I don’t like the sound of people eating. It makes me angry. It’s ridiculous, but it’s true.
One of my favorite things in the world is to spend a quiet morning at the kitchen table sipping a coffee, reading a paper (iPhone, Macbook Air, iPad) while the early streams of sun peek in the window and warm the day.
It’s exactly what I was doing this morning, writing this post, when our Nanny sat at the table with her bowl of Cheerios and a book.
I got up and moved.
My wife thinks I’m crazy. I think she crunches her chips extra loudly – on purpose.
You may think it’s silly, but there’s a real condition associated with my behaviour, it’s called misophonia. Translated the condition means “hatred of sound.” It usually presents itself in early adulthood, or teenage years. For me, it was when I was in my teens. My dad’s clicking jaw at breakfast would cause me to get up from the table in a huff and move to another room.
For Kelly Ripa, the sound of her husband eating a peach is enough to make her want to leave the house. One sufferer describe misophonia as bringing out a fight or flight response that is “rage, panic, fear, terror and anger, all mixed together.”
I don’t know if my condition is that severe, but it is irrational aggravation that forces me to go to another floor of the house if I can here the sounds. And that’s the key, the closer one is emotionally to the maker of the aggravating noise, the more aggravating the noise becomes. When my Nanny chews, I can move to the couch, when it’s my wife I need to leave the floor.
“.. there is an abnormally strong reaction of the limbic (emotional system) and autonomic nervous system (body control system) which are closely connected with the auditory (hearing) system. Hearing the hated sound activates a “Fight or Flight” response — either you become angry and potentially violent or you get anxious and run away…”
I always knew the sound of people eating bothered me, I only recently discovered the condition connected to it when some dads I know started talking about it in our Facebook group. What started off as a “I know it sounds crazy, but does this bug you?” post turned into a long conversation from others quickly chiming in with “me too!” One was me.
So what can I do about it?
Not much. There is no cure. Some have taken behavioral therapy to try and modify their reactions. Others wear ear plugs or try to drown out the offending sounds with white noise machines. Still others have formed a Misophonia Community on Yahoo! to help each support other and discuss triggers.
I know it’s irrational, my reaction to the sounds, but it’s nothing too serious – yet. I’m trying to deal with it, trying to suck it up and stay still when those flight or fight urges hit, but after researching the disorder and learning more about it, the next time my wife scowls at me when I grumble about her chips, I’ll just have to respond with “it only bugs me because I love you so much.”