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When I Learned Misophonia Is Something I Can't Control

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Every day, I dread eating meals. I actively avoid places where I know there will be a large amount of people eating, which normally means restaurants and movie theaters. It’s even worse when I’m in a place with little to no background noise. In short, I’m driven absolutely bonkers when people chew food and gum. This isn’t painful or loud, like with hyperacusis — this is misophonia, something that, as I now know, so few people have and fewer people understand.

For years I thought that the people around me were just being rude, and that I was somehow the only one catching onto this. One of my best friends chews with his mouth open, and no one will say a word, while my wife seemingly chews very, very loudly, regardless of what she’s eating. I have never been able to understand how others around me can stand to listen to others eating or chewing, especially when some people do this so much louder than others.

I’ve often described this as being absolutely infuriating to me, causing me to say things like, “I’ll rip out your lower jaw if you don’t spit out that gum!” Normally, I need to excuse myself from an area so I don’t have to suffer listening to that sound. To me, it’s comparable to raking your nails across a chalk board, but the reaction is magnified a million times over.

I sat and attempted to deal with this nearly my entire life. I can remember asking my brother not to eat near me because he was “too loud” and trying to leave the dinner table quickly so I didn’t have to listen to my folks. All the way up until I was 29, I assumed that I was one of the few people that found this “impolite” and that a lot of people around me needed to obtain some basic table manners.

Thankfully, I know now this isn’t something I’ve been able to control this entire time, and that I have not been purposefully ignorant of how to tolerate people making noises while they eat. This is a condition that, from what I’ve been able to gather, is “hard-wired” at birth; it doesn’t just happen out of the blue. I also understand that this is something very few people have — which explains why I’ve been so isolated up until a friend recognized what I had and explained to me a bit more (a massive relief, I must say!).

Unfortunately, there isn’t any treatment that’s proven effective for coping with misophonia on a day-to-day basis. What I’ve found that works for me is to turn up the music/TV, wear headphones or earplugs, and, in extreme cases, leave a room entirely. It’s depressing at times, especially when I want to spend time watching a great show with my wife, but I can’t enjoy it because I’m focused on her chewing, the very thought of which has me worked up right now.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who had the belief that this was something they could control, and I hope that this reaches those people. It’s not something that I’m doing wrong, and it’s not something that the person making the noise/sound is doing wrong; it’s something that I’m just not able to process or handle. Knowing this has given me the courage to tell my friends, family and co-workers why I need to have the TV up way too loud or to politely spit out their gum while I’m in the room. I’m thankful that everyone around me has been accepting so far, and I hope that, if you’re suffering from misophonia, you have the courage to do the same.

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Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images

Originally published: April 16, 2016
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