Wendy Aron

Sounds Awful

It's All in My Head

The making of a mental case

Posted May 29, 2013

Diagnosed with clinical depression in 1981 at age 20, I have experienced many of joys of being a psychological hot mess over the years, and now I cannot ignore a hunch that my misophonia may somehow be linked to them. This theory is based on the following clues:

Clue #1: The part of the brain that is believed to regulate impulse control and has been implicated in obsessive compulsive disorder—the subthalamic nucleus---is the same part of the brain that seems to mess with a misophonic’s head. My mother, though never formally diagnosed, has OCD tendencies. These obsessive behaviors have trickled down to me, a brother and a niece, who all have misophonia.

Clue #2: Besides my auditory triggers that I have previously discussed, I have a distinct visual trigger that emerged in childhood also under psychologically stressful circumstances (which I will not go into because the last time I did, it resulted in a memoir which alienated my entire family).

I will say that as a child, I used to freak out when my mother twisted the curls in her hair. Now, when I see any woman curling, tossing, fingering or otherwise finagling with her hair, I feel compelled to bury a hatchet in her head. This occurs even if I am in a car behind another car that contains a woman playing with her hair.

Clue #3: On the misophonia support forums I have joined, many of the contributors seem to also suffer from some type of psychiatric illness, be it depression, anxiety or OCD. And a few of the friends who have reached out to me after reading this blog have mentioned that kids of theirs diagnosed with psychiatric illnesses also show signs of having misophonia.

Clue #4: The Dutch psychiatrists are coming. By this I mean that based on a study of 50 self-described and psychologically screened misophonics, researchers at the University of Amsterdam’s Academic Medical Center recently concluded that misophonia should be classified as a distinct, new obsessive compulsive spectrum disorder.

Of course, psychiatrists always come out of the woodworks when it comes to diseases that seem to only be diagnosable through observed symptoms, but I must say that these Dutch have provided the best definition of misophonia that I have yet found: “[when] an auditory or visual stimulus provoke[s] an immediate aversive physical reaction with anger, disgust and impulsive aggression.”

I had no Dr. Watson to bounce my miso-psych theory off of, so I turned to Dr. Jastreboff, the Father of Misophonia, who told me that yes, indeed, many of the misophonic patients he has seen in his clinic at Emory have had psychological issues.

“Accompanying psychological disorders (for example, obsessive compulsive disorder), affect the extent of the negative reactions the patient has to a given sound and the patient's susceptibility .to develop decreased sound tolerance,” he added.

So, you see? My hunch was correct. I’m not crazy.