Why munchers and crunchers can make you mad
“Yum, yum, nam” or “crunch, chrunch” – do you already freak out just by the imagination of noisy eaters? People who cannot stand noisy chewing, slurping, or other repetitive sounds, like even breathing, eventually suffer from a disorder which has a name – misophonia. Regarding this, latest research reviews address the question if misophonia is to be considered as a new mental disorder or if it should be counted to the common ticks and quirks we can have as a human being.
So, if misophonia is a real thing it makes one wonder if there should be more non-eating areas in public? Especially if it comes to work places like shared offices? Non-smoking areas are in general accepted to be for the broader good by protecting us from the harmful cigarette smoke. But what needs to be done to provide a comfortable environment for misophonic people, especially if it comes to the work or study place? Can the misophonic person just (wo)man up and get over his or her annoyance? Or is it on us, to respect the person who gets annoyed with us munching and crunching, and move ourselves to allocated eating areas? Well, this is certainly not only a scientific question, however, the fact if misophonia gets considered as a psychiatric disorder or not probably would support this thought.
The distress of misophonia
People who are considered to have misophonia respond with anger, irritation and distress when exposed to so called trigger sounds, such as chewing. Individuals who cannot handle these sounds literally try to escape from it by leaving the room or avoid it with headphones and loud music; they react with a fight/flight response. Based on this, misophonia is in the discussion to be considered as an obsessive-compulsive related disorder, a disorder in which the person has uncontrollable reoccurring thoughts and behaviours that they have to repeat over and over again. Interestingly, as there is nothing such as a defined and measurable symptomatic scheme that defines if you suffer from misophonia or not (misophonia is not listed in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) yet) there has been quite some debate around this topic recently.
If we categorize misophonia as a psychiatric illness or not, a study published earlier this year shows us that there is an actual bigger response in the brain of some people that are exposed to chewing noise than in others. These people even showed an increased heart rate when exposed to the trigger sounds. This enhanced response was only seen for the trigger sounds (such as eating noises) and not for other noises that could be perceived as being annoying, such as a crying baby.
Treatment for misophonia
Now, if your blood starts boiling every time that someone is having their munchy session next to you, good news come: latest research is attempting to treat misophonia in grown-ups in new ways. In the past, studies showed treatment of misophonic symptoms by cognitive-behavioural therapy, basically by exposing the patient to long and repeated sessions of the trigger sounds. With this treatment the patient should start to tolerate the noises without showing the developed aggressive or avoiding behaviour. In a newer study a way of dialectical behaviour therapy is suggested to treat misophonia, in which the reacting person learns to accept their anger instead of reducing it through exposure. In these therapies the patients learn to be mindful and get distress tolerance skills. Paying attention to the present moment and practise mindfulness can help you cope with every day’s struggles in life. Hopefully you can sit there with a smile on your face next time a person munches next to you.