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My Personal Misophonia Mystery

We often refer to misophonia as a ‘new disorder.’ Yet, as a misophonia sufferer myself I often find myself flinching when I hear that. I am 57 years of age and have had misophonia as far back as I can remember. Naturally, this is what drew me to the field, and I thought it might be helpful if I shared my own experiences.

I was in grade school in the late 1960’s-early 1970’s. The 1970’s were a very different time. Children were not viewed under the microscope of psychiatric pathology as they are today. This was both good and bad, a double-edged sword. Many children went without the help they needed in school and concerning social and emotional issues. Yet, adults were not as quick to view children as “disordered.” We have yet to find the middle ground.

I spent my childhood in a body that I would now describe as overloaded by sounds and other sensory stimuli. However, at the time, I had no conscious awareness of this. That is, I never said to myself, “Hmmm… Jennifer, when you hear certain noises, you feel scared, trapped and even enraged.” I wish I had known then what I know now, but I didn’t.

So, I learned to contain my physical and mental responsivity. I became a master of self-control. However, quashing tension in one’s body and mind has consequences. Tension doesn’t simply evaporate within the mind and body, and so this energy often finds its own ways to manifest. For example, I was fidgety and continually uncomfortable physically. I always had difficulty sleeping and never knew why. I thought I was a moody and overly sensitive person. I thought many things about personality that were simply not true.

What I found out some 20 years later, while in graduate school for psychology, is that when the brain misinterprets auditory (and other sensory) stimuli as dangerous, this can set off the fight/flight reaction. As I learned about this, I came to understand that my nervous system was constantly dysregulated. When misophonia was named by Jastreboff and Jastreboff, I had the same “aha” moment that so many people describe to me. Simply putting a name to my specific symptoms helped me to re-interpret myself as a human being. I think this is such an important process for children with misophonia. Children with misophonia should not grow up thinking that their personalities are flawed, or that they have behavior issues.