Misophonia and Why I’m Glad I’m not Married to Myself


(This image has nothing to do with this post.  I just like it.  And felt like using it.  Taken on my birthday.  Back when I used to have fun and drink beer.)

I have talked about my strong aversion to certain noises.  It was a long time ago, but you may remember that the sound of people chewing, swallowing, slurping, crunching, licking, and breathing can fill me with revulsion to the point of rage.  Last year my friend Tarrant found an article in which this quirk* of mine was given a name: misophonia.

I love it when things that have  been an obnoxious part of my life get names.  I love things having names.  Words that sum up a whole experience.  Yesterday my friend Sid sent me a more detailed article about Misophonia and it made me laugh all the way through because it’s like they were writing the article about ME.  It’s like all the people being quoted were actually ME.  And the whole thing is so ridiculous sounding and yet – there are very few things in this world that can fill me with actual rage and to have those things be the sounds of people eating and my dog licking herself and people slurping at coffee – it’s been an obstacle impossible to get around completely.  The world is stuffed with people eating and sleeping and breathing.  We all have to do these things or we die.  Well, maybe we don’t have to slurp coffee.  (Listen up, people, it’s possible to sip the coffee without making that noise.  Practice it!)  It’s a horrible aversion to have because you can’t tell people about it without making them feel attacked and then self conscious.  You just can’t.

Here’s the article from the New York Times about Misophonia:

For People With Misophonia, a Chomp or a Slurp is a Trigger for Outrage

“Hey hon, I love you to bits but could you please stop breathing so much?!”

You can’t ask people to stop chewing.  I know I certainly can’t control how loud my chewing is beyond doing it with my mouth shut (seriously, do it with your goddamn mouth SHUT, people) and I can’t control how loud the sound of my swallowing is.  For fellow sufferers of misophonia my chewing and swallowing could be complete torture.  Of course, if they told me about it I wouldn’t feel defensive or self conscious, I would laugh and laugh and laugh – and then tell them I’m sorry and then hug them.

Does it impact my life in any significant way?  Yes it does.  I admitted publicly before that I used to say that Max is the only reason we don’t eat at the dinner table as a family.  Then Philip pointed out that I have plenty of my own issues around food and it was an epiphany to realize that Max had simply given me a perfect excuse to escape from what I found to be a daily discomfort – eating with other people at a dinner table.  There are exceptions, with enough people at a dinner table (like, at least 6) there is a lot of chatting to mask the noises of eating.  Or if there is music playing loudly enough it’s okay.  Eating with people in front of the television is okay because it also masks the eating noises.

I most prefer to eat alone.  I truly do.  I love cooking for people I love and I love going out to dinner with the people I love (restaurants are an awesome way to break bread comfortably as the ambient noises cover all rage-making noises) but I prefer to eat by myself.  My son is essentially the same way but for him it’s the sight and the smell of other people’s food that he will go a long way to avoid.

Sometimes people will be trying to talk to me while they are eating and I’m not.  I can’t actually hear anything they’re saying and I fill with internal shudders and then rising panic and then I just want to scream at them to STOP IT STOP IT STOP IT!  I will sometimes make excuses to leave the room and come back when they are finished eating.

I kick myself every single time I put croutons on Philip’s salad.  Anything crunchy is going to end up torturing me because I will hear it from three rooms away.  Mostly I avoid saying anything to him about this stuff.  Mostly I try to pretend I’m not sitting next to him wanting to pick everything crunchy off his plate and throwing it away.  I don’t tell him that I’m putting the television volume up louder so that I am less tempted to box him around the ears.

The curious thing is that Max’s eating rarely bothers me unless he is chewing with his mouth open.  I wonder if this is a survival mechanism ensuring that I don’t murder my own child for his natural noise making?

I can still remember, 33 years later, sitting at my family dinner table having lost my appetite because all around me my family was making smacking and slurping and crunching noises.  I remember snapping at my sister telling her to chew with her mouth closed and wanting to tell my  mom to just stop eating and my dad to stop burping between bites.  I remember that those noises were all I could hear and I wanted to run away from the table, but I wasn’t allowed to.

I already have a hard time sleeping but one thing that can keep me up for hours unless I can shut it out with music or white noise is the sound of Philip sleeping.  He’s a loud breather when he sleeps.  I’m not talking about snoring which can also keep me up.  I’m just talking about his breathing.  The rhythm of it, the way it’s the only thing I can hear when I can hear it.  And he always sleeps with his head as close to mine as possible and most of the night facing ME.  So it’s right there, in my ear.  But what can you do?  I have sat there in the middle of the night trying not to listen, trying not to hear, filling with rage, wanting to shout at him and then feeling like the worst person on earth and hating myself because I know that this is my problem, not his.  What the fuck is wrong with me?!!

Severe misophonia is what’s wrong with me.  And I’m not alone by a long shot.

*Quirk is too gentle a word for this.  But “madness” is too strong a word.  That’s why it needs its own more specific word.


  1. Tarrant says:

    Youngest’s is so bad right now. It is sort of causing a bit of havoc and heartache because one constant between her two homes is a strong “we all sit down to family dinner.” At the other house she’s permitted to listen to music on headphones, but to me that is just as troubling as her not being with us. It is sad and hard. But I understand. Sort of.

  2. angelina says:

    Have you guys tried putting music on in the dining room during dinner? If you have and that didn’t work – I would let her wear headphones. She really truly can’t help it and it really most truly is an awful kind of torture for her and it will not leave her with fond feelings of family togetherness. I dreaded dinner time at my house growing up except for when we had enough guests over and ate at the large table and had music playing at the same time – then there was enough other noises to cover the ones that tortured me. Maybe she could try wearing earplugs?

    Other than picking on my sister’s noise making at the table I didn’t ever tell anyone in my family about this problem. I didn’t have the guts. Most of my life I haven’t expressed the extreme discomfort certain noises are for me and it would have been useful if I had – it would have explained my edginess in many situations.

  3. Tash says:

    My daughters nose is often blocked and she cannot chew with her mouth closed. So I can hear her breathe and chew from the other end of the room. I know she can’t help it. I do hate hearing it.

  4. belinda says:

    Hi Tarrant,

    I get the feeling that what I am about to say is probably going to feel pretty intrusive but I really think you need to examine your own motives here. Even if she is physically sitting at that table with you, from everything that Angelina has shared, she is not having a convivial shared social experience, her mental state is suffering a barrage of blows and your insistence means she has no means to protect herself .

    If it’s the social family table you are seeking and external music doesn’t suit the other diners, or the level needed to help would make normal family discourse impossible, rules could be put in place about the volume on her headphones being only as much as needed to mask the objectionable noises but not enough to make it impossible to hear conversation. As a privilege at your dinner table continued use could be made contingent on her showing active participation in the social aspects of the table. Hopefully that would lead you to feel more like she is making an effort to be truly involved in the experience rather than disconnecting and isolating herself totally within a wall of sound.

    I hope the two of you can come up with a compromise that works for both of your needs because right now it seems by serving yours you are inadvertently trampling all over hers.

    Kind Regards

  5. Bonnir says:

    I am the mother of an almost 13-year-old boy with Misophonia. We are about 6 months into our “adventure” after being “diagnosed”. In a matter of months we went from what was thought to be a few “quirks” to witnessing full-blown bizarre behavior in reaction to certain sounds.

    I believe this to be a Neurological disorder with a psychological component. In my search to find answers, I am discovering that this disorder may not be that rare. Many suffer in silence for the fear of being labeled “crazy”. I am glad you took the time to blog about your “quirk”. We need more writers to give voice to this unfortunate condition.

    Thanks for sharing!

  6. angelina says:

    Tash – that’s actually what was going on with my sister too. She had her nose worked on to make it easier for her to breath through it. She definitely hasn’t had this issue since she was a kid and I was a totally shit for constantly harassing her. But it was a case of both of us having issues we couldn’t help but which were very incompatible. Your daughter may grow out of her nose breathing difficulty OR you may find an ENT can fix it.

  7. angelina says:

    Belinda – I sure wish my parents had known what I was experiencing and then made some efforts to help me be more comfortable but I know that my parents, my dad especially, would have felt it was a personal assault on the family and expected me to “cope” with it since it was my problem and not theirs. The nice thing about growing up is that you get to make your own rules. Having had the experience I did at the dinner table I am very well disposed to understanding Max’s issues and I never force him to eat around us. I do try to get him to be more polite about expressing his discomfort though.

  8. angelina says:

    Bonnir – your son is so damn lucky to have this issue diagnosed while still young and to have a parent working to understand it! The article I linked to suggests that it’s how our brain is formed and isn’t even a real disorder so much as being formed in such a way that sensitivities to certain noises are amplified. One thing I can say is that my antianxiety medications definitely reduce the sensitivity at least a little. When I had to temporarily go off them for a few weeks all the noises I’m sensitive to got much louder and it was like having someone screaming in my head for three weeks. My dog would come into my office and clean herself and that licking noise nearly made me go off the deep end. When I went back on antianxiety meds the noises still get to me but are more bearable. I am curious to know if any other people with misophonia have had this experience with antianxiety meds. Something tells me that many people who suffer from misophonia have some other anxiety issues. Anyway – I’m glad you appreciated my post about this. I always aim to bring all my crazy into the light because I know there are so many people out there still suffering in the dark.

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