Miso-what, you ask? Misophonia is an often lesser-known disorder that causes a strong emotional or physiological response to certain sounds, which those of us affected describe as noises that "drive me crazy." Studies show that people who have misophonia have strong negative feelings, thoughts, and physical reactions to certain "trigger sounds" that can range from anger and annoyance to panic and the need to flee. While there are many techniques that can help me cope with the symptoms of this disorder, such as white noise, earplugs, and deep breathing, it can be a lot harder for me (or any individual with misophonia) to deal with certain sounds while out in the world when we have a lot less control. To help people better understand this disorder (and take it more seriously), keep reading for five sounds that can be unbearable for me.
For people with misophonia, the already annoying sounds of snoring become so much greater than just a noisy nuisance (take it from a sleep-deprived wife who often lays in bed awake while her husband is dreaming peacefully). I admit I'm a light sleeper, but there's nothing worse than the harsh and low-pitched sounds that startle me awake and prevent me from getting my sleep. To me, this horrible noise is so indescribably inhumane that I literally want to cry, scream, and pull my hair out with each deafening snore. While snoring can often be an indicator of certain disorders with potential health complications, I don't mean to belittle its seriousness when I describe just how deeply I detest its existence in my bedroom. I love my husband very much, but I appreciate him even more when he gifts me a full night of uninterrupted sleep by "accidentally" falling asleep on the couch in the basement!
2. Gum Cracking
This may be a bold statement, but anyone who loudly chews, cracks, or pops their gum in the presence of others has violated the rules of basic etiquette. While it's totally fine to chew gum in public, it's not OK to interrupt an otherwise peaceful and public space. Gum cracking (not to be confused with gum popping) is actually quite scientific. It occurs when the back teeth work against the gum, similar to the act of kneading dough in your mouth. When the top tooth and the bottom tooth pull the gum apart, it creates the cracking sound that makes me want to crawl out of my skin. Quiet gum chewing, when done right, can be a remedy for stress, weight control, and even help smokers who are trying to quit. But when repetitive cracks disrupt a quiet setting, I literally can't focus on anything but the terrible sound.
3. Constant Sniffling
I get that not everybody has tissues on them all the time, but when someone is constantly sniffling despite having easy access to a tissue or a bathroom, I have a hard time not saying something. When your nose is a tap with no seeming way to turn it off, every sniff makes my entire body tense with anxiety and I can't focus on anything but anticipating the next sniff. It is aural torture.
4. Cracking Knuckles
When the knuckles are prodded and pulled frequently, it often becomes a habitual means to deal with nervous energy; some even describe the feeling as a way to release tension. But those cringe-inducing popping noises that emanate from the collapse of bubbles in your joints are more than an auditory annoyance. The noise makes me physically recoil.
5. Nail Clipping
While trimming one's nails is a natural part of a general grooming and hygiene process, I firmly believe it should always take place in private. Not only is public nail clipping gross and poor etiquette, but that irritating clip noise is also offencive to my ears and genuinely causes me physical discomfort.
The sound of nails on a chalkboard may send shivers down the spine for many of us, but for those of us who suffer from misophonia, our intense hatred of specific sounds can trigger an intense "fight or flight" response. While certain noises are inherently annoying to hear, such as a baby crying, a dog barking, or a phone ringing, there are others that truly inflict a pain so distressful that we want to scream, kick, or flee. So, the next time you're chewing gum in public, maybe reminder yourself to do so quietly.