Coping with Misophonia at Work

Barbie girls walkman

What is Misophonia?

Ever since I was a child, I found certain sounds absolutely life-threatening. Hearing them made me very angry (up to murderous rage) and anxious. I recently realized that there is a name for it, misophonia and it was such a relief knowing I wasn’t alone.

It is described by American Neuroscientists Pawel Jastreboff and Margaret Jastreboff as

A neurological disorder, in which a person feels anxiety, and even rage in response to certain sounds, which may be loud or soft

It  puts you in a fight or flight mode instantaneously. One of such times was the day my sister asked me to go shopping with her. She had come to London for the first time and we were on the tube heading to Oxford street. Along the way, a man chewing gum loudly and noisily came into our carriage. I was immediately angered and also at myself for leaving my headphones at home. I looked around the carriage and no one seemed bothered, this even enraged me more. I really wanted to hit the guy but as the train came to a stop at the next station I jumped out, thinking my sister was going to follow me, but she didn’t…

The Work Place

Open Plan offices might be straight from the devil. As someone who is largely introverted and with misophonia, it can be hellish. The continuous stimulation for over 7 hours is a massive drain on all my faculty.

Daily triggers at work include; loud voices and sibilation, furious keyboard typing (surprised the keyboard hasn’t broken), slurping and chewing noises.

One particular day I was in a rage and thinking seriously of quitting my job. Thankfully, it was a Friday, so after work, I got some comfort food and watched a movie. As I lay on my bed, coping ideas began to materialize in my brain. I told my friend I was so glad that depression hasn’t been added to my anxiety and misophonia!

Coping Strategies

Noise Cancelling Headphones – These work a treat, I use them all the time and because I love music, it’s an amazing solution. Now, I need to rest my ears every now and then so to fill the gaps the next solutions come in.

Ear Plugs – I am currently testing a few I got from Amazon, 3M makes some called earfit, which I am using right now. It is ok, but the level of comfort could be better. It tones down all the sounds, which is good enough. Only issue is having to take them out often because you have to talk to people.

Regular Breaks –  I try to take a 5 min break in a quiet place every hour, or 10 mins every 2 hours. This not only helps my misophonia but all the other stimulation which gets overwhelming fast like movements, lights, sounds etc. Definitely helps to stretch your leg so you can avoid deep vein thrombosis.

These are the things that help me cope at the moment. It’s hard talking to people about this because for the most part they can’t change ( voice for example ) and they can’t understand.

If you have some other ways which you use to cope, please let me know! all the best.

Support for People With Misophonia

Misophonia UK

Misophonia.Com

Misophonia Treatment

To learn more about Misophonia, here are some related articles

Enraged by Everyday Sounds – Psychology Today

When a Chomp or Slurp is a Trigger For Outrage – NY Times

The Chewing Sound and The Fury – New Republic

Boyfriend Chewing Makes Me Want to Strangle Him – Daily Mail

How Sounds Trigger Rage and Anxiety – Daily Record

Living With Misophonia – Tribune

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25 thoughts on “Coping with Misophonia at Work

  1. Quite by accident I found that punching with my fist really helps to release the rage and anger . One day after getting very angry because of sneezing noises I punched a large garbage bag filled with clothes . I find that when I punch the bag really hard repeatedly it really helps to release the rage that I feel .

    • Walking away from the situation is the best thing for, aside from wearing my headphones, luckily I just got some wireless ones! I have weak wrists so if i attempt to punch anything, I’m done for.
      Thanks for sharing.

  2. My main trigger is crunching sounds, like people eating carrots or chips. I was wondering what kind of headphones you use, and if you think they could block out the crunching. I’d love to get some Bose, but they’re $300 and I can’t afford that as a college student.

    • Those crunching sounds could be brutal! Apples were the main culprit at work. I used to use a Philips pair of phones which worked good, wasn’t expensive.
      As I no longer work at the company, I have had no need for headphones but did get some bluetooth ones which I really like.
      All the best.

  3. wow! This is as real as it can get . It happens when I try to focus, I expect every other thing to corporate with me. It doesn’t matter if its someone talking in a language I do not understand or a random passerby dragging their feet. It could be someone making a screech with a bottletop or cutlery hitting the plate repeatedly while eating. Chirping with nail cutters is a shiotgun to my temple. Mouseclicks! I even remove the battery from wall clocks late in the evenings. These things drive me nuts and make me wonder what in the Sam Hill I can do to rid of the source. Basically, I think there’s always an evidence of repetition in the patterns.

    • I think the problem is the isolation of sound. When it’s in a mass of other noise, there’s usually no problem, but when it seems to be all on it’s own, or perhaps the brain isolating that particular sound, it is horrible.

      The mouse clicking just started driving me up the wall, but it’s not just any mouse, it’s the mouse pad on Apple Macbook, wow, I almost go mental and I have to tell people to please reduce or there’s my headphones again.

      Have you come across any methods or ways you can cope with this?

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  5. As I write this the person that I complained against last week is still talking loudly in the next office. Earlier he was clapping then tapping his desk. Last week I became enraged when he was popping bubble wrap and blowing his nose loudly making a honking sound. This morning he was sniffing so long and loud it sounded like he was snorting 8lbs of cocaine. My boss is visiting a girl next to me and when she says her ” S’s ” while talking it emits a LOUD Ssssssss that’s high pitched and makes me want to punch her in the throat. I get paid very well and do not have a stressful job. There is NO drama here so I don’t want to be the troublemaker. There is no way I can be moved as there are 4 other girls I work closely with that make our unit. Speaking of the other girls, two are habitual coughers and one sneezes fiercely and high pierced. I think I am losing my mind!!!!

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  7. We have a heavy door at work that is literally opened and closed hundreds of times a day. It rattles every single time it opens and it rattles each time it closes. It makes me insane. I’ve asked HR to please submit a work order for door repair. Nothing. No one else seems to notice one bit. Not even the girl sitting right next to it! How is that not bothering her?? It amazes and infuriates me and makes me feel like I must be the one who is completely nuts! Headphones. That is all I can say. Headphones.

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  9. I’ve been misophonic since before I was born. My mother said I would jump in the womb at the sound of a door slamming. My main triggers are the load chewing and lip smacking saliva noises. Recent developments have included my own mouth as a trigger which is hard to run away from. I am unable to talk on the phone without a noise cancelling headset and even then it is mood dependant. The little saliva clicks your mouth makes as you talk fills me with an overwhelming rage which can be debilitating. I work as a pilot and therefore am required to wear a headset with a boom mike in front of my mouth which transfers and exacerbates the noise directly to my ears. Impossible to run away from. I have been flying for over ten years but it has been less than two since this has been a problem. I think it might cost me my career as this trigger is getting worse.

    • So sorry to hear Tim, I think that one thing that could help is looking deeper into the cause of the anxiety, when you are able o deal with that it lessens the effect of the triggers, speaking from my own experience.

      Another avenue might be to find a doc who knows about misophonia and see if they can help.

      All the best

  10. My boss recently moved his desk right next to mine, to make room for the new employees here. He has a mechanical keyboard. I had thought I had gotten over my (self diagnosed) misophonia, however, now that he is there typing SO LOUDLY everyday, I seriously go insane. I have informed him about misophonia, but he expects me to purchase noise cancelling headphones. Yeah, I don’t have money for that. I’ll just continue to go into insanity.

    Thanks for the blog!

    • So sorry and you are welcome. I can definitely picture the scenario here. I guess for your sanity sake, those noise cancelling will be your bet, try to save up for it, instead of suffering in silence which can cause other health problems later.
      All the best

  11. I sometimes get a little better after the Yoga class, but when I start to realize the sound and it just comes back like an old habit can’t be changed. Right now my major trigger sound at work is a guy who coughs everyday! I really want to kill him.
    BTW, recently I find this product called Muzo on kickstarter, https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1280803647/muzo-your-personal-zone-creator-with-noise-blockin/posts/1628583
    it seems helpful.
    Really grateful to see the post and the comments, it just makes me feel a lot better.

    • Hello Xiao, I’m glad that the posts and comments have given you some relief. I know how annoying a cough could be, and also how sorry the feeling of finding someone’s noise annoying while still feeling like taking them out.
      I will check out Muzo and see what it is capable of, thanks for the recommendation. Probably have to try yoga as well. 😀

  12. We have this dog in our office and he chews on a bone all the time (sounds kinda like a carrot but much louder) and howls in a very high pitch (the howling actually bothers the owner, unlike the much louder obnoxious chewing). I could strangle this dog … At the moment i use headphones with pink noise playing, but my boss doesnt like when people wear headphones … Neither can i stop the dog, because if he doesnt have anything to chew on he chews on his collar or some other things that are not supposed to be chewed on. This is pure hell.

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