Misophonia The Beast. Misophonia Treatment.
Misophonia is a beast! Misophonia is a selective sound sensitivity that that can cause anger, anxiety, disgust, panic, and other tough emotions. Anyone with Misophonia who is reading this definitely knows the monster that is Misophonia. Finding treatment for Misophonia can be a struggle.
I personally (and unfortunately) have first-hand experience with the monster. We met after a traumatic event I had in college, many years ago. Importantly, I know my sound sensitivity began at an earlier age but it wasn’t a major problem then. Subsequently, I saw my fair share of therapists as a young adult, trying to get help. One therapist told me to “tolerate” the noise. I did my very best to not curse that therapist out! Another therapist told me that I need to live in quiet apartments (but how does that happen when you live in New York City). Another therapist attempted to trigger me by knocking on the wall in her office- it did not work.
After moving to Los Angeles and studying to become a therapist, I thought to myself- what’s the deal with current Misophonia treatment? While treatment and therapy options were scarce, I did meet some fascinating people researching, treating, and diving into the Misophonia monster.
Full disclosure, I have been treating Misophonia for a little over a year but I’ve been exploring Misophonia treatments and working with therapy clients for many years. And in this time, wow, have I learned a lot! I guess I fit well into the Misophonia personality type that some professionals talk about- Type A, perfectionistic, rigid, etc. When I have an interest in something, I will learn all I can. Basically, I strive to help my clients one hundred percent. Interestingly, that Miso personality type is similar to the chronic pain personality type. I will discuss my thoughts on chronic pain and Misophonia a few paragraphs down! Overall, I have a passion about learning all things Misophonia.
Highly Sensitive People
Something that I am realizing is that many people with Misophonia are sensitive people. We are sensitive people with sensitive nervous systems. Could we be Highly Sensitive People? The term “Highly Sensitive People” became popular because of the work of Dr. Elaine Aron. You can take the Highly Sensitive Person quiz HERE. Dr. Aron found out that HSPs have greater depth of processing, become over stimulated, have emotional reactivity, are empathetic, and sense the subtle in the environment. Sound familiar? Being a Highly Sensitive Person is not a sensory disorder. It is a sensory sensitivity.
Highly Sensitive People, Misophonia & The Brain
What really piqued my interest on how HSP relates to Misophonia was the research on the brain. Research has shown that Highly Sensitive People have more activation in the Insula (knowledge of inner states and emotions- love, trust, fear, sexual arousal and the awareness of bodily position in space and the awareness of outer events). Also, HSPs have more active mirror neurons. If you are a Misophonia nerd like me, you would have seen the latest research around the Insula and over active mirror neurons. If I had more time, I would get into the scientific info but I trust your ability in using google!
Misophonia can arrive in a person’s life for a multitude of reasons. Sometimes trauma plays a role and sometimes it does not. But I feel when you are born a sensitive person, have the genetic susceptibility to Misophonia, and then throw in some trauma or parental attachment ruptures, the Misophonia monster rears it’s ugly head.
Chronic Pain & Neural Pathways
Before I dove into learning about Misophonia, I dove into Mind-Body Syndromes (also known as Tension Myositis Syndrome & Psychophysiologic Disorders) over ten years ago. Mind-Body Syndromes are classified as chronic pain, chronic fatigue, pelvic pain, irritable bowl and more. Mind-Body Syndromes became popular from the work of Dr. John Sarno. He wrote the book famous book Healing Back Back Pain-The Mind-Body Connection. Sarno’s work has been expanded on by doctors such as Howard Schubiner. Similarly to Misophonia, many people with Mind-Body Syndromes also have sensitive brains/ nervous systems. Interestingly, some people with Mind-Body Syndromes fit into the category of Central Sensitization Syndrome.
From my multiple professional trainings on Mind-Body Syndromes over the years (trainings with Dr. Howard Scubiner & Alan Gordon LCSW), I have learned that a large part of these syndromes are ruled by neural pathways. Basically, neural pathways are learned networks in our brain. For example, when you learn to ride a bike, your brain learns to ride (and not) forget through neural networks. An excellent video on neural networks and bike riding is HERE. In chronic pain and other Mind-Body Syndromes the symptoms get stuck in a feedback loop and a large reason they get stuck is from the fear over symptoms.
From my training in Somatic Experiencing, I have learned that many people with Mind-Body Syndromes (and I believe Misophonia people) are living in a state of sympathetic activation. Basically, people’s nervous systems are so sensitized, which wreaks havoc on the body and mind.
Please note, I am sensitive to the fact that the Mind-Body symptoms are real and not in a person’s mind. Thank goodness the medical community is studying this, but in my belief and many other professionals belief, these symptoms are perpetuated by brain neural networks and a sensitized nervous system.
Neural Pathways, The Nervous System & Misophonia
From studying the work of Tom Dozier, Dr Ezra Cowan, Marsha Johnson, and more recently Chris Pearson, I see a lot of similarities between Mind-Body Syndromes and Misophonia.
Here’s what I’ve learned and pondered:
- Misophonia has a somatic component. The body reacts to a sound. The brain and the body are connected. When the body tenses and recoils, this sends messages to the brain that there is danger.
- Avoiding the sound, running away, reinforces the fear.
- Ruminating on preceptory anxiety thoughts, reinforces the fear. What perpetuates Mind-Body Syndromes/ chronic pain neural pathways?- Fear thoughts.
- Sensitive people with trauma are constantly scanning their environment for danger. For someone with Misophonia, sounds (especially low-level sounds) are danger and are always being scanned for.
- Neural pathways can be rewired. The brain is plastic and can change.
- Accepting body sensations (and sounds) sends messages to the brain that we are safe.
Summing This All Up
So you are probably thinking- so now what? What does this all mean? Does Sipora think I should just expose myself to sounds and tough it out? Absolutely not! Certainly, toughing it out often reinforces the Misphonia neural brain pathways. Like I stated when I began this blog, Misophonia is a beast! There are SO many layers and intricacies. The professionals working in the Misophonia community are doing exciting work. Seek help from a therapist that is familiar with the work. Check out counter-conditioning, self-soothing, nervous system regulation, neuroplasticity, cognitive work, somatic work. Do your own research. Learn about trauma and the nervous system. Importantly, if you are in major distress, medication can help.
I am thankful for all of the professionals in the Misophonia community who have been doing this work for years! I remember the lack of hope I felt in my 20s when I was really struggling. Now I have so much hope in Misophonia treatment! I love geeking out on how our brain can change, learning about trauma and the nervous system, therapies like counter-conditioning, thought work, the vagus nerve, psychadelics, and something I will be studying this summer- memory reconsolidation.
If you are seeking Misophonia treatment, I am a mind-body therapist that works with Misophonia clients. I offer a complementary 20-minute phone call. My office is located in Ventura, California (close to Ojai, Santa Barbara, Oxnard, Camarillo, Thousand Oaks & an hour and a half away from Los Angeles). In addition to in person therapy, I offer online therapy to clients all over California.