Have you ever been frustrated, angered, and just royally ticked off when you hear another person popping their gum, chewing with their mouth open, breathing loud, repeatedly clicking a pen, or tapping their feet on the floor? Perhaps you’ve also experienced a heightened sense of anxiety when you hear these things and other small, repetitive noises, so much so that it sends you into an anxiety attack. Whether it makes you feel better or worse, there is a name for this condition. It is called misophonia. I have this, and I experience it on a daily basis.
Every day going to classes during school semesters, I dread entering the classroom, and not for the reasons you would normally expect. Once I step through the door, I automatically start scanning the room quickly, scouring out a probable seat that would put me out of the way of those small noise disturbances. I see someone chewing gum: nope, not sitting there. I see someone tapping their feet: steer clear of that noise. When I do end up finding a seat, and there’s no one else sitting around said seat, I hope to the heavens above that no one else sits there. I just want to give the professor my undivided attention and promptly take notes.
In the event that I do have to sit next to someone, and they’re making one of those small repetitive noises, I end up plugging up the ear closest to them, which would allow the professor’s voice to enter only one ear. I have no choice in the matter. It’s either that, or run out of the room in a panic. Eventually, that arm will get tired, and the blood will rush out of it, leaving it numb, but there’s nothing else I can do. Even in places like movie theatres, auditoriums, and other places where people are sitting close together, I’ll end up having to plug up an ear when that one person starts making a “commotion.” Unfortunately, there’s nothing to help the gum popping issue. God forbid someone pops their gum consecutively, one pop after another. I wish that darn candy didn’t exist.
There have been instances where I’ve been induced into an anxiety attack due to these small noises. I've panicked and felt so much hatred toward the person making the sound. I am not an angry or hateful person. I do my best every day to think optimistically, and spread joy and happiness to those around me. However, when something or someone triggers my misophonia, I become and feel like someone else, and it is scary. I become afraid of myself. I don't like who I am in these moments.
It's easy to see when I'm triggered if you know what to look for. I'm less talkative, not really there, muttering a "Mmhm," or a "Yeah," here and there as I curl into myself, casting glances at the culprit, fuming in my silent rage. If it's a friend or family member, instead of feeling hatred toward them, I feel dismayed and betrayed, which is of course very silly and outlandish. They've done absolutely nothing to actually betray me, but my anxiety has been sparked by them, and I feel nothing else in that moment.
Naturally, I was desperate to find a way to overcome this. After reading up on misophonia, I came to learn that this mental illness stems from anxiety, a sort of side-effect. It is usually self-diagnosable and can be chronic. Unfortunately, there’s no cure, or medication you can take to subdue it. You have to find ways to take your mind off it and distract yourself. I’m so thankful for my parents, who got me a set of Boise noise-canceling headphones for Christmas last year. These headphones have really helped block out unwanted noise.
There are also videos on Youtube that talk about this condition, and people have made their own home videos about how they deal with it from day to day. Some people talk about dealing with it by conforming to the individuals who are issuing the sound. For example, if someone is chewing/popping gum, then the person with misophonia will chew/pop gum. I wouldn’t suggest this, however. You may unknowingly cause someone else distress in the process. Others have suggested ear plugs, or, in my case, earbuds or headphones.I hope that by sharing my experiences and information on this condition, more attention will be drawn to it. It’s a mental illness that’s not very well known, but it can be if awareness is spread. If you are someone who does not have this issue, I ask that you remain conscious and cautious of the little ticks you may have. You never know what the person next to you is going through.