woman placing hands on head in discomfort
Leah Berenson
Leah Berenson
April 10, 2024 ·  3 min read

Getting Annoyed by Chewing Noises Can Genuinely Be a Psychiatric Disorder

Be it overstimulation or just a need for some peace and quiet; certain sounds are unbearable to some people. Some of the most common annoying sounds include loud breathing, snoring, people chewing, and even yawning. Researchers are still trying to understand many aspects of the human brain but have discovered something fascinating- hating these sounds could mean you have a psychiatric disorder known as misophonia.

Misophonia is a Real Condition

Misophonia, also referred to as selective sound sensitivity syndrome, is the medical term for people who are deeply bothered by common sounds. The sounds are so intolerable that they actually cause an emotional reaction. This can sometimes cause so much discomfort that people actively avoid having to tolerate the sounds. Unfortunately, the results are often isolating and negatively impact one’s social life.

It turns out that misophonia “creates a fight-or-flight response” in people affected by the condition. It seems that it’s a fairly newly discovered condition. Therefore, little is known about its impact on the brain, nervous system, or someone’s emotional state. Interestingly, some people feel crazy or ashamed for being affected by misophonia. Thus, rarely share that information with their healthcare providers, making it even harder for researchers to gather information regarding the disorder. Meaning it’s unknown how common the disorder is. Despite our little knowledge, researchers have determined a few crucial details. Perhaps the most interesting is that in most cases, symptoms usually appear around the age of 12.

Read: How to say sorry and give a good apology, according to research.

Misophonia Causes Emotional Distress

A UK-based team of researchers evaluated around 40 individuals, with half having a clinical diagnosis of misophonia. They tested a number of sounds on the individuals, including babies crying, the sound of people eating, and seemingly calming sounds such as rainfall. Unsurprisingly, those with misophonia rated sounds like chewing and breathing more intolerable than the test subjects without the condition.

Moreover, they established that people suffering from misophonia have physiological responses to chewing, breathing, and yawning sounds. This means they have an increased heart rate and sweat, leading researchers to discover how the condition elicits the fight-or-flight response. Interestingly, sounds like babies crying or people screaming got the same rating from those not affected by the condition.

However, their most useful discovery involved which parts of the brain are impacted by misophonia. Apparently, a part of the brain responsible for controlling anger also plays a role in joining “outside inputs, like sounds” with “inputs from organs like a heart.” Next, researchers evaluated MRI scans. The scans revealed what happens when people with misophonia are forced to listen to these sounds. It turns out they experience an increase in brain activity. In particular, in the regions that are the parts responsible for long-term memories and emotional responses. Alternatively, those not affected by the condition showed less brain activity in the regions that are responsible for emotional distress.

Possible Overstimulation

Next, researchers compared myelin, a fatty substance that surrounds nerve cells, and found that people with misophonia also have higher amounts of myelination. Increased myelin can cause significantly faster function than nerves of average amounts of myelin. This means that there is likely some correlation between feeling overstimulated and hearing the unpleasant sounds associated with misophonia. In some cases, these nerve cells can function around 300 times faster than those will normal or average amounts of myelin. However, researchers aren’t certain if extra myelin is a cause or effect of misophonia.

Learning More

Unfortunately, so little is known about misophonia that there are no known treatments or cures at this time. However, researchers are determined to find out more since it’s been brought to light. In the meantime, the Misophonia Association is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping define the condition and offer support and services to those suffering from the condition.

It’s not unusual that after a long and chaotic day, one might thoroughly enjoy the peace and solitude of a quiet environment, free of stimulating sounds. However, for those suffering from misophonia, a peaceful environment is essential because even the most common of sounds cause severe emotional distress. It’s possible that further research may lead to more discoveries regarding the sounds that cause this distress and new or innovative ways to tackle the condition.

Keep Reading: The Psychology Behind Nail Biting


  1. Misophonia: When Life’s Noises Drive You Mad.NPR. April Fulton. March 18, 2019.
  2. Misophonia: When sounds really do make you “crazy” Harvard Health.  James Cartreine, PhD. June 24, 2019.
  3. Remyelination: How to Increase Myelin for Longevity.Biostrap.