What do a bag of chips and loud crunching do to your kids? If you said throw them into a rage, we should talk. Did you know that some of us are triggered by noises? I am not talking about being slightly annoyed, I am talking about an urge to go completely ballistic when hearing these sounds. Let me introduce you to the world of sound rage, better known as Misophonia.
Misophonia literally means “hatred of sounds.” Misophonia has many names including Select Sound Sensitivity Syndrome and Sound-Rage. There has been very little research on Misophonia, but there is speculation that it may be caused by a dysfunction of the central auditory system in the brain and not a dysfunction of the ears. Early data is showing a possible hyperconnectivity between the auditory system and the limbic system, a part of the brain responsible for generating emotion.
That would explain the irrational anger and strong hatred these sounds illicit. Unfortunately, Researchers are in the early stages of understanding this phenomenon. It will be some time before we have a clear picture about this condition and what treatments will be truly effective.
Here are some common symptoms kids suffering from Misophonia exhibit:
[This list is not meant to be used to diagnose and is for informational purposes only.]
#1. They have an irrational reaction to certain sounds.
#2. They get angry when someone makes noises while eating.
#3. They verbally attack the person who is making the noise.
#4. They are bothered by other sounds as well such as breathing, sniffling and gum chewing.
#5. They have a hard time sitting at the dinner table without getting enraged.
#6. Other noises bother them, such as someone on a keyboard, the tapping of fingers/pencils or the clicking of a pen.
#7. People are afraid to eat in front of them.
#8. The sound of water dripping upsets them.
#9. They are aware that they have an irrational reaction to noise (this awareness may not be present in younger children).
#10. They show some level of anxiety when they know they are in a situation where they will be triggered.
Younger kids might only exhibit a few of these symptoms and may develop further symptoms as they get older. Sensitivity to these sounds can cause an array of emotional reactions ranging from mild to the extreme.
Some kids might have mild reactions to noise sensitivity that might include:
Other kids might have severe reactions to annoying sounds that might include:
Verbal aggression towards the person making the sound
Attempt to physically harm the person making the sound
Fleeing from the sound
Crying and having a meltdown
A feeling of strong hatred toward the person making the sound
Types of sounds that trigger Misophonia:
Noises that revolve around the mouth:
-silverware on teeth or clanking plates
Other bodily noises:
-clicking buttons on remote or game controller
-tapping pencil on the desk
You might think, “What is the big deal? We all get annoyed by irritating noises. These kids just need to learn how to deal with it!” But your thought process would be all wrong. This is an issue that goes beyond irritation. These sounds are triggering intense emotions that are out of the child’s control. It is as if these sounds have a direct switch to their anger, a switch they have no ability to turn off.
The difference between general sensitivity to sound and Misophonia:
It is important to differentiate the experience of general sensitivity to sound to those suffering from Misophonia. Many of us have kids who have sensory issues. They might have an acute sense of hearing or might be disturbed by loud, overwhelming noises. That is not Misophonia.
Kids suffering from Misophonia aren’t bothered in general by loud, startling noises. They are disturbed by the specific types of sounds we have already outlined. The other difference is the intense level of anxiety and anger that comes with the sound.
Misophonia can cause intense rage. Rage that is targeted at the person making the noise. This rage can cause kids to verbally and physically attack the person making the sound. It can make it difficult for kids to eat meals with their family or their friends. Kids can have a hard time focusing in school, due to the built-up rage of classroom sounds. It can make kids want to avoid eating out, going to the movies (popcorn eaters are the worst) or hanging out with friends.
Not every child is going to have these severe reactions, but some do.
My personal experience with Misophonia
I have a confession to make. Misophonia is true to my heart, not only because I see kids in my practice suffering from it, but because I suffer from it as well. I didn’t know it had a name until a few years ago. In fact, it didn’t even have a name until 2000 when audiologists Pawel and Margaret Jastreboff gave it one. But since then people all around the world are reporting the same symptoms, making researchers scramble for answers.
When I was a child our dinner table conversation often centered around who is “chomping” and how to eat with your mouth closed. As I got older these sounds started to enrage me. I realized as an adult how debilitating this issue could be.
As I breastfed I would grow increasingly agitated at the sound of my baby sucking on my nipple. As my children grew older I would have them move away from me when they ate a snack. Later I would privately beat myself up for my behavior and would question what kind of mother would get angry at their kids for such normal sounds.
When you are triggered by these sounds, you have very little control over your strong emotional reactions. The sound of my husband channel surfing would generate such hatred and disgust towards him, I would literally be crawling out of my skin waiting for him to stop. These emotions can be confusing, as he is the last person on the planet I would ever feel hatred or disgust towards.
That is what Misophonia does to you. Not only do the sounds drive you completely crazy, but the aftermath of guilt and shame are not fun either.
There is no treatment for Misophonia but there are things that can help:
At this time, there are no evidenced-based treatment approaches yet for Misophonia. But there are two things I have found very effective:
Knowing about Misophonia helps
Believe it or not, the knowledge that this nasty thing has a name can help. Once I discovered that this was not my fault, the blame stopped. Once I discovered that my limbic system is possibly being triggering by these sounds, the guilt stopped. And once I understood the list of triggers that can cause me to go into a tailspin, the hurt stopped.
I informed my children about my issue. I let them know it wasn’t them, it was me. I explained in simple terms what the issue is and how it affects me. We all joked about it, but I know they were relieved to hear they weren’t doing anything to cause my irrational grumpiness.
Take precautions against triggering
We developed new rules out of love, not out of anger. We no longer eat on the couch. Yes, it is an added bonus that my couch stays clean, but the rule has a dual purpose. If little people want to snack, they need to be at the table. A place I stay far from when I see little mouths smacking, I mean snacking.
When I hear people on keyboards, game controllers or using the remote, I take a deep breath and get up if I need to. I tell myself it is not their fault. If I need to say something I start with, “It’s not your fault, but that sound is driving me crazy can you…” This helps remove blame and hurt from the issue.
You can help your kids by…
#1. Teach your kids about Misophonia. They will be relieved that this issue has a name and that they are not alone. Siblings will be relieved that their brother or sister doesn’t truly hate them.
#2. Have your kids make a list of sounds that trigger their anxiety and/or anger. This will help them know what sounds are triggering their sound-rage. If they are unsure, have them look at the common symptoms above.
#3. Teach your kids how to use coping mechanisms to deal with sounds they find unbearable. Let them know they can only control themselves not those around them. Teach them to use ear plugs, headphones and music to tune out irritating noises. Teach them to get up and move to another room when initially triggered.
#4. If mealtime is an issue, play music or use a sound screen to drown out the noise of everyone eating. Let your kids know that they can leave the table if the sounds get unbearable, but it is not okay to lash out at others who are eating.
Misophonia can be a slight annoyance or a serious issue. I hope that with this new information you are in a better position to help your kids and their little ears tolerate these irrationally enraging sounds.
Do you or your child suffer from Misophonia? What have your experiences been? What noises bother your child the most? Share in the comments below. Do you know someone who has children who suffer from sound rage? Share this article with them.