Archives for posts with tag: 4S

In responding to a recent comment from a parent of a teen with miso, I started to think about what I do to deal with misophonia symptoms – what works, what doesn’t, and what seems to make symptoms worse.

The most helpful things for me have been the things that I should be doing anyway to feel good.

  • exercise (a LOT, every day if possible – yoga seems to be especially helpful for miso)
  • get plenty of sleep (if I’m tired symptoms are instantly 10x worse)
  • eat well (sugar is the enemy, as is booze the morning after)
  • meditate (I try to do at least a few minutes, three times per day)
  • stay really, really present when triggers occur

The last item on the list – staying present – is the hardest and the most important.

So what do I mean by staying present?

I try my best to watch the thoughts and feelings that come up when I’m triggered so I’m not completely taken over by them. If I can take a step back and watch myself being triggered, I stay separated from the anger, the rage, the irritation. The feelings then exist within me, but they don’t define me.

I’ve learned to let myself be uncomfortable. When misophonia symptoms occur at a low level, they are pure discomfort. In the West, we’re conditioned to hightail it away from discomfort the second it appears. We’re taught that we should never be uncomfortable. No wonder miso is so torturous for us, it is discomfort incarnate!

Since traveling in Asia I’ve learned to accept a lot of discomforts, including being triggered more often. Slurpy noodles abound in Vietnam, where it is perfectly acceptable, even encouraged, to chew with one’s mouth open and smack one’s lips in contentment throughout the meal. Thumping bass is pumped throughout cities and towns at all hours of the day and night – there is no escaping it, even in the middle of nowhere in a remote, “quiet” village.

So I’m very uncomfortable a lot of the time. I have my headphones in a lot of the time. And my prayer has changed from “please stop the music” to “please bless me with acceptance.”

Because we can never stop the noise of the world. We can’t change how other people behave, no matter how strongly believe they should be quiet, they should be more considerate, they should chew with their mouths closed.

The fact is that they don’t. So our only hope is to change ourselves, to change how we perceive the situation and the sounds.

But the question remains – how do we change our perspective? How do we accept what feels so totally unacceptable?

First, start to pay attention to your reactions when you’re triggered. What does it feel like in your body? Where do you feel it? How does it manifest? What thoughts start swirling around in your head?

The thoughts and feelings are connected, but it is the thoughts that must be excavated and examined – they hold the key to your healing.

I’ve found The Work of Bryon Katie to be really helpful in examining my thoughts and breaking them down. This work helps you question your beliefs and begin to unravel them in a way that brings understanding and relief. I’ve developed mantras based on this work that – while they sound crazy – have actually really, really helped prevent triggers (mantras along the lines of “I look forward to hearing thumping bass,” “I enjoy the noise of the world,” and “I am not separate from the noise of the world.”).

Finally, I’ve found that focusing the mind elsewhere really helps – I stopped participating in miso groups and rarely blog here because the more I focus on miso, the worse my symptoms get. So you might want to stop reading this blog right now!

It also helps to remind yourself that the trigger is temporary – in the moment it’s happening, it can feel like the sound will never end and you’ll be tortured forever. But sounds are transient. They are temporary. And so is your suffering.

 misophonia-on-tvGuest blogger Marty reminisces about the days when he could watch TV without misophonia triggers. 

Subliminal Seduction

by Marty

By my mid-twenties I figured out how to cope with various noises, and misophonia was becoming a small part of my life.  I didn’t watch much television, but there were a few shows that made me laugh and if I was home, I would watch The Waltons with my mother.

During a commercial, a corn cob appeared and moved toward the camera and then underneath the camera.  When it was out of site, the soundtrack became an unbelievably long, loud, and ugly chomp.  Then the corn cob reappeared with a bunch of mangled kernels so that there was no doubt about what the sound was supposed to represent.  I got up and left.

Why was I so shocked?  This is the first time I heard a trigger sound on TV.  It was 1972.  Up until then, watching TV was safe.  I worried that this might be a trend.  The next few months confirmed this.  We were treated to apples and potato chips being crunched.  There was no closed caption or mute switch then.  I moved and the TV stayed behind.

Four years later, I was given a book, Subliminal Seduction by Wilson Bryan Key.   It was about tricks used by the advertising industry to trick people into buying their product. It has since been criticized.  But what I found interesting was his insider account of the above incident.  The advertisers association did not approve the ad at first.  They were afraid that it was so disgusting that there would be a backlash, a public demand for regulation.  There was no backlash.  Then they green-lit all kinds of eating and chewing noises.

My question is: If we were always such a tiny minority, why were there no chewing sounds between the beginning of TV, around 1950, and 1972?

Rent some old movies.  See how rare the triggers are.  One of my favorite movies was the BBC’s House of Cards made in the 1990’s.  I don’t remember a single trigger.  This year, the American remake was released.  It was one trigger after another.  People always had something in their mouths when they were talking and you could hear them chew barbecue ribs.  Why?

Read my Misophonia mind.

Every wonder what someone with Misophonia is thinking?

You know, besides the constant, unrelenting repetition of the Mother of all Misophonia Thoughts: “SHUT THE F&^! UP!!!!??”

Behold, the Misophoniac’s mind, revealed.

“I’m gonna puke. If he doesn’t stop chewing like that RIGHT NOW, I seriously think I’m gonna hurl.”

“Is that music? I think I can hear music. Where the fuck is that coming from?”

“I can’t move to San Francisco, what if the walls are thin in my new apartment?”

“I miss going to the movies.”

“Baseball bat. That’ll show him. Baseball bat to the FACE to swat that giant wad of bazooka out his FOUL mouth!” (Foul. Get it?)

“Ugh, how can she be chewing gum? That is so unattractive for a woman.”

“Ugh, how can he be chewing gum? That is so unattractive for a man.”

“How can they fucking be chewing gum when they KNOW how much it bothers me???????”

“That’s it. I have to move out of this place.”

“That’s it. I can’t work here anymore.”

“That’s it. I have to break up with him.”


“Thank God for headphones.”

“I’m gonna move somewhere REALLY far away, like in the middle of nowhere.”

“What does everyone have against silence?”


“I know I just said yes, but the thought of going to eat Mexican food surrounded by a symphony of tortilla chips makes me want to die.”

And the loneliest thought of all……

“How can that NOT BOTHER you?”

What Miso thoughts are rattlin’ around in your head?

photo credit: but don’t hold that against me

She hasn't taken these things off in years.

She hasn’t taken these things off in years.

Here are a few idiosyncratic (and totally neurotic) things I do throughout the day to prevent myself from being triggered.

1. Keep tunes at-the-ready

Enjoying a rare moment of silence or a break from your near-constant headphone usage? Make sure to pause Pandora (or whatever you’re listening to) so you can press play the second your neighbor or roommate comes home or things get noisy.

If I don’t have something queued and ready to go, the 3-5 second delay (opening your browser, waiting for the page to load) becomes an invitation to rage.

2. Pay Pandora

If you listen to the Pandora free station, you have to endure commercials. When the blasting sound suddenly drops out and a commercial starts, the resulting lack of noise makes offensive sounds easier to hear.

If I’m jamming to Adam Levine at top volume, I’m none-the-wiser that my downstairs neighbor is PLAYING GUITAR below me. But if a COMMERCIAL comes on, suddenly I can hear him through my headphones. Then, even when the music comes back on, I’m already triggered and it’s too late.

$3.95/month is a small price to pay for sanity.

3. Use Tiger Balm

Thank you so much to the person on the Yahoo group who recommended this to me – it’s been a life saver on airplanes!

Tiger Balm is sort of like Icy Hot, but smellier.  When I fly, I put a dab of the stuff practically inside each nostril. Now it’s not perfect, but it gives you about 90% protection from the nauseating smell of other people’s gum.

Make sure you keep the little jar within reach throughout the flight – people reach for the gum en masse during take off and landing (WHY?! GUM DOESN’T ACTUALLY HELP YOUR EARS POP, THAT’S JUST A MYTH!!!!)

4. Be passive aggressive

I’m a huge chicken shit, so instead of telling someone to please CHEW WITH YOUR MOUTH CLOSED YOU DISGUSTING ASSHOLE, I’ve found a pretty effective way to get my point across. I talk about other people.

The other day my friend picked me up from the airport – she’s a sporadic gum chewer, the unpredictable kind, and I spent half the flight worrying that she’d be chewing when she came to get me.

Sure enough, as soon as I opened the car door, a minty waft of agony invaded my nostrils.

I immediately launched into a diatribe about being stuck in front of a jerk on the plane who was chewing gum in my ear the entire time.

“Ugh, I had the worst flight. This asshole sitting behind me was chewing gum in my ear the entire time. It drives me absolutely crazy when people do that!”

“Oh wow, I guess I better not chew gum then” said my friend, half joking.

“Yeah, it really triggers me” I answered. “It’s this thing I have, it sucks.”

Now, she didn’t take her gum out (WHY ARE PEOPLE SO FUCKING INSENSITIVE?), but she did stop chewing and kind of hold it in her mouth while we drove. I remained uncomfortable but prevented a full-blown episode.

If you’re a chicken shit like me, this tactic has the potential to work wonders.

5. Noise-cancelling headphones

I highly recommend going into the store and trying some headphones out before dropping any scratch. This is because noise-cancelling headphones are kinda counterintuitive.

My pair from Sony were around $50 and work better than the more expensive $400 kind.

Get ’em here:

I don’t really understand the technology behind it – all I know is that the more expensive kind made it easier to hear certain sounds – like the low thumping bass (AAAAAH!) of the Black Eyed Peas song playing in the store.

Oh, and bless your soul if you can survive with mere ear buds, but I find that big fat headphones that surround the entire ear work much better.

How do you escape trigger terror?


Can you imagine wanting to cover your ears ALL DAY LONG?

Can you imagine wanting to cover your ears ALL DAY LONG?


I awaken to the sounds of my neighbor’s footsteps clomping on the floor above me.The fact that I can hear the sounds through my headphones, which are blasting white noise at full volume, sparks a massive wave of rage within me. It lasts through my shower, breakfast and commute to work, even though the sounds have long since stopped. I don’t begin to calm down until I’m miles away from the scene of the crime.


It’s crucial that I leave the house before 8am, when my roommate wakes and begins playing the radio. If I were to stay – if I had the day off or wanted to sleep in – I would still be out the door in order to avoid the chance of hearing the radio through my bedroom wall. To me, the soft murmer of voices or muffled music through walls is most people’s equivalent to getting into a really bad car accident.


I brace myself for the thud of bass music to assault my eardrums from the office next door. I plan my morning so that by the time the thumping begins, I will have conducted all of my conversations with my coworkers and boss, and be able to put my earphones in. I crank the volume up as far as it will go, being careful to choose not music I like, but music that will be the absolute loudest. No Jack Johnson for Misophoniacs, at least not when we’re out in the world.


I can hear the music. I take my headphones out to be sure. Yes! I CAN HEAR THE FUCKING MUSIC THROUGH MY HEADPHONES!


I storm out to the warehouse where the tunes are blasting. I rehearse everything I’m going to say to these inconsiderate MOTHERFUCKERS who don’t understand that SOME PEOPLE HAVE TO FUCKING CONCENTRATE at work.

Dear reader, remember: The triggered Miso mind is a petulant 4-year old child. There is no reasoning with it. It is not capable of empathy. All it can conceive of is making the offending noise STOP, and hating those poor souls who had the audacity to trigger its latent hate.


I arrive at the offending area that houses the BEACON OF TRIGGERDOM, an old school boombox radio. The only person working there is a scary-looking girl that I’m pretty sure hates my guts.

She raises an eyebrow, as if to say “I DARE you to ask me to turn it down.”

I quiver, inhale…and puss out. We lock eyes, I turn on my heel, close to tears, and drag my sorry self back to my desk.


My co-workers favorite lunch is dry Ramen noodles eaten right out of the package. There are a few foods in this world that crunch more loudly than all others, and this is one of them. He takes his time too, drawing the torture out over a period of several hours. I can see his mealy little mouth working on the noodles like a neurotic hamster who hasn’t been fed in weeks.


5:36 pm

Home. My experience will be determined by who is home, including both neighbors and roommates. If my upstairs neighbors are home, my headphones must go in. If both roommates are home, I must leave because they will both be watching TV in their separate rooms, and I can’t stand to hear the sound of two televisions (or two anythings) playing at once.

Victory! Only one roommate home, and no neighbors.


We watch TV. I have a glass of wine. I am at peace, for a moment, until….

“Do you want some chips?”


He strolls toward the kitchen and returns with my arch-nemesis in tortilla form.


I can’t leave right away, it would be rude. I must endure at least five minutes of chip-chewing before making my exit. I hope I won’t still be able to hear him from my room….


Bedtime. The one time it seems to be acceptable to ask people to “turn it down.” Apparently, for normal folk, the only time of day for quiet silence is during slumber. The rest of their waking hours must be filled with NOISE NOISE NOISE.

The TV is blaring in the living room. I know the precise volume at which I won’t be able to hear it through my pillow-barriered door. (pillows stuffed under the door make great noise absorbers, fyi).

“Can you turn it down a little?”

As if it were no big deal.

“Sure, no prob!” my roommate grins. I wonder if he plans on turning it back up the second I leave.


I can hear the TV. Or can I? I remove my earphones and listen in terror. I think I can hear it. Breathe. Breathe. Think of something else. Think about that guy from the bar. No, not him, the one with the green eyes. He was really….I CAN HEAR IT! I CAN HEART IT! I WILL NEVER GET TO SLEEP! DON’T THEY UNDERSTAND THAT SOME PEOPLE HAVE TO WORK IN THE MORNING? I HATE THEM I HATE THEM I HATE THEM…..


I awaken to the sounds of my neighbor’s footsteps clomping on the floor above me.

photo credit:

Be less human and this just might work.

Be less human and this just might work.

“There’s a moment you know…’re f*cked.”

So go the lyrics to “Totally Fucked,” one of my favorite workout jams from the musical Spring Awakening. Little did Steven Sater know when writing the lyrics that he was actually describing a totally pivotal moment during a Misophoniac’s romantic relationship with a Normal Person.

At a certain point into the relationship – perhaps a few weeks if you’re with someone sort of ‘meh,’ or a few months if you’re with a major studmuffin – there comes a subtle-yet-earth-shattering shift that forever alters your tolerance levels.

Misophonia f*cks love in the metaphorical ass.

It looks something like this:

I meet David. He’s wonderful. He’s beautiful, and he adores me, and we quickly become enchanted by that completely disgusting, can’t-get-enough-of-you, texting 24/7, naming-our-babies New Love Fever.

I am so high off this fever, so out of my mind with desire, that it doesn’t even matter that he chews GUM. He is an avid, enthusiastic gum chewer. I am the sole beneficiary of his obvious oral fixation, however. He even chews gum while bestowing upon me all the benefits of a tongue made dexterous by 16 hours a day of constant chewing (and he’s somehow able to do this without getting anything stuck anywhere it shouldn’t be which, when you’re drunk with Love Fever, isn’t weird or disgusting – it’s talent!)

But I have Misophonia. I do. And one of my triggers, as someone inordinately sensitive to a very particular sound set, is the sight, sound, and smell of someone – anyone – chewing gum. As much as I tell myself that’s it’s “different with David,” it’s only a matter of time before Steven Sater rears his ugly lyrics, and I’m totally fucked.

It happens in the car. We’ve only been dating for two months. It’s a sunny day. He picks me up. I’m in a great mood. We have plans to go to the beach, then dinner, then maybe a romantic evening at a hotel (right. As if I could stomach an evening in a hotel with paper-thin walls).

I open the car door. He is chewing gum. As he always has been. And I snap.

My snap is internal, because in addition to be a Misophoniac, I’m also dreadfully passive aggressive.

Rage swells within me. I am filled with hate. Blood swells to my genitals – a reaction I will truly never understand, but apparently this is a common symptom of many Misophoniacs. My thoughts begin to swirl, and the conversation between me and my mind goes something like this:

Me: That’s it. I can’t fucking take this. We have to break up, stat.

Mind: Will you calm down? It’s just gum.

Me: I can’t fucking take it! I’m going to open the car door right now and roll out, ninja-style!

Mind: Why don’t you just ask him to chew with his mouth closed?

Me: That’s not good enough. I’ll still be able to see his DISGUSTING MOUTH MOVING and his JAW CHURNING and I’ll KNOW that he’s still CHEWING!!!!

(Keep in mind that mere hours before, that same “disgusting” mouth was between my legs at my own request. I say this not to be crass, but to illustrate the lunacy of the condition, and its ability to take over the mind and poison it).

Mind: Why don’t you ask him to spit out his gum?

Me: Because he shouldn’t HAVE to spit out his gum! He has a RIGHT to chew gum! Why the fuck does it BOTHER me so much? It’s not fair! Why can’t I just get over it?

By this point, David has begun to sense that something’s wrong.

David: Are you ok?

Me: (smiling unconvincingly) Fine.

But I’m not fine, and as David persists, I begin to pick a fight that has nothing to do with gum or Misophonia. I somehow manage to come up with OTHER reasons that I’m upset with him, resulting in a completely bizarre fight that makes no sense to either of us. When I finally admit that the real cause of my upset is his gum, he immediately whips the offending putty out of of his mouth like it’s been poisoned.

Matthew: “Why didn’t you just say so? Jesus, it’s just gum!

It is just gum. Its insignificance is so apparent, so obvious that allowing it to upset you is embarrassing. It feels shameful. It makes me feel so neurotic, so obsessive, so weak, so selfish. There is such pain in resisting what is, in not being able to accept the present moment in whatever form it takes.

In that moment, I know that I will also no longer be able to tolerate his snoring, or the bizarre way he eats sushi (with his hands….?). It’s over. My love is lost again, devoured by the Misophonic Monster.

How can a Misophoniac find happiness in love? Is it possible to find someone who doesn’t trigger you in any way, ever? Is it fair to ask someone else to change themselves for you, or even worse, to change themselves in order to accommodate your condition?

My thoughts always turn toward the other person – what’s fair to them, what is or isn’t “too much to ask” of them.

David had a right to chew gum.

But don’t I also have a right not to be miserable when he does?

photo credit:

Are we really just a bunch of jerks?

Is it possible that people who suffer from Misophonia or 4S are just sort of dicks? People who are easily irritated and take it out on whoever happens to be around them? Humongous, self-absorbed over-reactors who have the audacity to think the world should shut the f&5! up just for them?

I’m going to argue no.

And while I may be biased (I have it, live it, love it. Wait. Scratch that last part), I hope you’ll allow me a few rebuttals to the above arguments, as seemingly accurate as they may appear at first glance.

I have never met, spoken with, or heard of anyone with Misophonia who didn’t harbor a ton of guilt surrounding their condition. We feel bad about it because we KNOW that the offending parties pissing us off are utterly clueless. We REALIZE that to most people, the trigger or offending sound is completely inconsequential, and we honor the right of humans everywhere to chew gum, relish foods that CRUNCH, speak languages that contain the letter S, and snore the night away unencumbered.

We feel bad that we feel bad. We feel so bad that a lot of us will never even say anything to you about it, but suffer in silence until the offending noise is so unbearable that we have to leave or we’ll scream.

And while some people with 4S may indeed be assholes, I don’t think it’s their 4S that makes them assholes. 4S, or Misophonia, is beyond reason. It makes no sense. There’s no logic to it, at least that I can see. Psychological projection runs rampant in our daily lives. We may snub someone because they subconcsiously remind us of our father or our ex-boyfriend, or treat someone rudely because they unknowingly say something that hits a nerve.

Misophonia is different. It’s not Us vs. Normal People so much as it is Us vs. Sounds.

When and if we act like assholes, fly off the handle, or insist on getting a separate hotel room in the middle of the night because you’re snoring and I can’t fucking take it – even then, it’s not YOU that we’re at war with. It’s the sounds, and it’s ourselves.

Poor normal people. It’s so difficult for them to believe that it really is the POPCORN that’s upsetting us. How many significant others have assumed your fury is a sign of something deeply amiss within the relationship?

“No, really, I’m not mad at you, it really is just the fucking popcorn!”

It’s hard to believe that such fury, such rage could be the result of such a normal, human, unobtrusive sound.

For some reason – and I sincerely hope that in my lifetime we find a reason – these sounds are obtrusive to us. They’re more than obtrusive, they’re torturous.

I guess my plea, to those lucky souls out there who don’t have to deal with this madness, is to try, if you can, to be slightly more conscientious. To eat, and breathe, and sleep, and live consciously. Conscious of other people, and other people’s sensitivities. I hope this isn’t too much too ask.

Everyone deserves the right to live free and be happy and at peace. But that goes for us, too.

I try to imagine how I would feel if someone told me “When you wear the color red, it makes me want to kill myself.”

Does that mean I should toss out my favorite red sweater? Of course not. I have a right to wear red. But I also want to contribute to a peaceful society, and if there is something easy that I can do to make someone’s life infinitely easier, I think I’d like to give it a shot.

Because here’s the thing – whether you’re chewing with your mouth open or cranking your music, it’s probably not SACRED to you. I’d wager that the habits that trigger people with Misophonia are, to Normal People, merely habits.  Thoughtless habits.  I’d also wager that it wouldn’t harm you in any way, or deduct from your quality of life, if you closed your mouth when you chewed. If you turned the music down or listened with headphones. It’s a small behavior change on your part that makes an INFINITE difference to us.

We’re working on it. We’re looking for answers. We’re learning to cope and to be more tolerant.  But in the mean time, while we do, would you consider trying to be a bit more considerate to those of us tormented by things you don’t even notice?

Besides, your life is going to be a helluva lot better once Misophonic strangers stop glaring you in airports (our wrath is potent and poisonous, and if a strange woman has ever given you the death stare for no reason that you could fathom, it was me, and it was because you were chewing gum with your mouth open).




Warning! If S sounds bother you, skip the video and read on below. Same content, different format!

Thou shalt not pop corn.

Can’t we just leave corn in its natural state as God intended?

My heart is beating like I just finished a marathon in under three hours. I’m starting to sweat, and it feels impossible to take one of the slow, deep breaths common sense insists upon when feelings of panic begin to surge. Every cell in my body is on high alert, and a hot, sweeping rage ignites my senses in a sickening frenzy.

I must get out of here. If I don’t leave now I will die.

But I’m not in a dark alley being mugged at gunpoint.

I haven’t run into my ex at the grocery store in sweatpants with no makeup on.

I’m not even in my boss’s office being accused of having sex with the copy guy in the supply closet (it wasn’t me Gary, I swear! It was that chick in marketing!)

I am standing in the kitchen of my second story flat on a Friday afternoon. I am completely safe. I am alone.

So what’s the cause of such an extreme state of panic, fear and rage?

My downstairs neighbor is playing music. And I can hear it.

That’s it. The thumping bass of a hip hop tune penetrating the thin floor boards is enough to move me to tears.

Let me just say that I love music, and I grew up on hip hop. Gimme some Outkast or A Tribe Called Quest and I’m one happy camper. The problem isn’t the music, or the type of music, or the fact that I can hear the music. If the music were playing in my apartment, or if everyone’s doors were open and I could hear it playing fully, I would be absolutely fine. I’d probably ask them to turn it up.

But if the music is muffled and is coming through the wall, I am instantly infuriated. I once had a therapist tell me this is because I feel violated by the sound; I haven’t “left the door open,” so to speak, and given my permission for those sounds to enter my space. The music is essentially ear-raping me because I’m not in control of it.

I’m not sure what I think of her theory. I guess it makes sense, but why does this reaction only occur with particular sounds? That’s what is so strange about Misophonia. It’s so specific.

Baby crying on the airplane? No problem. I could listen all day.

Nails on a chalkboard? Sure.

Loud-ass construction going on right outside my door? I could probably sleep right through it.

But the dull, intermittent voices of a television being played in the next room, or the soft sound of my neighbor strumming his guitar in the flat below? Double forks in the eyes!

It doesn’t make sense. You would think that the louder the noise, the more bothersome, but it’s just not the case. That’s why Misophonia is also referred to as “Selective Sound Sensitivity Disorder” or “Soft Sound Sensitivity Disorder.” Only certain sounds, most of which aren’t loud at all, enrage us.

The spooky thing is that it’s not like everyone with 4S has their own particular set of triggers; most of us share the SAME triggers, to greater or lesser degrees. What on earth does gum chewing have to do with the sounds made while eating popcorn? They are completely different sounds!! What does popcorn have to do with bass thumping or the sound of  a wave machine? All three things drive me batty but I can’t for the life of me figure out a connection. Why those sounds, and not others?

As I’ve gotten older, the Miso has morphed from being very food-centric to being more about music/radio/tv through walls. I don’t know if this is good or bad. I can share a meal with anyone, and eating in a Mexican restaurant is usually bearable. I can even go to a movie (but may end up changing seats several time if I get popcorn jerks right behind me). But living within 30 miles of other humans is always challenging.

What is your biggest trigger and how do you cope with it?