Ever since I was little, dinnertime has been one of the worst experiences that could happen/has ever happened to me. Every time we’d sit at the table, by heart would sink into my stomach and an intense anxiety would grip my chest.
The biggest fights we had in our first couple of years of dating were around eating, and my worst nightmare is a dinner date with my husband.
At work, lunchtime fills me with dread. I can hear the rustling of paper bags and crisp packets and immediately my palms are sweaty and I can feel an intense anger rumbling somewhere deep within.
If you haven’t heard of it, here it is; misophonia. Hatred of sound. It can range anywhere between “ooh that’s an icky noise” to being violently sick because the noise is too much. I’m somewhere in between.
If you bite your nails, I hate you with passion. If your nose is blocked, I cannot stand you. If you eat anything (bananas and other mushy foods are just the worst!), I can guarantee that I am plotting ways to kill you.
Misophonia isn’t a recognised condition at the moment, but the AMC in Amsterdam are conducting further studies and pushing it to be recognised. And it will in time; misophonia was only first spoken of in 2000, so the general description is a new one, although the “disorder” itself isn’t yet.
Misophonia sufferers are often told they are “crazy”, that they need to “calm down” and that it’s “all in their head”. I’ve heard it all, mostly from people close to me. It hurts and it just makes you feel down on yourself, but putting a name on it helps and (for me at least) knowing that you’re not alone helps. It exists, it is a thing, it’s not just you. The rest of the world might have not caught up, but they will.
I’m your typical misophonia sufferer; I have OCD and I suffer from anxiety. When I’m stressed and my anxiety levels are high, I struggle more with noises around me. If I’m relaxed and concentrating on something I enjoy, I can almost ignore the issue. But generally, other people’s eating just drives me around the bend. My husband is the worst. In his own words, he’s got an “wetter than average” mouth, and every bite that he shoves in that gob of his, turns into a cacophony of mastication and me into a weeping, shaking puddle of anger. I don’t think people quite understand the amount of anxiety as small a thing as eating a banana causes. And I think unless you experience it yourself, you never will. It’s not just the psychological issues either, it’s a whole-body fight-or-flight response. The hairs on my neck rise up, my palms sweat, my shoulders tense up and my stomach starts churning. In fact, it doesn’t even need the noise anymore. If I’m stressed out enough, the mere sight of a banana can start the reaction in a pavlovian-style reaction.
It’s not known what causes misophonia (although genetics are suspected to be at play?), and as such there is no cure. It’s all about managing the condition. CBT has given some sufferers relief, as well as SSRI’s as they reduce the amount of general anxiety which lessens the effects of misophonia. As a sufferer, I’ve learned to cope. It’s funny how many little weird habits you develop in trying to cope with it. You become a master at hiding your ears, as you need to hide how you’re blocking them either with your hands or headphones. You end up having the same routine as the worst offenders as mimicking the sounds helps – I tend to time my lunchbreak with certain colleagues’, or you develop avoidance routines at the same time as triggers tend to happen. I’ve at times spent a good 15 minutes sitting in the bathroom, playing on my phone because I’ve not been able to stand a colleague next to me eating their curry. You could always ask them to stop I suppose, but I find I can’t bring myself to tell someone to stop eating; it seems incredibly rude. It’s my issue so I need to deal with it. Husband is naturally an exception to this because… well, he’s my husband and my issues are his issues!
So please, next time you’re around someone, remember; no teeth against cutlery, chew with your mouth closed and slow down with the eating – fast eating creates more noise!
Is misophonia something you’ve heard of before? Do you think you have misophonia?