First things first: nobody knows what you’re talking about.
To be honest, I didn’t even know there was a name for what I had. About two years ago, I became more and more sensitive to particular kinds of noises. Originally, I’d figured I was just getting a little sensitive to noise because of college stress. But before I knew it, my strange sensitivity was suddenly engulfing every aspect of my life. I couldn’t eat without music. I couldn’t eat with my parents. I couldn’t talk to my sister. I didn’t know what was wrong.
It wasn’t until I saw somebody online talking about misophonia – describing themselves in ways eerily like myself – that I looked it up. Roughly two-years after that first Google search, misophonia has become the primary objective of my academic career in psychology. It’s what I’ve made an investigation proposal about, and what I’m currently making another investigation about as well.
But just what is this mysterious malady?
Misophonia is a relatively recent condition in which the person subject to it has a particular sensitivity and often sudden, negative reactions to what are mostly everyday sounds. It comes from the greek words “miso” and “phonia” (no surprise there), and literally means “hatred of sounds”. Most misophonics hate sounds that have to do with other people’s mouths and noses but these triggers could be pretty much anything. They are almost always made by somebody else. The causes are as of yet unclear, but the effects are more than documented. People who have misophonia suffer greatly in their day to day lives. I am a living example. Here’s a little sample of how it affects me:
My day as a misophonic starts with breakfast. I don’t get bothered by hearing myself eat – it’s when a friend drinks her coffee and I try with all my might not to get upset by her smacking her lips when she opens her mouth to talk. When I leave, I’m constantly on my guard hoping that nobody will breathe or tsk or chew straight into my ear. I don’t just walk briskly because my classes are far. It’s harder to hear people when you nearly run past them.
Once I get to class, it’s a game of strategy – I refuse to sit in front of someone that is eating or drinking because I won’t be able to concentrate in class at all if I do. Of course, if I’m late to class I might not have a choice, but I’ll despise it anyway. I’ll be so vexed by another student chewing gum in class that I will literally twist around in my seat to look for the source of noise and hope that maybe my pointed look will make them stop. (It doesn’t always work. It also doesn’t always seem to register to some people that while it’s okay to eat in certain classes, chewing gum is not.) Don’t even get me started on exams! More often than not people are decent and know not to bring food or chew during a test, but sometimes…not. Protip: don’t bring really crunchy foods to class. I’m not the only one that gets super distracted.
After Class/During Lunch:
Once I finally get out of class, I probably eat out. I try to make sure it’s in a place where there’s a lot of noise so I don’t hear anyone else eat. If it’s not, or if deciding is making me anxious in and of itself, I just take it to go. At the end of the day, I get to my dorm sweaty, tired, and moody.
The hardest part about all of this is not just the noise, it’s that nobody understands. Most people have never even heard about misophonia – not my parents, not my classmates, not even my psychology professors or any mental health professionals that I’ve personally asked. I can’t exactly blame them, of course, given that it is a relatively recent theme being investigated. Moreover, all the pros and know-abouts are everywhere but Puerto Rico. The only place where I can for sure find someone who knows what it’s like is to look up on forums outside the country. It’s terribly lonely.
Still, there’s always a good side. Little by little, awareness about misophonia is being brought to light; more and more people are interested in the subject, academically and personally. Forums have popped up. Conferences have been organized. People want to know more about how they can help those with misophonia live happier lives. So far, it is a growing community that I can’t wait to contribute to, as both an investigator, and a misophonic collegiette. Here’s to hoping others closer to me will join in as well.