Does the sound of someone tapping their fingers, repeatedly sighing, or breathing loudly make you want to scream?
I think we can all relate on some level. But what about when those feelings turn into intense feelings of anger, disgust, or even the need to physically escape the situation?
There’s a name for this: misophonia. It’s a selective sound sensitivity disorder – and at its most extreme, it can completely disrupt a sufferer’s life.
But hypersensitivity to sound is a problem that many people with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) can also relate to. So is misophonia actually a form or perhaps a symptom of ADHD? What’s the connection between them?
In this article we’ll take a closer look at misophonia and the sensory hypersensitivity aspect of ADHD: what they are and what the potential links are between them. And if you suffer from one, what’s the likelihood that you’re living with the other?
What is misophonia?
The actual meaning of misophonia is the hatred of sound.
The scientific and medical worlds are still undecided on what it actually is – is it a disorder or a full psychiatric condition? One thing that’s widely agreed is that its symptoms are very real for those enduring them.
response or even a full panic attack.
And although the most common emotion people feel when triggered is anger, there are others, which include:
° Intense stress
° Feelings of being trapped or stuck
Ultimately, at its worst it can cause someone to experience the overwhelming “fight or flight”
So what are the most common triggers?
What people are affected by varies massively. One very common type of trigger is noise associated with eating: chewing, lip smacking, swallowing, etc.
But other reported triggers include things like sniffing, tapping, loud sighing, pets licking, metallic sounds, and certain fabrics rubbing.
Another key attribute of common triggers is that naturally repetitive sounds are far more likely to become problematic.
For some sufferers, their trigger sounds are rare or unusual enough for them to be able to pretty effectively avoid them on a day-to-day basis – but for people who are triggered by everyday sounds like eating or breathing, this simply isn’t practical. Behavior such as always eating alone or avoiding any close physical contact with other people can quickly have significant effects on mental health.
Is there a link between misophonia and ADHD?
Misophonia is still a very “young” condition – it was only first proposed for recognition in 2001 and then for diagnosis in 2013. It still isn’t considered an officially diagnosable condition. In fact, even the term condition isn’t agreed upon – some scientists call it a syndrome or even just a symptom.
As misophonia is in the early stages of scientific recognition, studies are limited. Some research has shown a potential connection with ADHD, but with such a small base of evidence, a conclusive link can’t be determined right now.
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Hypersensitivity and ADHD
While we can’t conclusively connect it with misophonia, there has long been a clear link between ADHD and sensory hypersensitivity, including sound.
It’s common for ADHD sufferers to find it difficult to filter out ambient or irrelevant sensory stimuli. This overload to the senses can easily overwhelm someone with ADHD, making it impossible for them to concentrate on the real task or situation at hand.
Imagine meeting a friend for lunch at an outdoor cafe in a busy city. For those of us without ADHD, we’d be aware on some level that it might be noisy outside, or that there are lots of people walking by or even that we can smell the food from the burger bar two doors down.
For someone with ADHD, every single one of those inputs – and the million more happening at the same time – could stop them being able to have any sort of conversation or pay attention to anything their friend is doing or saying.
Much like misophonia, this kind of experience is likely to cause stress, with people feeling anger, anxiety, and a need to flee. For ADHD sufferers, this can bring a double burden as a common symptom of the condition is difficulty regulating and controlling emotions.
Sensory hypersensitivity is already a known subset of symptoms for ADHD. So while an extreme intolerance to certain sounds is a common feature shared between misophonia and some forms of ADHD, it doesn’t necessarily mean someone with ADHD and a hypersensitivity to sound would be described as having misophonia too.
In terms of scientific research, it’s still early days. A clearer link may yet be found that will help shed light on why so many common aspects are shared between the two conditions – and hopefully this will in turn lead the way to helping sufferers find some peace in our noisy modern world.
But whatever the agreed terminology or diagnoses, the symptoms can be debilitating for some people. If that includes you or someone you know, don’t go it alone.
Help and support is out there to help you manage sensory symptoms which are causing you stress and making your life difficult – whether you suffer from misophonia, ADHD, or something else.
And we’ve got your back. We’ve developed a range of products specifically designed to help with misophonia and sound sensitivity in general – explore the range here.
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