There is a new term called “misophonia” (at least to me), in which sounds can cause severe reactions in people. It’s happened to me that many of us with fibromyalgia are experiencing extreme discomfort over some sounds. For me it’s the clicking of the heels on the pavement, a dog slurping their food, chewing loudly by others, humming a motor or heating system, a baby crying, boom boxes … the list is endless.
An unexpected loud noise like a motorcycle or firecrackers, is even more alarming. I realize that most people might find many of these sounds alarming, but the auditory nervous system is in overdrive for the person with misophonia.
Hyper-aroused nervous system
Cohen writes about a 19-year-old woman who is distressed by certain specific sounds enough to “strengthen her chest and pound her heart.” I believe that those of us with a hyper-aroused nervous system suffer from anxiety universally and not only do we experience a visceral response to violence, but to anything that scares or grinds our ears and can raise our level of anxiety.
Triggers of misphonia
There has been scant research on misophonia, but what has been done suggests it is linked to:
• Tinnitus (ringing of the ears), normal in both FMS and ME / CFS;
• Two brain areas linked to FMS & ME / CFS – the insular cortex and the anterior cingulate cortex processing pain, anger, and sensory input;
• Central nervous system dysfunctional structures and autonomic arousal (‘fight-or-flight’ response) consistent with theories of FMS & ME/CFS underlying mechanisms;
• Anxiety and depression commonly seen in FMS & ME / CFS;
• Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) which is indicated by some studies could be more prevalent in us.
A lot of misphony seems to revolve around corporeal sounds. Fingernail clipping is a common trigger along with the ones I have mentioned. No-one knows why.
It is thought that hypersensitivity is a core mechanism of FMS and ME / CFS. It means our bodies react strongly to all kinds of inputs – noise, bright or flashing lights, crowds of people, strong smells, chaotic surroundings, or multiple things that compete for your attention. Our brains tend to be having a difficult time handling a lot of information at once, likely due to the neurotransmitter serotonin deficiency. Any scholars assume that with what is dubbed inhibition we have a challenge in our brains.
Inhibition lets the brain flush out unimportant stuff. When answering the phone, it’s supposed to help you ignore the television or conversation with your family. It will help you ignore a repetitive disturbance, like a sudden beep. It should stop you from noticing the buzz of fluorescent lights, after a short time.
But our lack of inhibition means we can not tune these things out. That means that our senses are bombarding our brains with knowledge, and our brains can not handle all of this. The result is, you can’t focus your attention on important things. Thinking becomes hard, so you may forget what you’ve been doing or often lose your train of thinking.
It may also lead to a panic attack that can include a heart racing, crying, nausea , dizziness, tingling, and anxiety. Later, pain and/or fatigue may have increased. Often panic attacks may escalate to a big flare of symptoms. Over time, when you encounter situations that have triggered them before, you may start to fear panic attacks. That can scare you from going to certain places or putting yourself in specific environments or situations. This is one way that isolation can lead to our illnesses.
Misophonia is such an alien concept it can be hard for non-sufferers to comprehend
Misophonia just doesn’t make sense to most men. Does sound trigger pain, rage, frustration? Truly, is this true? It’s like being told that the hat you wear on your head causes physical pain to somebody else. That’s how odd it looks to people who don’t know about the condition, or who don’t.
There are certain elements of misophonia that can relate instantly to people without the disorder. It’s the secondary feelings that we can feel during a misophonic episode, like anger , frustration, fear and upset. Misophonia is not a plague of anger. The key bit to note here is ‘chronically repressed anger or rage,’ or stored up anger in other words.
That is a completely different disorder. There’s no more anger in someone who has misophonia than someone who doesn’t have is ‘in.’ While understandable, this confusion is extremely detrimental to sufferers. It hampers our success in describing and improving illness therapies. It also makes supporting parents and loved ones even harder.
What we can do about it?
We really do not know a great deal about handling misophonia. Some people report being able to help with neurofeedback, cognitive behavioral therapy and general stress management. It seems to me that understanding it is the important thing for us at this point, and we can try to handle it.
If you get a better understanding of what your triggers are, you can work with friends and family to minimize your exposure to those sounds, or you can use relaxation techniques to mitigate your reaction when you’re exposed. It is also something to see if he / she has any suggestions you can talk to your doctor about. You should also be able to get reasonable accommodation if you are diagnosed with this at work.
Avoiding certain situations
It may become necessary for you to avoid certain situations. For instance, if a busy grocery store is a typical cause, you could need to go shopping at slow hours, like early morning or night. (See what all the food shopping will help)
Avoidance may be necessary, but if you find yourself avoiding too much like any place that might be noisy or crowded, it can also become a problem. You may benefit from professional counseling if you find yourself isolated by avoidance, or missing things that are important to you.
- Misophonia in Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome? by Addriene Delwo