Navigating Life With a Neurological Disorder

The latest thinking about Misophonia

Misophonia has an overwhelming impact on the quality of life. Behavioral reactions of intense rage  make way for a host of psychological reactions that terminate conversation, compassion, intimacy, and relationships. Like OCD, ADD and other neuro-atypical disorders, there is no cure. However, there are techniques, therapies, and treatments that can lessen the impact of triggers and that allow a person to build ego strength and self-compassion.

One important skill to develop is empathy.  Because the discomfort from triggers is unprovoked, it often leads the sufferer to feel victimized, although this feeling may not be a conscious one. Empathy blocks thoughts that lead to hatred and blame and relaxes an otherwise aroused mental state.

Since empathy can serve to quiet the pain response, it is helpful to have statements that remind oneself that the source of anger is from a neurological disorder, such as, “I am normal. These feelings come from a disorder.”  It is also helpful to craft statements that separate the trigger from the person who is creating the trigger, such as, “That person is not really committing a crime or trying to hurt me.”

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a form of psychotherapy that approaches behavior and feelings as interactive with and controlled through thought, seems to be the most effective therapy. Although sufferers of all ages may feel victimized and unable to suppress anger, children are particularly susceptible to feeling powerless. Creating new beliefs through cognition can be empowering. Self-talk that includes statements like, "I can handle this.  It's okay to feel angry. This situation and my anger will pass and I'll get better at handling this every time." reinforces the individual’s capability to gain control and bolster forward thinking optimism that things will improve.

Mindfulness and relaxation exercises counter the negative impact of physiological arousal and the brain’s focus on suffering. In fact, these practices relax those parts of the brain that are automatically attuned to attend to trigger stimuli. They are especially powerful when coupled with cognitive self-talk. Deep breathing exercises play a powerful role in altering stress levels.  

White noise generators and other blocking mechanisms such as ear plugs, ear buds, and headphones are tools in the arsenal of avoiding sound triggers. They are immediate solutions to a long term problem. There is no evidence that using noise generators reduces trigger expansion or has any effect on subsequent cognitive associations.  Sound generators— white noise makers that are used directly at the ear—are available through audiologists.  Used in concert with therapy, they are especially valuable in environments where immediate performance is required, such as test taking. Because they block sound, they separate the sufferer from upset because the body remains in a less aroused state. The need for the hypervigilance that transfers attention from performance on a task (any task at hand) to attention on potential triggers is reduced or eliminated. 

Anti-anxiety medications and anti-depressants minimize the depression and anxiety that often accompany misophonia.

Neural feedback Brainwave training, referred to as electroencephalogram biofeedback or neurofeedback , has had a number of applications for neurological disorders . Neurofeedback practitioners believe misophonia to be a neurological disorder in which different regions of the brain lack the ability to communicate with each other. Since it has been shown to an effective treatment with many other neurological disorders, such as attention deficit disorder/attention deficit hyperactive disorder, (ADD/ADHD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), uncontrolled epilepsy, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), it is now being used as a treatment for misophonia.  Although its success rate with misophonia has not yet been studied or verified, anecdotal evidence suggests a reduction of triggers for a number of subjects.

Supplements such as MSM, magnesium, and Sam-E have been useful for some people.

Facebook has a page on holistic treatments.

A website, Miso-Mom, that details misophonia and ways to deal with the disorder can be found here.