Have you ever shouted at someone for clicking their pen while you’re trying to work? Do you avoid family dinners because you can’t stand their eating? If so, you may have Misophonia. You probably, almost definitely don’t, but it’s fun to talk about things in terms of yourself. And this is the problem.
By Phoebe Vowles-Webb
Misophonia means, quite literally, hatred of sound. Pure Misophonia is not just about the qualities of the sound, such as the pitch and volume, but its context. If you had Misophonia, you would have a previous association with the triggering sound. For example, someone may find the tapping of pens and fingers unbearable, because it is what their childhood counsellor did during their sessions together.
Misophonia leads to DST – Decreased Sound Tolerance – a condition which causes abnormally negative reactions to everyday sounds. Another thing that leads to DST is Hyperacusis, which, as the name suggests, is where the sufferer has an over-sensitivity to everyday sounds depending on their pitch and volume, regardless of the context. Many people with Hyperacusis find the sound of machinery and vehicles unbearable; they can even have Panic Attacks because of this condition. People who get irritated by annoying sounds do not have Misophonia or Hyperacusis. Those who literally cannot cope with their triggering sounds are the sufferers.
There are problems with diagnoses because of the fame of Misophonia. Type it into Youtube and you will see the cliquey nature of people reporting their experiences. Monique Robinson is just one who adamantly claims to have Misophonia, but describes the symptoms of Hyperacusis, and immediately dismisses all of her viewers as ignorant on the subject. A lot of vloggers, bloggers and reporters do not seem to understand what they claim others know nothing about.
And this is why: ABC news and other media groups have jumped on the Misophonia bandwagon. They have simplified the diagnoses of and Hyperacusis and made them more relatable and relevant to ordinary people. The mainstream media treat it like the new phobia. Since before you can remember, people describe their nervousness around certain animals or their uncomfortableness about heights as a phobia. Now some people mistakenly claim they have Misophonia. True sufferers of DST are diluted in the tide of people who have jumped on the bandwagon of Misophonia, vocalising every slight irritation they have.
The Jastreboffs, who proposed the concept of DST and defined the source conditions of Misophonia and Hyperacusis, also devised a treatment method. Despite doing this in 2001, many sufferers still remain untreated and unrecognised, and this is probably thanks to ABC and other news channels, that offer a ‘caring, helping hand’ to all those desiring a medical condition for attention.
You may have noticed my tone is a little disdainful. This is because people think the brief, misleading entertainment they have experienced on ABC is sufficient training to be their own doctor. This deserves disdain, because not only does it make it harder for true sufferers to seek help in the sea of self-centeredness, but it makes medical professionals cynical of the testimonies of patients coming to them for help. People like to research new health conditions only so far as it gives them cause to diagnose themselves.
If we continue along this path of egotism, we could end up in a world where the wrong sort of people get treated. The vain seeking answers will get the support that will probably not be suitable for them, while the ill are cowed into thinking they are attention-seekers. This happens already, with the internet cult of self-harm encouraging newcomers to hurt themselves in increasingly dangerous ways in order to be seen as ill and qualify for medication, while those whose self-harm is a symptom of their mental illness can be made to feel like they are selfish exhibitionists. These cliques truly need to stop. Not only do they endanger the ill and vulnerable by dismissing them, but ill-health cliques can make healthy members become ill. Furthermore, such cliques make it difficult for the support to be administered to the people who need it.
If you think you have Misophonia, you need to read about the symptoms of the condition on a ratified medical website or book, and see whether they describe your problem. After this, go to a doctor; don’t join a clique.