How to explain Misophonia to help people understand.
There is nothing more frustrating than suffering from a disorder that no one understands. Or is there? I am sure that at some time you have tried to explain Misophonia to a friend, co-worker or family member. They claim an immediate understanding then make that dreaded comment. “Oh, I think I have that too, I get so annoyed when someone…” The blood rushes to your head, anger and fury are building inside you. You are biting your tongue when you really want to blurt out, “NO YOU DON’T!”
There is an immense difference between being “annoyed” by something and being “triggered” by it. A distinction that very few people seem to understand. The question is, how can you get them to understand?
Although the literal definition of Misophonia translates to “hatred of sound” that description is very misleading and diminishes the severity of the condition to a non-sufferer. For example, I hate when my husband throws his socks on the floor, the laundry hamper is only two feet away. That dirty pair of socks does not send me into a mind-numbing rage, it annoys me but, guess what? I can get over it and move on with my day. Sure, I may mumble something under my breath, but it ends there. When you suffer from Misophonia, it does not end. It festers inside the sufferer, and reactions vary based on many factors.
It seems to be safe to say that when people explain Misophonia, they use terms that lessen the impact of the condition. What kind of words?
ANNOYED– Yes, triggers are annoyances, but they do go beyond that. Being annoyed does not typically send someone into a raging meltdown.
HATE– Most trigger sounds are everyday noises that at some point in our life may not have always been a trigger. Repeated exposure build up an intolerance with our processing of these sounds. In many cases, we do develop a hate for these noises. Generally speaking, when we hate something, it does not mean that it is a trigger. You can avoid things that you hate, you can ignore them or tune them out. With Misophonia, you cannot always avoid triggers and you certainly cannot ignore them or tune them out.
Frankly, some of our current trigger sounds may have been sight or sounds that we previously found pleasurable. Then one day, something changes and they become triggers. You can develop a hatred for these sounds because they trigger you. They are not triggers BECAUSE you hate them.
BOTHER/ BUG/ IRRITATE– Similar to hate, there are things that can bother someone but that does not make it a trigger.
Words like hate, bothered, annoyed do not portray a clear understanding of Misophonia. Why not? As I have stated above, you can easily avoid or ignore things that bother you. But you cannot ignore or tune out a trigger.
Lately, I have found myself keeping it simple, with the less is more theory. “I have a condition where certain sounds invoke an immediate fight or flight situation.” For some reason, people will accept that at face value without a bunch of questions. Not that I mind questions, in fact, I encourage them. I see it as a chance to help raise awareness of Misophonia. A few months ago, I was triggered in a store and went into flight mode literally crashing into a door resulting in a very black and purple eye. People would look and ask what happened. “I was triggered by a sound and went into fight or flight mode and crashed into a door.” Ahh, I understand.
Please do not take this as criticism if you have used these words, as we all know Misophonia is such a difficult condition to understand. It is definitely an “outside the box” disorder. Although we seem to share some common triggers, we all have different reactions and coping mechanisms.
Let’s take a look at some accurate words or phrases we CAN use to accurately describe Misophonia.
TRIGGER– Defined my Merriam Webster as ” something that acts like a mechanical trigger in initiating a process or reaction” Think of it like a gun going off, sufferer or not, this sudden sound will evoke the fight or flight response, the difference is, a Misophone will not calm down as quickly as someone who is not. Maybe if you explain that certain sounds FEEL like a gun being shot suddenly will help someone understand how it actually feels.
EXTREME SOUND SENSITIVITY or HYPERSENSITIVITY TO SOUND “excessively or abnormally sensitive”. We hear sounds that others cannot, for the most part, we have what I refer to as supersonic hearing. I can hear sounds like the clicking of jaws when a person is chewing, or the sound of someone swallowing. Sounds that most people do not even notice, and if they do, it’s really not a big deal because they CAN ignore it. When a Misophonia sufferer tries to ignore it, our brains do the opposite and zone into the trigger sound.
Once we find the KEY words that accurately portray what a trigger is and how it makes us feel, others may gain a better understanding of Misophonia.