The list of mental disorders that can affect our quality of life grows as we learn of cases of patients suffering from problems that were difficult to conceive of long ago.

Misophony, or selective sensitivity to low intensity sounds , could be one of the new mental disorders to be added in diagnostic manuals such as DSMs.

What is misophony?

Misophony, which means “hatred of sound”, is described as a mental disturbance that occurs when low intensity everyday sounds produce too much discomfort . Hearing someone chew, the sound of a pen slipping on paper, or the sound of people wearing rubber soles when walking on a smooth surface can be torture for people with some form of misophony, as they have very little tolerance for certain types of auditory stimuli.

Thus, where there is misophony, there is a threshold of tolerance for certain low-intensity noises, which causes them to trigger a state of stress, anger and strong discomfort in the person who experiences them, depending on the type of noise he or she dislikes: the noise of chewing, the throat clearing of a person, etc.

The Consequences of “Hating Sound”

People with misophony differ from the rest of the population in the degree to which they feel discomfort from everyday sounds that are not heard loud enough to damage the hearing system and cause pain. Many people may find that they are “angry” when they hear their companion chewing, but people with misophony feel so bad about certain sounds that they are able to modify their habits so that they do not have to listen to them, which often leads them to isolate themselves in an area they consider safe, or to use earplugs in certain contexts.

In addition, because the connection between auditory stimuli and the appearance of the state of discomfort is so direct, they often become suddenly moody , which can lead to arguments within the family or circle of friends.

Possible new mental disorder

The first time someone used the term “misophony” was in 2000, when neuroscientists Pawel and Margaret Jastreboff described a psychological disorder characterized by a low tolerance to specific sounds . Due to the recent nature of this concept, its causes and the level of incidence it has on the population are currently unknown. However, it is believed that its cause lies in the brain, where the activation of neurons associated with an auditory stimulus would be associated, in turn, with a stressful or irritating experience. So far, it has been experimentally demonstrated that people with misophony show greater electrical conductivity in their skin when exposed to sounds they find stressful, which is not the case with other individuals. This is an immediate physiological reaction.

Furthermore, the seriousness of certain cases of misophony has led several researchers in recent years to advocate that this phenomenon should be included in diagnostic manuals for mental disorders, so that this disorder can be easily identified and research and treatment programmes developed on a consensual basis.

At the moment, a tool has been developed to help identify cases of patients with misophonia, the Misophonia Activation Scale , with 11 degrees of intensity in the symptoms: from the absence of discomfort when listening to a sound to the use of violence triggered by the strong discomfort that a noise produces.

Treatment for misophony

As with tinnitus, the treatment proposals for cases of misophony are based on proposing strategies for coexisting with this disorder, either through cognitive-behavioral therapy or by teaching specific strategies to protect oneself from the sound that produces aversion without the affective and family life being greatly impaired.

Until a solution is found to make the symptoms go away, the intervention focuses on teaching coping strategies and ensuring that the family, friends and co-workers of the person with misoprostol are aware of their needs and know what to do in each case.