Misophonia: Why common sounds like chewing or breathing can trigger anxiety, anger in some

There are certain sounds that really get to some people, like chewing of gum or breathing loudly. These noises may be annoying, but for some folks, it's bigger than that. 

Sounds such as coughing, slurping, or the crinkle of a bag of chips can cause them to feel distressed, leaving them anxious and angry. It’s a condition called misophonia

"Misophonia is really an aversion to certain sounds," said Dr. Sanam Hafeez, a neuropsychologist and director of Comprehensive Consultation Psychological Services based in New York City

People who suffer from misophonia get enraged by the sound.

"So much so that they want to punch someone in the face," Hafeez explained. "They have to leave the room."


A study, published on Wednesday in the journal PLOS One, found that nearly one in five people are affected by the condition.  

"When the researchers saw on the MRI, the part of the brain that processes emotions actually lit up when it was exposed to these aversive sounds, which means there definitely is a mechanism inside these individuals that causes them to have this almost vile reaction to these sounds," Hafeez said.

The study also found that many people with misophonia also had a trauma or a past with unpleasant events that triggered post-traumatic stress disorder.

It’s unknown what causes misophonia. The doctor said cognitive behavioral therapy helps those suffering from it. 

You can do things like putting on headphones, deep breathing, distracting yourselves with other stimuli, and if it’s severe, see a psychiatrist.