Tilting the looking glass: misophonia and the beauty and brilliance of differently wired brains

by | Apr 4, 2019 | Articles | 43 comments

Tilting the looking glass: misophonia and the beauty and brilliance of differently wired brains

How would you feel if someone snapped their fingers and removed your misophonia?

I’m talking about ALL traces of it. The past, the present, the future. Erased from your childhood… no longer a feature in your day-to-day life… and a tomorrow that would be, well, trigger-free. Would it feel like a great weight had been lifted? Like you could finally relax and lead a ‘normal’, happy life?

This might seem like a strange question. At first pass the answer for most of us would be a resounding “YES! Get rid of the misophonia at all costs”, right?

But here’s the thing. If your misophonia was taken away, would it leave behind a completely different, unrecognisable you?

To what extent does your misophonia make you ‘you’?

When we talk about misophonia we tend to focus on sound triggers and negative emotions

The intense feelings that consume us when we hear a trigger sound describe just ONE part of our misophonia, the part that we directly perceive in the heat of the moment. The frustration, the anger, the panic, the guilt.

The problem is this narrative seems to frame much of our discussion about misophonia.

With no other context, it suggests that misophonia is entirely defined by negative emotions and traits and that therefore everything to do with misophonia must be bad.

These negative loops dominate the surrounding media and research but they do something much worse than that… They effect the mindsets of the most important people in all of this, us. They reinforce a set of relentlessly negative internal narratives: “There’s something wrong with me… there’s something wrong with other people… misophonia is bad… I’m bad… life is bad… I can’t cope with this…”

But here’s the thing. These negative thoughts and concepts are based on a very limited understanding of our disorder (a disorder which, remember, didn’t have a name until very recently).

To try to make sense of all this, in this article we’re going to look at exactly why this is – i.e. “if misophonia is so great, why can I only see the bad stuff?” Then we’re going tilt the looking glass and see if we can uncover any positive sides to misophonia…

Misophonia is about a great deal more than sound sensitivity alone.

As you’ll see, the misophonic brain is wired differently in ways that we are only just starting to uncover.

Before we get to that, let’s start with the why.

Why is it that the dialogue around misophonia seems to focus solely on sound triggers and negative emotions? There’s a reason for this and we can look to neuroscience for answers.

As humans we are hard wired to trust our senses

Our ears, our eyes, our noses, our sense of touch. The brain has a strong preference for that which it perceives directly, ‘in the moment’…

This makes sense in evolutionary terms because it’s efficient.

The sights, sounds, smells and textures that our brains decode help tether us to a world (and reality) with rules and structures that we can readily navigate. It stops us from falling over all the time, it helps us find food, it helps us find a mate and so on.

The brain does this by learning and categorising complex information. That lump over there is a tree… don’t walk into it. That red blur over there is molten lava… don’t fall into it. The problem with this setup is that it doesn’t always work in our favour all of the time, in every scenario.

Different brains have different ways of perceiving, processing, categorising and regulating different sounds, sights, smells and textures. In our case, for example, the misophonic brain takes the sound sensitivity dial and sends it into hyperdrive.

Nonetheless, for the most part, categorising and labelling complex things works well as a survival strategy. It’s an efficient way to identify objects and feelings and concepts quickly. If our brains didn’t make these quick category judgements the world might appear as a featureless (and meaningless) mass of lines, dots, colours and fractals.

Yet the world is also full of invisible truths that we can’t see, hear, smell, feel or touch

There are objective, invisible truths as real as the ground beneath us that we can’t directly perceive via our senses.

Many of these are essential to our comfort, happiness, enlightenment and even survival in some cases. Yet we now take these for granted, thanks to incredible advances in science and human understanding.

Take wavelengths and light. Our eyes and brains are only adapted to perceive (or see) just a fraction of the world’s wavelengths. We only perceive that tiny slither in the diagram below labelled ‘visible light’.

As neuroscientist David Eaglemen points out:

“the wavelengths we’re talking about involve only what we call “visible light”, a spectrum of wavelengths that runs from red to violet. But visible light constitutes only a tiny fraction of the electromagnetic spectrum – less than one ten-trillionth of it. All the rest of the spectrum – including radio waves, microwaves, X-rays, gamma rays, cell phone conversations, wi-fi, and so on – all of this is flowing through us right now, and we’re completely unaware of it. This is because we don’t have any specialized biological receptors to pick up on these signals.”

Let that sink in for a moment, just one ten-trillionths of what we call ‘reality’.

Even though we can’t see all these other wavelengths we know that they exist because we’ve found ways – in many cases using technology – to uncover and even utilise them.

They might be invisible to the naked eye but they are just as real and just as important. Without them doctors wouldn’t be able to use x-rays to examine our broken bones… we wouldn’t be able to watch TV or listen to the radio…  film directors and photographers wouldn’t even exist… solar energy wouldn’t exist… and so on.

Let’s track this back to misophonia for a moment.

We often label misophonia as being about those intense ‘in the moment’ triggers. It’s our equivalent of that slither of visible light in the world’s wavelengths. Triggers are immediate and loud and pushy, like a great, big klaxon call that screams “look at me!” all the time.

But this aspect of misophonia that’s most widely discussed (the sound triggers) is the tiniest slither of what it means to have this unique brain wiring.

It’s like studying a new species for the first time and characterising it solely on the way it ruffles it’s feathers.

This is a big problem, not just with misophonia, but human explorations in science and knowledge as a whole. We tend to make a beeline for the problem solution angle and focus on one aspect (usually the loudest, most obvious or sensational) rather than investigate the nuances or look at the whole.

If the single aspect we happen to focus on is negative – as it is in the case of misophonia – then blimey, that really sets the narrative. It’s hardly surprising that we write off the whole thing as being a one dimensional misery fest.

If we can look beyond that tiny, perceivable slither of sound triggers we’ve come to characterise our disorder by, what else lies waiting to be discovered in our differently wired brains?

Neurological disorders aren’t black and white, they’re multi-faceted

A close friend of mine is profoundly dyslexic.

This wasn’t something that was well understood or taken particularly seriously when he was growing up. Teachers used to accuse him of being “lazy” or “thick”.

One of the main reasons it wasn’t taken seriously was because doctors and neuroscientists knew very little about it at the time.

Teachers, and even dyslexics themselves, often found themselves focussing solely on the negative.

Within the musty walls of old fashioned, regimented classrooms around the world where parrot fashion learning – and the ability to recall facts or spell certain words – was valued over ingenuity and analysis, dyslexics stood out for all the wrong reasons.

They were viewed and categorised for the things that they struggled with, not what they excelled at…

– Challenges with spelling
– Confusion over word order
– Difficulty understanding instruction
– Struggles with reading

Negative, negative, negative.

All of these effectively spell out: “you can’t do this” and “you can’t do that”. Sound familiar? It should do. In our case sound sensitivity is our kryptonite.

As a result of this relentlessly negative narrative, generations of children grew up with a stigma surrounding their ‘disorder’ and their abilities.

Dyslexics were told they were “stupid” or “lazy” by the very people who were supposed to be nurturing their young minds. They compared themselves to the other kids, particularly those who excelled at this narrow form of rote learning, and felt useless, frustrated and vulnerable.

But what do we know about dyslexia today?

Here’s an excerpt from a piece by the astrophysicist Matthew H. Schneps taken from The Scientific American. He happens to have dyslexia:

“one thing is clear: dyslexia is associated with differences in visual abilities, and these differences can be an advantage in many circumstances, such as those that occur in science, technology, engineering and mathematics…

Such differences in sensitivity for causal perception may explain why people like Carole Greider and Baruj Benacerraf have been able to perform Nobel prize-winning science despite lifelong challenges with dyslexia…

Julie Logan of the Cass Business School in London… found that dyslexia is relatively common among business entrepreneurs; people who tend to think differently and see the big picture in thinking creatively about a business…”

Nobel prize winners and world leading entrepreneurs…

Artists, actors and scientists: Carol Greider, Steven Spielberg, Richard Branson, Jacques Dubochet, Tom Cruise – possibly even Albert Einstein, Leonardo Davinci and Thomas Edison.

It’s a far cry from the “thick” kids who were written off as having a ‘stupidity’ disorder because they had trouble spelling or understanding instructions.

So we now have a new set of positive traits to sit alongside this particular neurological ‘disorder’.

These are traits which any one of us would be thrilled to possess:

– The ability to think differently (outside of tired, constrained norms)
– Sensitivity in casual perception
– Visual sensitivity
– ‘Big picture thinking’ and entrepreneurial flair

So what about my friend, how has his dyslexia defined him? There are so many metrics for happiness and success. He would say that his greatest achievements are his wonderful family (and I’d agree). But he also keeps himself busy in the day-to-day while the kids are at school.

The boy who couldn’t spell owns and runs a very successful media agency in central London, employing over 70 staff. He started from scratch.

What dyslexia and autism can teach us about the positive aspects of misophonia

We’ve talked a little about dyslexia. Let’s turn briefly to another neurological disorder: high functioning autism (or Asperger’s as it’s often referred to).

Dr. Kenneth Roberson is an Asperger’s psychologist in San Francisco with over 30 years of experience. He articulates a wealth of positive traits when it comes to describing the ‘disorder’:

“Adults with Aspergers pursue ideas they believe in without being deterred by what others say. They are not easily swayed by others’ opinions, nor do they give up because someone tries to convince them otherwise…

They are good at recognizing patterns and in classifying things. They are comfortable with order, precision and categorization, which make them successful in following rules, allocating resources and solving problems.

They tend to be sincere, positive and genuine, which make them loyal and dependable friends. Because they don’t mind being alone, they are often willing to engage in solitary work that others avoid, which puts them in the position of making tremendous contributions at work and school.

They are able to comprehend multiple levels of meanings of words and ideas and can form connections that others miss. They are persistent, and when they set their minds to something or make a promise they can usually be trusted to follow through.

Relationships with someone who has Aspergers tends to be free from bias and discrimination based on race, gender, age or other differences. They judge people based on their behavior not the color of their skin, socioeconomic status or political influence. They are not inclined to be bullies, con artists or social manipulators.”

Most of us would kill to have some of those traits. Yes, of course individuals with autism also face many difficult challenges in their lives and we mustn’t underplay that. But can you see how just by tilting the looking glass for a moment and focusing on what individuals with differently wired brains CAN excel in and CAN thrive at, you can change the narrative?

This exercise in looking beyond obvious is vital in both changing the way others perceive people with autism, dyslexia or misophonia and in how we perceive ourselves. It effects a person’s self-esteem, stress levels, happiness and wellbeing.

No-one would dream of telling someone in a wheelchair that they should keep trying to use the stairs just because that’s what ‘everyone else’ does. Yet with invisible, neurological disorders we often do just that. We obsess on trying to get people to focus on what they can’t do, rather than what they CAN do.

So let’s talk about what people with misophonia can do. We’ve talked about dyslexia and autism… where’s our list of superpowers?

A higher propensity for creative genius… increased levels of empathy… an eye for detail?

I should start by saying that misophonia research is still, compared to many other neurological disorders, in its very early stages.

At the time of writing if you type “autism” into Google Scholar it brings up 1.34 million results.

Type in “dyslexia” and it brings up 272,000 results.

A search for “misophonia” gets just 823.

That gives you a sense of the virgin territory we’re entering here and highlights the massive need for lobbying, government funding and research. It also means that the data we have to draw upon, to date, about the positive aspects of misophonia is fairly limited and often speculative. It’s important to put this disclaimer in.

Nevertheless, what follows is an exercise in starting the debate and getting the ball rolling.

There is – without doubt – a rich tapestry behind the veil just waiting to be discovered and we, as a community, have the power to push forward and encourage this discussion.

The good news is that we’re already making progress. One study, led by Darya L. Zabelina from Northwestern University, forms an excellent starting point.

You can read about it here, but here’s a synopsis. Darya and her team found that people with misophonia may have a higher propensity for creative genius, specifically an ability to: “… integrate ideas that are outside of focus of attention, leading to creativity in the real world…”

In an interview with Science Daily, Zabelina says: “If funnelled in the right direction, these sensitivities can make life more rich and meaningful, giving experiences more subtlety.”

And you don’t have to delve too far into the past to find evidence of creative geniuses within our ranks. The study cites Wagner, Proust and Darwin as individuals who “strongly lamented the distracting nature of noise (Kasof, 1997)” and were almost certainly misophones. Proust so much so that he was famous for lining his bedroom walls with cork and wearing earplugs so that he could work in complete and utter silence.

I recently asked you what your misophonic superpowers are…

In a series of Allergic to Sound bulletins I asked what unique ability or abilities you posses. Specifically abilities you suspect you might not have if you were, to use a horrible word, ‘normal’ and didn’t have misophonia. The things you find easy that others may struggle with. The fields, subject areas or niches you thrive in.

This could be anything from ways of looking at the world, to how you interact with people, see the bigger picture and focus on tasks.

I combined your email responses with all the interview responses I’d received to date in My Miso Story to date for the question: “What is your misophonic superpower?”

In total that left us with 49 respondents. Obviously this is a relatively small, informal poll and should be treated as a bit of fun. But it’s interesting and thought-provoking nonetheless and a starting point.

The first and most popular trait that came through was ‘sensory sensitivity’. A whopping 45% of you reported supersonic hearing, a keen sense of smell, or some other form of sensory sensitivity.

This is a great advantage in areas where you need to notice and appreciate tiny changes in the environment around you. Performers, artists, people who work with animals, air traffic controllers, police and military service men or women and so on could greatly benefit.

But the results I really found fascinating though were the next four.

Again these were unsolicited, and to my knowledge no respondents could have spoken to one another. You can see them here:

A huge proportion of you, 37%, cited ‘empathy’ as being your misophonic superpower. What a fantastic trait.

The obvious skillsets that leap to mind are those of psychologists, therapists, nurses, carers, animals lovers and so on – but it goes much deeper than that. Someone with a high level of empathy will be extremely valued and held in high esteem in almost all walks of life. This is a trait – if properly harnessed – that could take a person anywhere.

The ability to listen, feel, understand, identify with and help others is at the core of the human race’s ability to co-operate, thrive and reach incredible new heights.

Then we have ‘creativity’. 27% of you reported traits such as musical ability, a flair for writing, art and other creative exploits. This tallies with the study we looked at earlier and could point to an innate ability in misophones to see the world in a different way.

I receive dozens of emails from people with misophonia each week and many of them are form people doing amazing things. We seem to have a lot of talented writers, artists and creatives in our midst.

‘Attention to detail’, 22%, and ‘pattern recognition’, 8% were also very popular traits. These are really specific and incredibly valuable abilities that kept popping up. They could pave the way for excellence in all manner of pursuits from art to engineering and science.

The well of misophonic superpowers appears, even from this little survey alone, to be positively overflowing.

You are so much more than your sound triggers, it’s time to rewrite the narrative

When we label something like misophonia (or any other neurological disorder) as being ‘one thing’, we do ourselves and others a disservice and risk being defined by a very narrow set of traits.

Let’s rewrite the tired and harmful narrative that says that the ONLY thing that defines us as misophones is an aversion to certain sounds. Let’s look for the environments where we really thrive.

If you have any thoughts, reflections or comments I’d love to continue the debate in the comments section below.

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  1. Lucy

    Lovely little article

    • Natalie

      I feel the same way regarding empathy for both sides. I wish people could see things our way.

    • Lisa

      Goodness. This well and beyond a lovely little article. Please forgive my lack of editing for the sake of time. Coincidentally, i do know better, being a writer and having an English degree. BUT THIS IS SO ENLIGHTENING to me and I thank you. At 41, I’ve managed Misophonia with earplugs, fight or flight responses, etc. What I find fascinating here is the info comparing it to high functioning autism. Having emotional sensitivity and testing 20/22 on the Highly Sensitive Person quiz, I’ve attributed my Misophonia incorrectly to many potential roots. My adult ADD medicine seems to temper my startle reflex and nose sensitivity, but my kids hiccups,barking dogs, chirping birds can still send me into angry panic mode. THANK you for a viewpoint I had not seen until today. An Aspergers diagnosed acquaintance suggested my symptoms were similar to hers years back and I scoffed, empathetically feeling she suffered more than I. Seeing myself so closely described in the Aspergers positive trait section of your article just helped me quite a bit. Not because I have Aspergers, but because it helps me see my wiring as less of a burden or brain dysfunction, and more of a “special set of skills “. Thank you. 🙂

      • Allergic to Sound

        Hi Lisa, thank you for your lovely words. You’re very welcome! Yes, that’s interesting what you say re: Aspergers.

  2. Lindsey Holgate

    Everything you have written about including your research and interviews is fascinating and very helpful. It is so amazingly reassuring to read about shared experiences. I would love to be able to read it all in a book. Thank you.

    • Allergic to Sound

      Thanks for your lovely comment Lindsey! So glad you find it helpful.

  3. SK

    My son has autism, intellectual disability, and misophonia. Misophonia for him is a source of misery. He stopped going to school. He stopped going out. He is isolated. With few resources, we’ve been unable to help him. He recently got an ABA therapist who is trying to alleviate his misery with controlled exposure to his trigger noises. For him, and for us, misophonia is no blessing. It’s an affliction that robbed him of his high school years.

    • Maggie Sproxton

      Does your son have musical ability? Have you ever tried sitting him at a piano, just to see what he comes up with? He may find it scary to begin with, but I feel he may eventually find sounds/harmonies he finds pleasing & that he can relate to.

    • Allergic to Sound

      Hi SK, I’m so sorry to hear about your son. I do hope things improve for you both.

      Please keep an eye on his exposure therapy as there’s no evidence (that I’m aware of) from independent, controlled studies that it has any positive impact. The worry is that it could even be harmful, particularly if it causes him more distress. I also wholeheartedly agree with Maggie’s comment!

    • Ruby Looga

      I’m so sorry to hear about your son’s distress. I think you should know that far from being his problem in a school setting, it is actually a problem with the school..and one thatthey they need to deal with. A school in UK is required by Ofsted. to meet the needs of all their pupils, not just those who are neurotypical. His schools have let him down badly. All children are unique and should be able to achieve their potential by having their diverse learning needs met. This means your child should have an IEP…an Individual Education Plan to meet his needs. This could involve extra funding for quiet spaces and and an expert1:1 guide to support him. Unfortunately this kind of funding has been drastically cut and has to be fought for by schools on a case by case basis. You need someone in the school who will fight his case. Or get him into a school with specialist knowledge. I imagine it’s a bit late for all this now and I’m so sorry. I have no doubt that with sensitive support and loving kindness your son will achieve great things. People need to listen to him. I mean really listen. It’s such a shame because children are born with incredible wisdom and know exactly what they need and how to learn. Many educators surprisingly are ignorant of the incredible intelligence of young children because they have the wrong attitude to who holds the wisdom. I have seen it over and over..it’s soul destruction in action and makes me both sad and angry to see. I wish you all the best and hope that your beautiful unique child can regain some of the incredible child he was and that not too much of who he really is has been destroyed. There is always hope. I would personally suggest a good Reiki Master or someone working in sensitive healing such as NLP. Wishing you and your son all the best that life can give.

  4. Kelli

    This is the best Misophonia article I have ever read! Thank you for this! So much!


    Great article. I am very empathetic and very creative.
    I tick all the boxes.

  6. Peggy

    This is a great article! Taking my noise sensitivity and turning it into a positive trait is refreshing. I have always scored high on empathy and practiced social work for many years and still find strangers who need help approach me in public.
    I have the ability to look at a long list of names, etc. and pick the word/ name quickly.

    So encouraging to know there are others across the world like me.

    Will share this article with my friends and family.

    Thank you all very much.

    • Allergic to Sound

      That’s really great, thanks Peggy. I’ve had that with strangers too!

  7. Julie M

    Fascinating, indeed. And very heartening.

    I’m so glad to have found Allergic to Sound. The articles—which are always well written, not to mention entertaining—shelter my sanity on a regular basis, and this one makes me feel special. Thanks again, Tom, for all of the information you share here!

    • Allergic to Sound

      You are so welcome Julie and thank you for the lovely comment.

      Here’s to sheltered sanity and special powers!

  8. Linda Colucci

    I hate my misophonia and it is a CURSE, not a “blessing”. Especially always trying to hide it from my family and friends, while I’m really exploding inside. I’m ashamed of my behavior but I have no control over it. No one who is “normal” could possibly understand what it feels like. I would rather die than keep living with it, but I keep on fighting it.

    • Allergic to Sound

      Hi Linda, thanks for commenting. I’m so sorry it doesn’t feel like there’s any light at the end of the tunnel right now. I think everyone with misophonia (myself included) can really, truly identify with those feelings.

      I just want you to know that you’re not alone and that you have nothing to ashamed of. This is about brain chemistry. You’re not a ‘bad’ person and you’re not defined by the thoughts and emotions imposed on you by your amygdala. You can lead a happy life with misophonia, even if it might not seem like it right now. We’re here for you.

  9. Maggie Sproxton

    It seems that many ‘miso-people’ have musical ability. Me too; I could pick out tunes on the piano from an early age (5) and now also play flute & recorders. Something else I do, which for many years I hadn’t realised others couldn’t, is to sing straight from a sheet of music I have never seen or heard previously. Most people would need to hear the tune played through at least once before being able to sing it. I do it simply by reading the music. Does anyone else hear overtones? A tolling bell in France or Italy sounds different from a tolling bell in UK. Why? Is it the ambient atmosphere, the way the bell was cast? Something else? Colours & smells also have overtones for me! I also notice small details in nature; the song of a blackbird after summer rain; and what about the perfect acoustics of certain types of building? St. Paul’s Cathedral, London, for example. There’s my love of numbers; pi and the Golden Section hold a special fascination for me. Then there’s my love of analysis of anything & everything: languages, art, architecture, the human mind…is it any wonder I struggle with all this going on in my head along with those sounds I find irritating (mouth noises mostly). Talk about sensory overload!

    • Allergic to Sound

      Hi Maggie, it sounds like you have an Aladdin’s cave of wonderful and fascinating abilities there, lucky you!

      • Maggie Sproxton

        I don’t feel lucky. Everything is too noisy; people eating, slamming doors, scraping chairs across a hard floor, bouncing a football in the street, shouting. Music is often too loud, children make too much noise when playing. Yes, this sounds negative, but that’s what it’s like. I crave silence.

        • LS

          This is how I feel too, nobody understands. 🙁 I hope that anybody reading this has a good rest of their life.

  10. Emi

    Putting a positive spin on something that feels as if it is only bringing suffering and anguish is genuinely so valuable and important. Perhaps it isn’t quite as abhorrent as it appears to be on the surface level.

    • Allergic to Sound

      Hi Emi, I totally agree. There’s always more to marvel at if you take a little time to look beneath the surface.

  11. Emma Franks

    I am 46 years old, an artist and have misophonia since the age of 10/11. I only discovered I had this 3 days ago so still in some shock. I also found out a week ago about HSP (Highly Sensitive Person), which I identify as being. What I would be interested in knowing is how many people with Misophonia are also HSP? As many of the traits, empathy, creativity, compassion, heightened sensory awareness, are traits of HSP. Would be interesting to find out.

    • Maggie Sproxton

      Hi, I’m HSP too! I’ve only known for about two years. Maybe these traits are connected!

    • annejumps

      I was coming here to say the same thing. While I don’t suffer as acute a case of misophonia as many on here, and may not actually suffer from it at all as it happens, I am very annoyed by loud or deep noises in the distance. I am sure it is part of my being an HSP. It’s not the same as a processing disorder, but if anyone feels affected by noises, temperatures, textures, the emotions of others, etc. or feels that they notice details others don’t, look into what being an HSP is.

  12. Ruby Looga

    Thankyou for this amazing article. I have a diagnosis of Bi-polar Disorder, which I consider to be a great gift ( my neuroatypicality not the diagnosis) but have never spoken much about my misophonia. I always wondered where it came from and why it affects me. Your article has made me realise that I may have an untapped Superpower! I have struggled my whole life in relationships and to hold down a job and succeed in the workplace, because of insensitive management who refused to let me operate in my own way and enable me to share my amazing talents. I have recently become involved with Reiki master who has developed an amazing healing strategy called Infinite heart healing. My life has changed beyond all recognition and as someone who once believed they could never be happy I am now on an exciting adventure to the new free thinking me. I must add that I started a new relationship about 5 years ago which has had a very rocky ride due to my unique take on the world but we got married just over a year ago and the deep love and faith my husband has for me and in me has also been part of my transformation. Although he struggled at times with my profound anger stemming from a terifying fear in situations that I found intolerable, he never once gave up on me and I have proved my worth. We now have a truly amazing and deeply intimate relationship because of some need in both of us to insist on unconditional love and nothing less. We have lightened up a little and are no longer co-dependant because the glue that stuck us together is so strong ..it’s like an unbreakable bond wherever we are. My children too from my first marriage stuck by me and have been an unfathomable tower of strength love and joy. One is now studying Philosophy at Cambridge University and the other is a qualified Mental Health Nurse and Specialist in Yoga Therapy. So there can be be a happy growth from the darkest of ponds. Please take heart all those who are suffering with misunderstood mental health you are truly amazing when you step into your own light.

    • Allergic to Sound

      Thanks so much Ruby.

      I bet your bi-polar is an amazing superpower! One of my closest friends is one of the most inspiring and infuriatingly high achieving people I know I definitely put this down, in large part, to his neuroatypicality (I nearly put him in this article but it was turning into a bit of an opus as it was!). It’s great to hear your story and I’m so glad your are in such a good place.

  13. Angus

    Am i the only one who gets arrested because i attack those who make unwanted noise?… loud shock bangs make me very aggressive, and some would say dangerous…. someone dropping something heavy behind me, sets my brain to boil in rage….. even things like someone eating a bag of crisps and that rustling of the packet makes me boil with rage… my councilor (who i may add, diagnosed me just recently as maybe having Misophonia) says i may have underlying mental health dissorders like personality dissorder, also….. what can the effects be from having both misophonia and an underlying personality dissorder?

    • TC

      Angus, I understand you completely. I have not attacked anyone, but I’ve got fired from two jobs for repeatedly telling people who are making way too much noise to keep it quiet. Noise makes it impossible for me to think and I live to think. Unwanted noise is like someone taking my skin off with sand paper. Normal people don’t understand why I get so upset and angry over a “little noise”. If someone rubbed their skin off with sand paper they’d be much more angry than me.

      I’ve been lucky because I am a very good engineer. I can find work when an employer needs me really bad and for a while they put up with my demands. After a few years, some new idiot in HR decides I am making excessive demands and fires me.

      Hang in there. Don’t get arrested. Find what you are really really good at. Charge the rest of the normal people insane amounts of money for your gift. Use it to build yourself a quiet refuge. Enjoy it while it lasts. Repeat.

      My refuge of 10 years is done now. Half a mile away, an idiot got himself a rooster. Time to make more money and move.

      • Cathy

        Oh my goodness! A rooster’s sound carries!

        Great article, by the way, and I’m working up to making my own response to your article rather than adding a response to someone’s response, but I just realized that I have this. I need to come to grips first to be more coherent.

  14. J

    Thank you for this article. It made me teary-eyed. I’m going to share with my teen daughter who has misophonia and mild dyslexia and is down on herself. She is creative, empathetic, and has an amazing eye for sensory details. If only the school system nurtured these strengths.

  15. richard

    I’ve just discovered this definition tonight. I’ve been suffering with this for 32 years, and find it hard to find a place to live, due to my intolerance of barking dogs. I find myself moving further and further into the country, which often doesn’t help anyway, as so many adjoining properties have dogs.
    Most people are not bothered and don’t understand how it can affect me this much, and I have struggled to understand why it does, to such a debilitating degree. And yes, I have decided I must have a problem, but have been unable to change.
    But at the same time, I have always suspected that it is because I am perhaps more sensitive to certain things in life, than many people are. And that there is a positive side to this.
    And yes I am an artist, and a deep thinker.
    I think this is possibly not really just about sound, as there are a thousand sounds that don’t bother me, but that it’s about sensitivity to greater life issues.
    On reading elsewhere on this site, people who were bothered by barking dogs, the question “why aren’t the owners doing anything?” was in almost every statement. To me this reflects a frustration not so much with the dog, but with the inconsiderate owners who are not thinking of other people. I know this is definitely what I feel. It’s the inconsideration, that enrages.
    And this ties in with empathy.
    But also, the sound of a dog barking is also quite an aggressive sound. The sound is of an angry animal, defending its territory. For someone who wants peace in the world, the sounds of aggression are particularly disturbing, often to debilitating degrees. Sometimes I physically collapse with the stress. Of course I live with earplugs a lot. Which seems stupid, but so far I have been unable to find a solution.

    Now… to find a solution –

    • Melissa

      Richard, I am hearing you loud and clear! Your experiences sound identical to mine. I kept moving-the last house I was surrounded by barking dogs and I was certainly angered by the owners, not the dogs. Dogs express how they are feeling by their bark and this also disturbs me deeply, being particularly empathic with animals.Now my fella and I bought a house in a small town, to get away from neighbours and what do you know? There are more barking dogs than ever! Just further away than next door. From discovering this condition, I can at least try to work the best I can with it and know that it exists.I tried hypnosis for the construction noise going on around me a few years back but it didn’t seem to have an effect. The earplugs seem to be most effective to this day… As I type, there are works going on by our fence boundary, so I have had to pop on the headphones with music. It affects my every day movements greatly. Now to wait for them to leave and the anticipation of when that will be…..

      • Janet

        Years ago I moved from my home of 10 years because of my neighbor’s barking dog. The landlord of the new house I moved into assured me that there were no barking dogs in the neighborhood. I was there a week when I overheard my neighbor say to her kids, “Guess what I got you? Puppies!” She had brought home two yappy puppies! I do believe that what you resist persists. That was the case in this case, anyway.

  16. Clara

    This article brought tears to my eyes. To think that Darwin was like me is an incredible gift. Thank you.

  17. Angela

    I just came across the term Misphonia and stumbled from there into your site. I cannot believe the superpower question! I hear and see everything and cannot block out conversations in crowds which means my husband is always amazed when I’m like – did you hear what that person said or see that person’s hat? I also have an extremely keen sense of smell. I can list ingredients in dishes very easily or describe an aroma with specificity that is often met with agreement and mild awe! I think I have mild misophonia – people breathing and chewing can at times make me hyperfocus on them and become very annoyed. It’s like I can’t ignore it and I build more and more resentment towards the person – for doing nothing other than inhaling to live!

  18. Hurley

    Thank you for this beautiful article. I would classify myself as “Aspergers” and identify 100% with the characteristics described in this article. Now that I’m older I can wholeheartedly say I love my brain so much I would never want to be neurotypical. I have never been bored in my entire life because I see things and think about things in ways other people can’t. Of course, there are some difficult things about being me -I move through my day in a slow and methodical way. I can’t push myself to be busy and multitask. People say they like being around me because I’m so calming, but this aspect of myself IS limiting. My sensitivity means I cry the moment I feel emotion and avoid confrontation to a fault, but the joy I get from my sensitivity to nature and art has carried me through the very difficult experiences of my life. With my ability to see patterns, categorize things, and see the big picture, I’ve become a great teacher and take a lot of satisfaction in helping people learn to understand things in profound ways. The reason I share this is because my young daughter has Misophonia. She 100% sees her condition as a disability and feels hopeless about her future sometimes. I tell her that when she has finished school life will get better because she can structure her life in a way that works for her and she’ll learn to love her brain and the way she’s exceptional. I’m so happy to share this article with her to back up this message. I know it will mean a lot to her.


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