Tag Archives: HSP

Misophonia – When Sounds Torment and Drive You Crazy

At twelve-years-old I thought I was going mad.
I couldn’t deal with small and quiet aural and visual stimuli.
It took many years to discover Misophonia is real and I wasn’t crazy.  

Misophonia-the-torment-of-sound-the-last-krystallos-title
Misophonia, often known as 4S or SSSS (Selective Sound Sensitivity Syndrome), is a very real and restrictive disorder for those who suffer and those close to them. 
I’ve written before about being a Highly Sensitive Person HSP and promised to post about Misophonia.

As a child your quirks are just that, quirks, then you recognise differences between you and those about you. I struggled with noises and visual disturbances.

202. Lisa 10 t-shirt 1981 tiny crop

© Lisa Shambrook

I liked quiet. My bedroom was at the far end of our house with a corridor, bathroom and spare bedroom between myself and the rest of my family. My room was my place of solitude. Though my inability to deal with small noises was apparent earlier the first major problem aired when the neighbours, an elderly couple with a penchant for opera, played music loud and I could hear it through my bedroom wall. The emotions that overwhelmed me were irrational, overwrought and internally violent. I was a placid child, so any violence got absorbed and/or released upon myself. My place of safety was violated with that tinny, muffled sound that emanated through my walls and I had no idea how to deal with it.

At twelve, my grandfather came to live with us. He was already in his late eighties and difficult, but he needed care. I had a chair on the edge of the living room by the window and I could shield myself from others in the room. I had a problem with my mother’s twiddling thumbs, or things I could see out of the corner of my eye. I was already moving books on the bookshelf, so that light and dark spines did not alternate or stand out. My grandfather’s chair was put beside mine, and his legs when crossed left his foot dangling in front of the television. When he bobbed his foot I felt like I would go crazy. My adrenalin surged, my anxiety hit the roof and I wanted to scream and cry. Another safe place was gone.

I had no idea what was wrong with me.

misophonia, severe hypersensitivity to sound, noise, the last krystallos,

© Lisa Shambrook

It wasn’t until many, many years later that a name was put to my condition. Misophonia.  It covered everything that drove me crazy. The sound of people eating (I cannot listen to or be with people eating unless I’m eating myself), snoring, breathing heavily, music from other peoples’ headphones, tapping fingers, cracking knuckles, whistling and chewing gum (both make me want to strangle people), humming, fingers tapping on a keyboard or screen, and the clatter of cutlery all trigger my fight or flight anxiety response. Add to that visual stimuli like the avoidance of lights reflecting on picture frames, fluff and lint on the floor, anything bright that catches and distracts me and you have a real problem.         

My flight response is my default, as confrontation is something that triggers other major anxiety responses such as self-harm. I respond to misophonia with trigger levels of 6 to 10, which you can read about in this Misophonia activation scale *, but my main coping strategy is to eradicate the trigger or remove myself from the area.

 

Misophonia, also known as selective sound sensitivity syndrome, is a newly-diagnosed neuro-otological disorder that affects children and adults. Sufferers can feel immediate and intense rage at others’ eating and breathing sounds, about which they become hyper-aware and obsessed, sometimes with an ability to recall trigger incidents years after the event. The condition often sets off a “fight or flight” panic reaction in the sufferer and has been responsible for ruining relationships, breaking up families and leaving those most acutely affected suicidal. *

When a person with misophonia is exposed to a sound in their trigger set, it results in an immediate negative emotional response. This response can range from moderate discomfort to acute annoyance or go all the way up to full-fledged rage and panic. **

To help a non-affected person understand the impact misophonia has on someone with the disorder, they might be asked to imagine how they feel and react when they hear the sound of fingernails being scraped down a chalk board. Most people dislike this sound and will probably ask the person to stop! However, this example falls short of reaching the intensity a misophonia sufferer experiences. **

Caitlin eye

© Lisa Shambrook

I was particularly relieved to know I wasn’t the only one, and have since found many friends with the same disorder. You know who you are! I was also relieved to find my visual disturbances were also part of this: Some are also affected by visual stimuli, such as repetitive foot or body movements, fidgeting, or movement they observe out of the corners of their eyes. ***

It’s good for my family to know I’m not mad, and that the actions/noises that trigger me so much are not their fault. It doesn’t make it any easier to live with, and I know it frustrates my poor husband hugely, but it does validate my condition.

There are treatments, which I’ve never asked for, as I can’t imagine having to explain it to my Dr – it seems so trivial compared to many other illnesses and diseases. The main treatment is CBT Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, and I’ve never been able to get that for my anxiety or depression, so I can’t imagine it being available for misophonia!

girl with boots, leather and frills, the last krystallos,

© Lisa Shambrook

So for now, I cope and avoid triggers. Many people suffer mildly from misophonia-like symptoms, but for those of you who know the true reality of this disorder – how do you deal with it? And how serious is its presence in your life?

This post has been particularly difficult to write, but this page for Sufferers at MisophoniaUK has been particularly helpful to me, even as far as bringing me to tears as I realise some of my unwanted symptoms are quite normal. I hope it helps you too.

Please check out these amazing pictures of Mental illnesses as Monsters by Toby Allen and scroll down to Misophonia…

* MisophoniaUK
** misophonia.com
*** Wiki Misophonia

The Highly Sensitive Person and Living a Rewarding Life

Do you notice the detail, the small things?
Do you feel the breath of life upon your face?
Are you exquisitely aware of everything and everybody about you?
If so, you might be a Highly Sensitive Person.

the-highly-sensitive-person-rewarding-life-the-last-krystallosLife is exaggerated, and both painful and sad, and beautiful and fulfilling for the HSP.

I read that about 20% of the population are Highly Sensitive. Everyone has the ability to feel deeply, to feel touched and moved, and often do, but people who fit the bill of being a Highly Sensitive Person feel like this all the time. Like I said, it can be both a curse and a blessing.

sleeping cat, the highly senisitive person, the last krystallos,

We have to be careful not to become overwhelmed…sometimes we retreat to recharge… © Lisa Shambrook

We can become quickly overwhelmed. People, work, chaos and clutter can cause stress and we can become immobile by these things. We often need to retreat and regroup, please don’t think we’re being antisocial, once we’re comfortable we can socialise with the best of them, but our energy reserves drain fast and we need time alone.

Sometimes this is because many of us are empaths and as we feel the emotions of those around us we can become overwhelmed. Our emotions cut to the soul which is why many of us are natural empaths. I remember standing behind a woman in a supermarket queue and her emotions brought me to tears. I could literally feel her sadness engulf me and the impotence of being unable to help was paralysing. Sometimes I’ve spoken to people and helped, but sometimes the empath can also feel the barriers and the inability to help can be painful.

spider on lavender, flowers in the sun, meadow in sunlight, flower meadow, the last krystallos,

Notice the small detail, the spider on the lavender, the sun among flowers, the colours of autumn… © Lisa Shambrook

Those who are HSP can feel moods and emotions easily and can read people well. We’re conscious to the needs of others and perform very well in those tests that ask you to identify emotions on anonymous faces. We can see that slight hint of a smile, or that frown, and those emotions that barely surface.

We often become people-pleasers and we have to learn to be able to say ‘No.’ I spent years depleting my energy by saying ‘Yes,’ to everything. Our bodies are susceptible to fatigue and we can be more responsive to pain, both our own and others. Self-care is important to the HSP, and essential to prevent exhaustion as we give.

Discover moss on stone, daffodils, sunlight on water, the intricate wasp nest, and the subtle scent of magnolia, the last krystallos,

Discover moss on stone, daffodils, sunlight on water, the intricate wasp nest, and the subtle scent of magnolia… © Lisa Shambrook

Many people dislike change, but Highly Sensitives like to be in control and change needs be tackled slowly, so we can assess it, reflect and choose the best course of action. We’re often seen as indecisive, but we just want to be sure we make the right choice! We dislike contention and conflict and are mortified when we offend. We do everything we can to resolve conflict as fast as we can because we cannot believe our considered choices and decisions may have caused hurt or offense.

Though we may avoid conflict, when we give our hearts or believe something deeply, we will not be moved and will fight our corner with the ferocity of a lion or a lioness!

inhumanly sensitive, the truly creatiive mind, pearl s buck, the last krystallos,

Inhumanly sensitive…Pearl S Buck © Lisa Shambrook

We have hugely heightened emotions and senses. This can be tough for the HSP. We notice everything and are exquisitely aware of our environment, be it sight, sound, taste, touch or smell. Some of us suffer from misophonia which is the sensitivity to sound (eg. people eating) which causes great distress to the sufferer. Others can have other hypersensitivities to their environment. I am unable to wear certain materials, natural wool against my skin for instance, and my ability to notice every little thing around me has caused problems all my life. I have rearranged bookshelves because I cannot have a white spine book placed among dark spines. I notice every piece of lint or fluff on the floor and cannot rest until it has been moved. I cannot concentrate with someone’s foot on the end of their crossed leg bobbing up and down! I also have problems with strong smells, particularly strong perfumes. Hypersensitivity (or Sensory Processing Disorder) can be difficult for both the sufferer and their family!

claude monet every day I discover more and more beautiful things, the last krystallos,

Every day I discover more and more beautiful things… Claude Monet © Lisa Shambrook

On the other hand being an observer can be wonderful and life affirming. We notice every detail and the subtleties that most people miss. We’re intuitive and creative, and nature and detail inspire us.

Notice the clouds, rays of sun, sunsets and misty mountans, the last krystallos,

Notice the clouds, rays of sun, sunsets and misty mountans… © Lisa Shambrook

Intuition is second nature. We often just ‘know’ because we sometimes learn without realising we are. The small details become intrinsic. I would be very sad if I moved through life without noticing the rainbows, the heron by the stream, and the expression of need on a homeless face. We should notice the daisy in the crack of concrete, the smell of honeysuckle, and many more tiny things that aren’t necessary but are life affirming.

carmarthen sunset, the last krystallos,

Sunset… © Lisa Shambrook

Though being such a deep thinker and a contemplative, my life as a Highly Sensitive Person is fulfilling and beautiful. I wouldn’t be without the touch of sunlight on my face, the taste of raspberries, and the depth of my soul to help me offer charity. Sometimes I need to step out of life, to retreat to the woods, or running water, or to spend quiet time on the mountainside…but once recharged I can offer myself once more and allow the intuitive grace of life to lift me.

Are you a Highly Sensitive Person?
Is it a curse or a blessing to you?