When we think of teenagers we often focus on hormonal, physiological and emotional changes. However, we often neglect to focus on how cognitive abilities, or thinking, changes. By adolescence, individuals are typically able to utilize abstract reasoning. However, this doesn’t happen for all teens at the same time.
During the “tween” years, individuals begin to make logical predictions about the future (“what if?” questions). Then, as they grow into the later teen years, individuals move into hypothetical and deductive reasoning, which enables them to be able to plan and organize with more efficiency. However, there is a lot of variability in this stage and the parts of the brain that mediate these functions are not fully developed until age 23.
In addition, physical growth, hormonal changes, and emotional development overlap. However, they do not necessarily move forward in sync with one another. The disparity between the physical, emotional and cognitive development can be confusing for many adolescents. However, this can be even more difficult for those with misophonia. Therefore, it helps to base your expectations of your teenager according to these differing developmental processes.
For example, despite the development of more sophisticated reasoning, self-regulation (independently calming one’s body and mind) is often an area of difficulty for teens. This is why we often refer to our teenagers as “moody” and “unpredictable”. However, the ability to self-regulate is significantly compromised in misophonia, making the teenage years possibly more “stormy”. In addition, as socialization becomes more important, your adolescent is likely to face conflict between wanting to be with friends and wanting to avoid triggers. Finally, your adolescent may fearstigma associated with misophonia.
So, what can you do to help your teenager cope with these issues?
It may seem very challenging. However, you can help your teenager learn how to mediate relationships with friends within the context of misophonia. Here are some ideas:
- Reassure your teen that not all social events must be attended.
- It’s okay to skip ones that might be particularly uncomfortable, or to stay home and rest if a break is needed.
- In addition, you can help by suggesting alternative activities for your teenager (especially ones that are regulating, such as exercise, yoga, sports, dance, etc.).
- The more rested and regulated your teenager is, the easier it will be to cope with triggers.
- Help your adolescent understand that missing a particular event today will likely make tomorrow a better day.
Finally, as many of us know, family conflict often arises from the stressors of the adolescent years. Teenagers usually experience conflicts related to separating from family/parents as they move toward their peers. This conflict can be exacerbated for teenagers with misophonia, since they may be more reliant on their parents’ help. For many parents, it is difficult to parse out “typical teenage behavior” and behavior related to misophonia. Here are some tips that may help:
- Ask your teenager as calmly as you can about any behavior with which you are concerned
- This will encourage self-awareness.
- Try to make this a discussion to help figure these issues out, rather than making assumptions and engaging in conflict.
- Seek a mental health provider who can help if you and your family if you feel that you are faced with problems that seem insurmountable.
- Although the number of doctors and mental health clinicians is smaller than we would like, many are willing to learn about misophonia.
- Ask your doctor or therapist to consult with another professional who understands misophonia, and/or give them reliable information (provided at the end).
- Suggest to your counselor or therapist to take a course on misophonia. All clinicians are required to take continuing education credits and many are happy to take an online misophonia course. A link for a course is provided below.
Adolescence is difficult for the individual, and it is equally as daunting for parents. Misophonia can certainly make this already “stormy” time worse for everyone. However, helping your teenager make some adjustments within daily routines and in regard to social events can go a long way. Demonstrating understanding and patience when your adolescent is behaving in ways that concern you is not necessarily “indulgent”. Teens with misophonia often need their parents’ guidance and support for a bit longer than others.
For a comprehensive literature review to give your doctor: https://www.misophoniainternational.com/academic-article-misophonia-research/(link is external)
If your doctor or therapist would like a course on misophonia https://www.sensationandemotionnetwork.com/ceus-for-clinicians.htmlWant to learn more? Join a Workshop with Dr. Jennifer Brout or Duke CMER at Misophonia Education.