How to Support a Friend With Misophonia: Advice From a Sufferer

Updated on September 27, 2018
Katie Blackbourne profile image

Katie has misophonia. She knows from personal experience how hard this condition can be on relationships and in daily life.

What Is Misophonia?

Misophonia is a little-known condition marked by high sensitivity to certain sounds. I first came across the term when a friend at university spoke to me about her condition. I caught myself saying, “That sounds like me.” I vividly remember asking a friend at school who was studying psychology: "Is there such a thing as being too aware of noises?" He just shrugged. When I met my friend at university, I finally got my answer.

Basically, people who suffer from misophonia have strong, negative emotional reactions to certain sounds. For myself, and a lot of people, the primary reaction is anger. I also get a feeling of distress or extreme discomfort that I can’t quite explain beyond “that is such a horrible noise—please stop it now!”. Ever heard someone scratch a plate with their fork then wanted to rip your own ears off? It’s like that, but with a wide variety noises and a more prolonged reaction.

Noises can be overwhelming
Noises can be overwhelming | Source

What Causes Misophonia?

The sounds that trigger the misophonia reaction differs from person to person, but the most common—and my own personal nightmare—are “mouth noises." Chewing, slurping, crunching, even heavy breathing or sniffling. (Actually, just writing those words is making me a little uncomfortable. They are onomatopoeic after all!)

It’s the repetitive nature of the sound that elicits the emotional response, which is why sounds like typing, tapping, and scratching can be triggers for other misophonia sufferers.

Nobody has quite figured out the cause for misophonia, beyond it being a miscommunication in the brain. As it tends to crop up alongside other anxiety disorders frequently, it’s possible that it has similar roots—but that’s just conjecture.

If we're eating together, the sound of ME eating cancels out the sound of YOU eating. I don't get it, but it works!
If we're eating together, the sound of ME eating cancels out the sound of YOU eating. I don't get it, but it works! | Source

Why Is It a Big Deal?

Misophonia can be quite debilitating, and can affect your relationships and daily life. I’ve almost fallen out with family members and friends over how loud they were eating, and from having to leave during meals. Once, a classmate was eating crisps at the start of a lesson and I was trying to power through it, but ended up yelling at him in front of everyone because I couldn’t stand it any longer. We were both quite embarrassed.

Everyone copes with their misophonia in different ways, and like other anxieties the easiest way is avoidance. Unfortunately this can mean isolating yourself during meals, missing social events where you know there will be things that trigger you, and in my case avoiding going anywhere by bus in case there’s a loud eater on there.

It can also mean having to put on headphones and listen to music to cover up the sounds that are upsetting you. Speaking from experience, this can come off as cold or rude if you’re with someone who doesn’t know about your condition.

How Can You Help?

If you have a friend who suffers from misophonia, you’ve taken a good first step towards helping them—learning about it! By reading this, you have shown that you want to make a positive impact on your friend by finding out how you can show your support.

Here are some tips for what you can do to help. It’s not an exhaustive list, and most of it comes from my personal experiences, so if you want further advice follow some of the links at the end of this article or speak to a healthcare professional.

Silence is underrated in my opinion ;)
Silence is underrated in my opinion ;) | Source

1. Take them seriously.

If your friend is willing to talk to you about their misophonia, listen to them. Take in what they’re saying and show that you believe them. To the sufferer, misophonia can feel overwhelming. But sometimes we feel like people will think we’re being overly dramatic or sensitive. If someone you know is saying they have misophonia or a sound sensitivity, they really mean it.

2. Respond to their requests without fussing.

Your friend does know that it’s not your fault you have to eat with your mouth open because your nose is blocked. But asking you to wait until they’ve left the room to eat may be the only thing they can do before they have to scream. Acknowledging that it’s not your fault, and not your friend’s fault, will allow you to respond to any sound-related requests they have. If you can’t fulfill their request (for example, you absolutely can’t breathe through your nose right now), try gently suggesting an alternative (such as putting on some loud music).

3. Don't be offended if they have to leave the room.

Sometimes the only way to deal with a triggering sound is to remove yourself from the environment. Your friend doesn’t particularly want to avoid being around you, but if it’s the quickest solution to the problem right now, just accept it. They’ll come back! You can even text or message them when you’re done with the task that’s triggering them.

If they ask you to wait until they’ve left the room before you start doing said task, please do wait. They may ask you to leave with them if it’s another person or something in the environment that’s setting off the misophonia. Don’t make it a big thing, just going with them quietly is the best thing you can do for them in that situation.

4. Try not to eat noisy foods in public.

You can’t tell that someone has misophonia just by looking. The person sitting behind you on the bus might be humming to themselves with their fingers in their ears because you’re slurping that ice cream. (Yes, I have done that before, and had plenty of weird looks. It was preferable to shouting at them for enjoying their food.)

Don’t feel self-conscious about eating, as obviously eating is healthy! But be mindful of your eating noises if you’re in a public place, especially an enclosed space like public transport. Remember, other noises like typing and scratching can also be triggers.

Ice cream is an unbearable noise if you can't escape from it, I'm not even kidding
Ice cream is an unbearable noise if you can't escape from it, I'm not even kidding | Source

5. Be mindful of their triggers.

Find out their trigger sounds as early on as you can, preferably at the time they decide to tell you about their misophonia. With the knowledge of their triggers, you’ll be able to minimise the chances of you setting it off by staying mindful.

You may forget from time to time, and you shouldn’t have it at the forefront of your mind the whole time you’re with them - there’s more to anxiety sufferers than their anxiety.

But as with most illness or disability, the more you practice awareness of their condition the happier they’ll be to hang out with you. You wouldn’t take a friend with a broken arm to an archery class; you wouldn’t take misophonia-suffering me to a chewing gum convention!

6. Be proactive about making your presence comfortable for them.

You don’t need to bring it up all the time that you’re actively avoiding their triggers, but your friend will notice that you are doing that. Remember, it’s about your friend, not your ego. Being proactive can also mean supporting them if they choose to go to therapy, helping them pick a self-help book, or letting them rave about the newest app that tracks their symptoms.

Being proactive doesn’t mean telling them they should be in therapy, or linking them to all the misophonia websites you can find. While some may find it helpful, others may consider it presumptuous. Support what they’re choosing to do, rather than trying to take the lead yourself.

Further Information

Useful websites you can check out for further information about misophonia:

See your GP for advice if you’re suffering from misophonia. Information in this article is my personal opinion from my experience, and isn’t meant to replace professional medical advice. Or, you know, talking to your friend yourself and asking how you can help.

Whew, needed something cute after all that. Look at those amazing ears!
Whew, needed something cute after all that. Look at those amazing ears! | Source

Questions & Answers

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      No comments yet.

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, healdove.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://healdove.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)