What can I do?
Communication and Understanding Triggers
Misophonia sounds like a made-up term, “hatred of sound” is the literal definition. As with many other words and phrases, it should not be taken literally. A person with Misophonia does not necessarily hate sound although we can certainly grow to hate them based on our trigger reactions.
Please understand that Misophonia is nothing personal. There are so many inconsistencies with this disorder. Many times, we can make the same sound that sends us into a frenzy and it doesn’t bother us. I have heard many times, “Why can you eat chips and I can’t?” That is one of those unanswered questions.
So many people voice concerns about having relationships with Misophonia. Will I ever find someone to accept me? Will I ever get married? Will I ever be able to have children? The answer to all those questions is YES, you can but it takes work. Before you roll your eyes, please remember that all relationships take work and suffering from any type of affliction is going to add obstacles, you just must both be committed to overcoming those barriers. I am not saying it will be easy, but it is certainly possible.
If you have a spouse, a partner, or child suffering from Misophonia you should really try to support them as best as you can, this is part of being in any kind of loving and supportive relationship. Misophonia sufferers understand that this is a very challenging condition to comprehend, but if there are some things that you could do to help improve our quality of life, wouldn’t you want to? What can you do to help? You can LISTEN.
Communication is so critical in any relationship whether its business or personal. Communication builds trust and openness. Sit down with your loved one when you are both in a calm state. Ask them to tell you what triggers them, how does it make them feel? Do they have the urge to run away? Do they feel rage? Does it make them cry? It is imperative that the sufferer is open and honest with you, that they know that you are not judging them, but that you are truly interested in trying to help. I really cannot stress this enough, this is NOT the time to sugar coat things to try to spare someone’s feelings. If your partner has a habit that is a trigger for you, it is best to be open about it, so you can deal with it appropriately. It deserves to be repeated, this is nothing personal. Our brain translates triggers sending us into fight or flight mode. It does not distinguish that the sound is coming from from the love of our life, it is about the sound NOT the person making it.
Once the triggers are identified, you can work together to develop ways of coping with them. Since everyone has different triggers, I am going to provide a few examples of the most common triggers and some common things that may help.
EATING SOUNDS- We all have to eat so this is not something we can just stop doing. Some people are only triggered by certain eating sounds such as crunchy foods while others are triggered by ALL eating and/or mouth sounds.
For someone that is mildly triggered, they can get through a meal with some background music or the television playing in the background.
Someone with a little stronger reaction may not find the ambient noise as helpful, they may need to wear earplugs or earbuds to stream the music directly in their ears.
Then you have someone with an extreme aversion to eating sounds (like myself), I need to eat in another room, I will leave the room if someone is eating. Think of it as a give and take situation. Perhaps you are sitting at the table with a crunchy snack and the sufferer walks in, it is not an unreasonable gesture for you to stop eating for the few minutes it takes them to grab a glass of water and exit the room. We truly do not expect to walk into a room and have you leave just because you are eating. It is up to the sufferer to recognize that they are interrupting your meal and they should respect you and leave. On the other hand, if the sufferer is sitting in a room you really should not walk in and start chomping away. It is just simple respect for one another. It is not that difficult to do that, is it?
SNORING- This is a very common trigger, even for people who not suffer from Misophonia. Snoring can be a sign of a serious health issue, so I would encourage you to seek medical attention to rule out any medical issue. However, that process can be time-consuming, so most people will not follow through. Earplugs and headphones seem to be a Misophonia sufferers’ best friend, but they are not always the most comfortable to sleep in. The last thing you want to do is wake up with sore or tender ears. There are many options for ear protection that you can purchase over the counter such as foam or silicone that you can mold but sometimes there can be issues. Foam plugs may pop out of your ears, the silicone can get stuck in your hair. You just need to find out what works for you. My audiologist made a custom pair of earplugs that I could sleep in, those combined with my husband’s c-pap machine have improved my quality of sleep.
Some people find sleeping with a fan or white noise helpful.
There was a period in my life where my husband’s snoring was extreme I decided to sleep in another room. We would go to bed and have our cuddling tv time, then when it was time to sleep I retreated to the extra bedroom. Sleeping away from one another may seem like you are crushing the intimacy but if you look at the whole picture, it is helping strengthen your intimacy because you are both getting rest and not resenting one another. You are not punching, kicking or pushing your partner into another position, you are not waking up in a foul mood because you were triggered all night. You can start the morning fresh, happy and without resentment to your partner. Once I explained to him that this was not a rejection, this was something we needed to do for us, he accepted it without feeling as if I was abandoning him.
Sometimes we are not even aware that a sound is a trigger until it is too late. You may find it useful to come up with a code word that your partner can say when he/she is starting to feel triggered before the situation escalates.
Another important question for you to ask… What do YOU need when you are triggered? Just as our triggers vary, so do the ways that we cope with things. For me, I find the best way to recover from being triggered is solitude. This is another reason that communication is key. My husband loves me, he wants to protect me and comfort me. When I am triggered and he is hovering over me asking what I need, my rage escalates, it takes longer to calm down. I finally explained to him that I just need to be alone, it is not him, it is just something that I need to help me relax. Once I explained it to him and he did not see it as rejection, he respects my solitude. Does your partner need to be alone? Do they need you to hold them?
Identifying the needs of one another will definitely help strengthen your relationship. Your loved one has Misophonia, this is a part of who they are, can you accept it and love them anyway? Are you willing to be a part of their support system? If the answer is YES, it’s time to sit down and have that talk.
Want to learn more? Join a Workshop with Dr. Jennifer Brout or Duke CMER at Misophonia Education.