Misophonia, meaning "hatred of sound", is a proposed neurological condition in which certain sounds trigger emotional or physiological responses others may deem unreasonable.
Reactions to trigger sounds range from anger and annoyance to activating a fight-or-flight response. The condition is sometimes called selective sound sensitivity syndrome. Common triggers include oral sounds (e.g., loud breathing, chewing, swallowing), clicking sounds (e.g., keyboard tapping, finger tapping, windshield wipers), and sounds associated with movement (e.g., fidgeting). Oftentimes, hated sounds are repetitive in nature.
As of 2016 the literature on misophonia was limited. Some small studies show that people with misophonia generally have strong negative feelings, thoughts, and physical reactions to specific sounds, which the literature calls "trigger sounds". These sounds usually appear quiet to others, but can seem loud to the person with misophonia, as if they can't hear anything except the sound.
One study found that around 80% of the sounds were related to the mouth (e.g., eating, slurping, chewing or popping gum, whispering, whistling) and around 60% were repetitive. A visual trigger may develop related to the trigger sound, and a misophonic reaction can occur in the absence of an actual sound. More girls and women tend to have misophonia than boys and men.
Reactions to triggers can range from mild (anxiety, discomfort, and/or disgust) to severe (rage, anger, hatred, panic, fear, and/or emotional distress). Reactions to the triggers can include aggression toward the origin of the sound, leaving, remaining in its presence but suffering, trying to block it or trying to mimic the sound.
The first misophonic reaction may occur when a person is young, often between the ages of 9 and 13,and can originate from someone in a close relationship, or a pet.
Particularly severe cases of misophonia may result in violent impulses toward the source of the sound. One such case described in the journal Psychiatry and Clinical Psychopharmacology detailed 'involuntary violence' exhibited by a sufferer in response to a trigger in the form of another person eating loudly.
People with misophonia are aware they experience it and some consider it abnormal; the disruption it causes in their lives ranges from mild to severe. Avoidance and other behaviors can make it harder for people with this condition to achieve their goals and enjoy interpersonal interactions.
Although the condition was first proposed in 2000, it has yet to be considered a diagnosable condition. Misophonia is not classified as an auditory or psychiatric condition, and so is different from phonophobia (fear of sound); there are no standard diagnostic criteria, and there is little research on how common it is or the treatment. Proponents suggest misophonia can adversely affect the ability to achieve life goals and to enjoy social situations. As of 2019 there were no evidence-based methods to manage the condition.