According to a story from SELF, Jaime Stathis lives with a rare condition called misophonia, in which certain trigger sounds can cause negative emotional states and outbursts. Jaime discusses how she has dealt with her disease in the context of the coronavirus/COVID-19 global pandemic. She knew long before getting an official diagnosis that she could get profoundly irritated by certain sounds. Since then, she had developed strategies for dealing with trigger sounds, but the pandemic has pushed her misophonia to the limit.
Misophonia was first proposed as medical condition in the year 2000 and is characterized by 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.
Jaime has been living with her partner Martin, and it was only after they started eating more meals together in private that she began to recognize his chewing as a trigger sound. These and other challenges have inspired Jaime to share some of her most essential pandemic tips for fellow misophonia patients.
- Find a patient community. Interacting with other patients can help the condition feel less isolating and confusing. You may be surprised by the active communities on media platforms like Reddit, Facebook, and Instagram. The Misophonia Podcast is a good example.
- Get informed about misophonia. While there is a lot of info out there, much about the condition remains poorly known. However, getting a better understanding is critical. The Misophonia Research Fund is a good place to start.
- Develop strategies to avoid trigger sounds whenever possible. When Jaime knows that Martin is about to start eating, she knows it is time to go to another room, do some outside chores or tasks, or put on some noise-cancelling headphones.
- Tap into the power of white noise. This can be any kind of steady, soft noise generation that can counteract the impacts of trigger sounds. Examples include an aromtherapy diffuser, the sound of a running dishwasher or laundry machine, fans, or dedicated whites noise machines. Jaime recommends an app called White Noise Market.
- Exercise as much as you can. This can counteract the negative emotions triggered by the condition. Hiking, running, or developing a meditative practice can produce benefits.
- Consider seeking therapy if possible. Cognitive behavioral therapy can help regulate negative emotions, enhance coping strategies, and improve communication.