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Misophonia - What is it and how is it treated?

I recently had a conversation regarding the very real and distressing symptoms of misophonia. Individuals with misophinia have a strong reaction to certain sounds – such as chewing (gum/food), or repetitive noises. It is believed to be caused by a dysfunction of the central auditory system of the brain. Currently misophonia is not a diagnosis that is formally recognized in either the DSM-V (the diagnostic manual for mental health disorders) or the ICD-10 (the diagnostic manual for all health-related disorders, used by medical doctors). To date – there is little research on the prevalence or treatment of this disorder.

Often – people with misophonia report a strong and aversive response to a trigger sound (such as chewing) in the form of irritation or anxiety. Irritation or anxiety commonly activates the fight or flight nervous system (or sympathetic nervous system) which leads to increased heart rate, muscle tension, and digestive slowing. Given that misophonia most often produces an anxiety response – it’s classification is best described as anxiety related.

Treating misophonia often includes a combination of factors to include:

  1. Learning to identify and minimize triggers

  2. Learning to quickly activate the calming (or parasympathetic nervous system)

  3. Exposure treatment.

The goal of treatment is to reduce the severity of the individual’s nervous system response; however, irritability and anxiety may not be eliminated. These are common ways of treating anxiety based disorders – especially disorders related to a stimulus trigger.

Disclaimer: Because misophonia is not a current recognized diagnosis in the major mental health and medical manuals, there is little research on efficacy of treatments. The proposed treatment above is suggested as a treatment approach given literature currently available.

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