Since we spend more time with our friends and family, it should be no surprise that their noises (and visuals) become some of our worst triggers. It can still be baffling to come to terms with the fact that our own mothers, fathers, or friends are causing us distress. It’s important to note that while people we’re close to may be our worst triggers, that doesn’t mean that it’s because of anything they or you have done.
While research has yet to identify the exact reason that loved ones trigger us more than others, Dr. Jennifer Brout offers her idea of why this happens. Sensory information is cumulative.
Because of this, each time we are triggered we become more overwhelmed — then, we may react more quickly to a person around us. We’re also more likely to trust that a family member or friend will still love us if we over react! Another reason loved ones may trigger us falls more along the lines of our brain makeup — our memories. The more a person triggers us, the more likely we are to associate them with the sounds. Unlike some one without misophonia, we do not “get used” to a sound or experience. Instead, it becomes a never-ending nightmare. If you’re anxious or tense around a person, you may be more likely to store triggers in memory. If a person is a trigger, you should try to handle the situation as calmly as possible. It’s best to leave explaining your disorder for when you’re calm. Escalating the situation is unlikely to repair the damage, and the negativity can just make your disorder worse.
While we can’t always avoid trigger sounds, it can sometimes be best to leave the situation when your nervous system gets triggered, you can sometimes become calm by removing the situation for a brief period of time. Leaving the situation can be helpful to readjust your nervous system. This can be hard for many, but it is something that can be adapted to over time. As Dr. Brout says, “There is no formula for when to avoid or to approach sounds. There’s no right or wrong. It might be comforting to know that avoidance and escape from aversive stimuli is normal and in-fact, it’s a survival mechanism”.
On some days, triggers may be worse than others. This can be confusing for persons with the disorder. On some days we can handle some of the triggers surrounding us, and on others the drop of a pin can bring us to a full-swung panic. Your physiological arousal is actually worse when you’re anxious, already in a bad mood, sick, or simply tired. Sensory cumulation also means that new trigger situations are more likely. With this in mind, it’s important that we consider our health before going into a situation. While you shouldn’t keep yourself away from fun activities, you should not feel guilty about needing more “alone time”.Want to learn more? Join a Workshop with Dr. Jennifer Brout or Duke CMER at Misophonia Education.