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

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