If you have what others might consider to be a terrible overreaction to the sound of people chewing, you’re not alone. There’s actually a condition called misophonia that causes people to have severe reactions to “mouthy noises.” For people with this condition, chewing seems super loud and they cannot filter out the noise which makes it hard for them to concentrate on what they’re doing.
Although tough to diagnose because the symptoms of misophonia overlap with those of depression, anxiety, and OCD, in a study of about 500 people, researchers found that around 20% showed symptoms of this condition.
For people suffering from the condition, it’s not just annoying when people chew around them or make other noises with their mouths, it actually drives them nuts and it feels like they can’t concentrate on anything else until the chewing stops. Their hypersensitivity makes your chewing sound extremely loud even if it isn’t, so don’t feel like you’re the loudest chewer in the world if someone with misophonia gets annoyed with you.
The upside is that if you have misophonia it might mean you are a creative genius. Studies on the subject, although there haven’t been many, show that very intelligent people from history also had the inability to filter out noise. People like Charles Darwin and Anton Chekhov needed complete silence in order to work. Test findings published in the journal Neuropsychologia prove that people with misophonia actually could think more creatively because they’ve learned to concentrate on multiple things at once due to their condition.
Just like OCD, people with misophonia must learn and develop coping mechanisms to filter out sound when being in complete silence isn’t an option. This is one of the reasons why the two conditions might look similar to people who don’t know about one or the other.
According to an article in The Slate, misophonia is sometimes misdiagnosed as OCD, depression, or anxiety when in reality it can actually be the cause of those things. Professor Pawel Jastreboff and his wife/collaborator argue that “misophonia is actually a learned response,” and can be treated successfully with desensitization therapy.
Misophonia has just recently come to the public’s attention and hopefully more research will be done on the causes and effects in the future. For now, if someone gives you a hard time about sensitivity to human noise, just tell them you’re a creative genius. That’ll shut ’em up.