10 Questions

10 Questions You Always Wanted to Ask Someone With Misophonia

"I started shouting at my mum because of the sound she was making as she chewed on a sandwich."

by Deborah Seymus
18 April 2018, 10:57am

Photo courtesy of Yaell

This article originally appeared on VICE Netherlands

Nobody likes the sound of someone chewing loudly, or slurping their way through a drink, or sniffling endlessly instead of just getting up and getting a tissue and blowing their nose like an adult. But for people with the rare condition "misophonia", certain everyday sounds are not just annoying, but can cause an extreme emotional and physical response pain; it's a deep hatred for basic noises that is believed to affect around 6 percent of the population.

I spoke with Yaell, 22, from Gent, east Belgium, who has hated the sound of chewing since it made her scream at her mother when she was five years old. She explained what it's like to live with misophonia, why crisps are the worst food in the world and whether she'll ever get treatment for her condition.

VICE: When did you figure out you were suffering from misophonia?
Yaell: According to my parents, I was around five years old when I first started reacting badly to certain sounds. For example, one morning before school, I started shouting at my mum because of the noise she was making as she chewed on a sandwich. After I was done screaming at her, I punched a wall and ran upstairs and locked myself in my room. And it sort of carried on from there, really. I would shout at people, hysterically throw things around or just refuse to eat. My parents couldn't work out what was wrong with me. For a while they thought I might be autistic, but tests showed that I wasn't.

What's the worst thing you can hear someone eat?
Even though I love eating them myself, it's probably crisps. It just makes so much noise. Listening to other people eat popcorn is also pretty horrible. Aside from that, I think people who slurp their soup or drink have been sent from hell to punish me.

So how do you react now when you hear people chewing loudly?
I've obviously stopped throwing things around like I did when I was younger, yet I still can't help but feel really angry. The easiest thing to compare it to is like a fire alarm going off in my head – it makes me want to run away from wherever I am as fast as I can. If it's someone I know who is chewing loudly then I'll say something. But if I don't know them, I won't, because I realise it's a bit rude to complain about how someone else eats.

Do you hate the sound of your own chewing?
Not when I eat stuff like crisps, but I do hate it when I'm eating away and I suddenly hear my jaw grind. Most people don't really notice it, but for me it's horrible. At that point I have to stop eating.

Have you considered getting therapy?
No, because I'd rather not have to think too much about having misophonia. For now, it is what it is, but who knows what will happen in the future – maybe people chewing loudly won't even bother me in ten years time.

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Is it just the sound humans make that bothers you, or animals as well?
I hate that disgusting sound my dog makes when it licks its own genitals. It's so gross.

Are there places you tend to avoid, like restaurants?
No, I think it would be way too hard to give up restaurants forever. But some are worse than others. One restaurant I will never go to again is this ribs place in Antwerp I visited a while ago with my ex and my parents. I appreciate that the other customers couldn't really help it, but the sound of them digging into the bones just made me so angry.

Do you do anything specific to help you cope?
As I've gotten older, I've developed a technique for almost shutting down mentally when things get really bad. It's almost like I'm psychologically building a wall between me and the other person.

Are there any other sounds you find disgusting?
I find nails scratching over a chalkboard pretty insufferable. As a child I used to hate the sound of a towel in my ear when my parents dried me after bath time. I also hated the sound of satin pyjamas rubbing together, and the same with corduroy trousers. Luckily, I'm over most of that now.

Does the sound of oral sex bother you?
Honestly, yes – especially during one-night stands. When it's just about the sex then I tend to focus on all the little details around me. Sure, I can still enjoy a guy trying to give me an orgasm, just not as intensely. But it's not as bad when I'm actually in love because I'm not only focused on the sex, but all the other emotions that are rushing inside me.

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