How Effective is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Treating Misophonia?

According to a story from Psychology Today, a study from 2017 titled Cognitive behavioral therapy is effective in misophonia: An open trial concluded that cognitive behavioral therapy could play a significant role in the treatment of misophonia. However, it may be that more research will be necessary before this assertion can be completely confirmed as factual. Currently, many patients can find resources that recommend cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) as a stand alone treatment for the condition, as opposed to part of a more multifaceted treatment plan.

About Misophonia

Misophonia was first proposed as medical condition in the year 2000, and is characterized by a specific sounds triggering profound negative thoughts, emotions, and even physical reactions from patients. Very little is known about the condition, which is not officially classified as an auditory or psychiatric condition, and it has no clearly defined diagnostic parameters. Only minimal research has been conducted on either treatment or its prevalence. The cause and mechanism of misophonia also remains a mystery, though it may involve dysfunction of the central auditory system. Most “trigger sounds” are usually fairly soft in volume, and around 80 percent of them involve the mouth (ex. whispering, popping gum, chewing, sipping, slurping). 60 percent were repetitive sounds. To learn more about misophonia, click here.

Study Results

In the 2017 paper, approximately 48 percent of patients were deemed to have been treated effectively with CBT, however, the standards for effectiveness are rather modest; just a 30 percent reduction in symptoms was deemed effective. This means that someone getting treated with CBT could still be regularly experiencing symptoms. In addition, the treatment used in the study was not just standard CBT, but several different forms of therapeutic treatment, such as desensitizing to the sounds, group therapy, and attention training.

Can CBT Techniques Work?

Generally, many of these forms of treatment, such as attention training and group therapy, may have some benefits for misophonia patients. However, getting them to work successfully still requires a major time investment. For example, while attention training (which primarily involves the patient attempting to focus on another task while exposed to a trigger sound) can be effective, it requires patients to fight against their instinctive response to the sound, which can be difficult. Group therapy can be used to separate triggers from the emotions that they usually relate to in the patient, but once again, this is far easier said than done, and a patient’s ability to do this depends on a variety of factors.

While CBT can probably play a role in treatment, it is clear that more trials are needed in order to develop an evidence-based treatment approach for misophonia.

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