Saturday, February 04, 2012


They make me go ballistic.

Since sometime in my early teens, I have felt my guts, muscles, nerves, brain, hair, and fingernails go tied into knots at the sound of anyone chewing, licking, sucking, slurping, crunching, slobbering (insert any other mouth sounds you can think of), and by the sight of gum-chewing (let alone its sounds.) In public, I have had to leave rooms because someone near me was chewing something. At home, my children knew they had to take an apple or carrot into another room. Gum in the house was pretty much out of the question. I have asked people to spit out their gum when I was in their house.

When I was a teen, my parents hollered at me for kicking or clobbering the dog for licking itself. Nowadays, I just rocket off the couch and poke the dog, or sometimes throw something at it, but I'm using extreme restraint.

Mouth sounds and sights send me into a frenzy of tension, rage, anxiety, and other feelings of distress that don't even have names.

But I have learned that the aversion to masticating sounds DOES have a name: misophonia. I'm not inserting a link because all you have to do is google it and you will discover that this is a real disorder, not something you have made up or deliberately cultivated or are doing to get attention or any of the other things people may have told you all your life. I have had people deliberately chomp and slobber at me because they think it's funny. It makes me feel as though I'm crawling inside with maggots. I want to choke them and bash their teeth in.

Little is known about it other than that it is real, usually with an onset around the age of puberty, and that it is most probably not psychological but physical.  Some auditory-neurological connection in which the brain perceives certain normal little sounds as threats to safety and sanity and responds with a fight-or-flight reflex. Sufferers often have the urge to do violence to the perpetrator. They are usually not bothered by their own sounds, and sometimes not by others' sounds if they themselves are also eating or chewing at the same time. Some can eat with other people (thankfully, I can) but others can't. Also, the closer you are emotionally to the person making the sounds, the harder it hits you. Good heavens, this must be why I have learned to tolerate it (barely) when strangers and friends are chewing gum, but go into near-panic when my husband does.

It's only recently recognized and named, in its infancy of research and treatment, but it's not a new phenomenon to people like me who have suffered with it for 50 years.It's kind of like when science finally acknowledged, "Yes, there really are menstrual cramps." We who have it have always known it's real. We are not crazy. There's a cause. They just haven't found it. In the meantime, we just go on controlling ourselves and asking those around us to be considerate, or at least to condescend.


Evie in WV said...

Don't have a problem with ALL chewing but I will just about leave a room if someone eats ice after a drink. I feel for ya.

Landy Figueroa said...

Me too! I wear earplugs around the house to keep peace with the dog (who just doesn't understand when I freak out about her self-bath or her 20 minutes of smacky noises as she settles in for the upteenth time. My boyfriend thinks I'm crazy and also thinks it's in my head. He's going to read your post. PS, found you searching for making a hiking skirt to hike the PCT (my first thru-hike coming up in April!) Yay thru-hiking! And making hiking skirts!