There’s a whole host of things that annoy us humans. Slow internet connection, stepping in dog poop, stubbing your toe, people driving close behind you etc etc. Right up there on the list of people’s deepest annoyances is noisy eaters.
If you’ve ever been tempted to confront someone slurping their soup in a restaurant, or if a person breathing loudly next to you in the movie theater or subway is enough to make your blood boil, then don’t worry you’re not alone: You’re one of many people suffering from a genuine brain abnormality called misophonia.
Misophonia, a disorder which means sufferers have a hatred of sounds such as eating, chewing, loud breathing or even repeated pen-clicking, was first named as a condition in 2001.
A study published in the journal Current Biology showed that those with the disorder have a difference in their brain’s frontal lobe that causes an intense reaction to noise, and can even lead to a faster heart rate and sweating.
“I hope this will reassure sufferers,” Tim Griffiths, Professor of Cognitive Neurology at Newcastle University and University College London, said in a press release. “I was part of the skeptical community myself until we saw patients in the clinic and understood how strikingly similar the features are.”
Brain imaging revealed that people with the condition have an abnormality in their emotional control mechanism which causes their brains to go into overdrive on hearing trigger sounds.
Misophonia doesn’t mean you hate all sounds, just that certain sounds really grind your gears. Typically this includes slurping, chewing, teeth-grinding, yawning, and heavy-breathing.
Sufferers have had to change their behaviors and avoid certain social setting in an attempt to manage their disorder. Olana Tansley-Hancock, a participant who has suffered from the condition since she was eight years old, struggles with sounds such as breathing and eating.
She told BBC News: “I spent a long time avoiding places like the cinema. I’d have to move carriages seven or eight times on 30-minute train journeys, and I left a job after three months as I spent more time crying and having panic attacks than working.”
As the condition has only been truly recognized since 2001, we’re still relatively in our infancy in terms of understanding how best to treat it. Scientists currently side with a cognitive therapy approach but further testing is required to get a grip on a condition that many of us suffer from.