treatments are all experimental at this point and that efficacy studies will hopefully ensue. Therapists can also help sufferers cope by consulting and communicating with other clinicians across disciplines, and taking the initiative to utilize individualized strategies for each client.

Most of all, therapists and doctors can help by taking the time to learn about this easily misunderstand disorder, and sharing this knowledge with misophonia sufferers.  As a psychologist who has misophonia (and who has raised a child with the disorder) I know this:  In the case of misophonia knowledge may not be “power” but it can help take some of the “power” out of the disorder.

Originally posted on PsychToday

For more information about misophonia research misophonia-research.com

How Do I Get a Misophonia Diagnosis?

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Because misophonia is not currently in the DSM-5 (the standard classification of mental disorders used by mental health professionals in the U.S), finding a misophonia diagnosis is nearly, if not literally, impossible. Because of insurance codes, American medicine relies on diagnostic codes to classify disorders. However, this is changing. More and more conditions are being judged on a handful of symptoms instead of a cookie-cutter diagnosis. Unfortunately, this system will not happen over night.

 

How do you obtain a misophonia diagnosis?

The short answer for obtaining a misophonia diagnosis is that technically, you cannot. However, many doctors are compassionate and understanding. Dr. Linda Girgis, MD, discusses the particular challenge of misophonia diagnosis.

Rare diseases are difficult to diagnose just by their virtue of being rare. But, more importantly, science does not understand all of them so well either. Some patients can go years until they are diagnosed and others simply never are. And when they are diagnosed, sometimes no treatments exist. Additionally, third-party insurance companies can stand as a barrier to getting to a diagnosis and the treatment that is needed.

Misophonia diagnosis has many barriers. Luckily, researchers are avidly working to ensure that these problems will not exist forever. For now, though, many wonder what they can do. There is no cut and dry answer. Finding compassionate doctors can be a great help toward coping with the disorder. A growing number of professionals are willing to help you find the answers that you seek.

 

The Misophonia Provider Network

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The Misophonia Provider network
is a project developed by the IMRN. This network provides a map of professionals that have at least a basic understanding of misophonia. In the future, the Misophonia Provider network will provide courses to educate professionals. For now, the provider network features US providers only, but will add additional countries as they grow. Clicking entries on the interactive map will take you to provider information and biographies. Additionally, you can browse for providers based on their type.

 

Choose Therapists/Doctors you are comfortable with

If you are not comfortable with your doctor or therapist, please consider finding another. While some may have trouble with this because of insurance many therapists are understanding of this predicament and will do their best to find solutions for you. If you are not comfortable with your doctor or it is “not a good fit” then both parties may be wasting their time and your money. If your therapist or counsellor is not compassionate and willing to understand (or learn about) your disorder, then you should consider finding one that will.

 

Consider asking your therapist/doctor to help you achieve work or school accommodations

Accommodations for your disorder could include a change or workspace (somewhere quieter), exams in a private location (for students), headphones, and whatever else you may feel comfortable with. You can print this sample letter and take it to your doctor as an example of an accommodation request.

 

Is Misophonia Neurological?

Is misophonia neurologicalMany people have wondered, is misophonia neurological? Classifications of disorders are usually based upon their underlying causes. Thus, if a disorder is caused by a neurological problem, we would say it is a “neurological” disorder.

However, in modern times it has become increasingly difficult to categorize disorders in this way because disorders overlap, and causality is often unknown. This, of course, adds to the confusion.

Neuroscientist Joseph E. LeDoux has been studying the implications of auditory over-responsivity in the part of the brain called the amygdala. The amygdala plays an important role in the body’s fight/flight/freeze processes. It is because of the nature of the amygdala and the limbic system that misophonia is most-likely neurological in origin.

The amygdala is also involved with memory. In terms of misophonia, regardless of whether or not one is born with the disorder individuals make memories in which the body’s fight/flight response is associated with particular sounds. In addition, some of us may be born with a higher arousal system, or may simply be more sensitive to auditory stimuli. Therefore, some of us may be more vulnerable to forming these memories. The perception of memory offers reasonable theories as to why cognitive therapies such as CBT have shown little progress for misophonia, and have been said to make the disorder worse. Dr. LeDoux is working on whether or not memory reconsolidation therapy can have an impact on persons with misophonia. This research is particularly interesting because it is widely innovative in regard to approaches for misophonia.

Edelstein, Brang, Rouw, and Ramachandran (2013) found some similarities between Synesthesia and Misophonia. Edelstein et al. proposed that misophonia “displays similarities” to synesthesia. Edelstein et al. used both self-report (qualitative interviews) and physiologic measures (Skin Conductance Response, or SCR) to characterize aversive reactivity in Misophonia:

“The underlying neurological cause of this condition may be similar to that of synesthesia in terms of enhanced connectivity between relevant brain regions. In short, a pathological distortion of connections between the auditory cortex and limbic structures could cause a form of sound-emotion synesthesia.” (Edelstein et al., 2013).

The authors note that limitations of the study include small sample size, a lack of screening for psychiatric or psychological problems (no measures of mental health disorders were included), and that SCR measures autonomic arousal, but does not describe the nature of the emotion associated with that autonomic arousal.

As you may have noted, the synesthesia research is applicable to Misophonia as it directly addresses the aberrant brain connectivity that the Jastreboff’s originally conceived of.

While synesthesia research does not directly translate into treatment, it can certainly further our understanding of the disorder and therefore inform treatment. There are a few more synesthesia research studies underway and it will be interesting to find out results.

Is Misophonia Mental Illness?

Is Misophonia Mental Illness? What are the facts and theories?

is misophonia mental illness The important question to ask when determining the misophonia mental illness debate is to define, at least quickly, what a mental illness is, because a lot of people are unsure what constitutes mental illness. There is a general consensus within the medical and advocacy communities that mental illnesses are psychiatric and psychological in nature. According to the American Psychiatric Association, mental illness:

  • refers collectively to all diagnosable mental disorders — health conditions involving
  • Significant changes in thinking, emotion and/or behavior
  • Distress and/or problems functioning in social, work or family activities

Why is there confusion as to whether misophonia is psychiatric?

Misophonia is probably not psychiatric and “psychiatry has a way of coopting medical/neurological conditions that are not easily explained. Physicians are often complicit in this victim-blaming process. For those of you who are unfamiliar with one of the worst disorder classification faux pas, allow me to introduce you Autism…formerly known as the Refrigerator Mothering Disorder” (Dr. Brout) When research isn’t conducted to properly find what causes a condition, psychiatry can be quick to slap a label on the condition. In her article in the NY Observer, Dr. Jennifer Brout discusses her conversation which psychiatrists that were ‘hell-bent’ on labeling, diagnosing, and essentially “treating” misophonia.

“I asked the author of many of these studies why he and his colleagues were doing therapy for misophonia when there was absolutely no consensus as to what the disorder was (and when none of their therapies had been trialed). During his transparent explanation, he slipped up and referred to misophonia sufferers as potential “consumers”.”

So, does this mean misophonia is not a mental illness?

Misophonia is most likely to be neurological, but this does not mean that it is not a mental illness. Some researchers have begun to tip the tradional theory of “illness” upside down. There are emerging ideas and evidence that support a new definition of mental illness. While not a mental illness as stricly defined by iron-clad definitions, in the future there may be a thinner line between disorders that have origins in the brain. An academic paper from 2015 talks about this changing perception.

“The results may be taken as a slap in the face to the distinction-abolitionists, yet such individuals might take heart in them in that there is no implicit hierarchy in what emerges as the brain-based hallmark of neurological versus psychiatric conditions; they both involve the functionally interesting parts of the brain, it is just that they are, quite subtly, different.”

While confusing to some, this has positive implications for the world of research. Under a paradigm that strips away the strictly worded diagnostics codes of the DSM-5 treatment and research can move past set expectations and work-together for cross-disiplinary approaches. The IMRN has advocated for this approach of research. Whether or not misophonia is a mental illness depends upon who you ask. Its basic components are in the brain, more specifically the limbic system. As classifications of disorders continue to change, we may find the definition of mental illness itself will be put into question. However, for now, misophonia is not a mental illness in the sense that it is a diagnosable mental disorder, in-fact, sufferers may have trouble obtaining a misophonia diagnosis.

Is Misophonia Psychological?

Many persons ask the question, “Is Misophonia psychological?”

misophonia psychologicalWhile the answer to this question is largely based on a small body of research, the answer is none-the-less important . This question is particularly challenging not because of misophonia, but because of the ever-changing field of research and theory. In modern times it has become increasingly difficult to categorize disorders in this way because disorders overlap, and exact cause often remains unknown. This, of course, adds to the confusion.

While a research paper has declared misophonia a psychiatric disorder, there is perhaps little evidence to support this claim. While the paper asserts that Misophonia is not only psychiatric, but related to OCD, little more is offered than a case study of 2 children. Furthermore, findings were self-reported and small scale. Dr. Jennifer Jo Brout explains the limitations of the study.

“[A]s limitations to their study, the authors note that most study participants were female and that only self-report measures were used. However, in a case study of two children, the researchers report that Misophonia appears to be a psychiatric disorder that is highly correlated with OCD. In addition, due to accommodations parents have made so that children may avoid “trigger sounds” at home, trigger sounds may have in fact worsened. That is, lack of exposure to these particular noises have worsened the severity of the response. In general, the OCD researcher/clinicians agree that patients would benefit from by re-conditioning therapy similar to that of the Jastreboff’s.”

But, aside from this research, is misophonia psychological?

Compelling evidence has arisen that points misophonia in a different direction. Instead of psychological, the condition may in-fact be neurological. Not only this, it takes part in the center of the brain that regulates fear, the limbic system. As explorations continue, it seems less likely that misophonia is merely a psychological predicament. However, this does not mean that a cross-disciplinary approach will not be beneficial for the eventual treatment of the disorder.

Miren Edelstein, researcher and author of, “Misophonia: physiological investigations and case descriptions” advocates for better communication in the research world, particularly for brain conditions.

“I think it would be extremely beneficial to have neuroscientists and audiologists, as well as clinical psychologists, psychiatrists, and physicians, all collaborating together to conduct Misophonia research. Right now, a major problem for Misophonia research that needs to be addressed is the lack of communication between various fields of study. Researchers from different disciplines all have unique and valuable perspectives on the topic, but this information is not being communicated in an effective manner across groups. I believe that an interdisciplinary research environment, while simultaneously promoting a more unified dissemination of knowledge, will be the most effective at fostering breakthroughs in the field.”

The complexity of misophonia is important. While the disorder does some psychological symptoms it does not entirely pertain to psychological processes, “In addition to reporting psychological symptoms, all of our misophonics reported physical symptoms synonymous with autonomic arousal in response to trigger sounds.” (Edelstein)

While an exact answer on whether or not misophonia is psychological is not yet possible, there is great cause for concern when the condition is absent-mindlessly labelled as psychological.