Navigating Life With a Neurological Disorder
Gum chewing, nose sniffing, pen clicking… Repetitive leg shaking, hair twirling, the sight of someone eating. For the vast majority of people, these particular sounds and visuals are nothing more than background ambient stimuli. For a small, discrete population these stimuli trigger severe and immediate emotional and behavioral responses. Rage and anger swell up immediately; hatred and blame instantly fill the mind. And within seconds, the body prepares for flight. In 2001, audiologists coined the collective symptoms of rage and flight behavior as “misophonia,” the Greek equivalent of hatred of sounds.
The physiological response to a trigger is flight /fight. Here is a very basic play by play of what happens in the body:
1) When our senses perceive a danger or threat, sensory nerve cells pass the perception of the threat to the hypothalamus area in the brain.
2) Some hypothalamic cells release coricotropin-releasing hormone into the pituitary gland, while other cells simultaneously transmit a nerve signal down the spinal cord and activate the sympathetic motor system.
3) The pituitary in turn incites cells to release a chemical messenger into the bloodstream.
4) Both the chemical messenger and nerve impulse travel to the same destination, the adrenal gland.
5) The adrenal glands sit atop the kidneys.
6) They receive nerve and chemical signals which activate the release of epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine (noradrenaline) into the bloodstream.
7) These "stress hormones" cause several changes in the body, including an increase in heart rate and blood pressure. Cortisol is released into the blood stream resulting in an increase in blood pressure, increase in bloodsugar levels, and suppression of the immune system.
8) In the lungs, epinephrine binds to receptors on smooth muscle cells wrapped around the bronchioles, causing the muscles to relax and allowing more oxygen into the blood.
9) An increase in heart rate pushes more blood throughout the entire body to deliver oxygen, fuel, and strength to organs and muscles.
10) The brain is directed to focus only on the big picture in order to determine where threat is coming from. Thus, there is trouble focusing on small tasks.
Misophonia is a unique set of symptoms, most likely attributable to neurological causes unrelated to hearing-system dysfunction. It can be described as an immediate and extreme emotional response of anger accompanied by an automatic physiological flight response and a fundamental discomfort to identifiable auditory, visual, and olfactory stimuli.