Sensory Overload: Navigating Misophonia in Daily Life

Living with Misophonia Reframing Autism AustraliaDo you find yourself feeling incredibly irritated or even enraged at everyday sounds such as chewing, breathing, or tapping? If so, you might be one of the millions of people around the world living with misophonia.

Misophonia, which means “hatred of sound,” is a neurological disorder characterised by an intense emotional and physiological reaction to specific sounds, wherein certain everyday sounds can trigger extreme emotional responses such as anger, anxiety, and distress.

Misophonia is often associated with Autism, but can affect anyone regardless of their neurological profile. Living with misophonia can be an overwhelming and isolating experience. The condition often goes undiagnosed, leaving individuals struggling to cope with their extreme sensitivity to certain sounds. People with misophonia often face difficulties in their personal relationships, work environments, and social interactions due to their strong reactions to triggers.

However, whilst living with misophonia can be challenging, there are several strategies that can help to manage it in daily life. In this blog, we will explore the signs and symptoms of misophonia, as well as providing practical tips for managing sensory overload in everyday life.

Understanding misophonia

Misophonia is a complex condition that involves a heightened sensitivity to specific sounds, often resulting in intense emotional and physiological responses. It is essential to understand that misophonia is not simply being annoyed or irritated by certain sounds; it is a genuine condition that can significantly impact daily life.

At its core, misophonia is related to the way our brains process auditory stimuli. People with misophonia have an altered auditory processing system, causing certain sounds to be perceived as overwhelming and distressing.

The range of sounds that can trigger misophonia varies widely between individuals. Some common triggers include chewing sounds, pen clicking, sniffing, or repetitive tapping. What may seem like harmless background noise to one person can be intolerable to someone with misophonia.

Understanding misophonia is the first step in managing its impact on daily life. By recognising the condition’s neurological underpinnings and the specific sounds that trigger distress, individuals with misophonia can begin to implement coping mechanisms and seek appropriate support.

Symptoms of misophonia

Misophonia manifests in a range of distressing symptoms that can significantly impact an individual’s daily life. One of the most common symptoms experienced by people with misophonia is intense anger or rage in response to specific sounds.  The sound triggers can vary widely between individuals, but some common examples include chewing, sniffing, or repetitive tapping.

In addition to anger, individuals with misophonia may also experience anxiety and distress when exposed to triggering sounds. This can lead to avoidance behaviors, where they actively try to escape or remove themselves from situations that may involve the trigger sounds. Whilst avoidance behaviours in selected doses can be helpful for the person experiencing misophonia, avoidance can frequently turn into a barrier for the individual; negatively affecting social interactions and relationships, as well as limiting one’s participation in certain activities.

Another symptom of misophonia is heightened physiological responses. When exposed to trigger sounds, individuals may experience increased heart rate, sweating, or muscle tension. These physical responses can further exacerbate the emotional distress caused by the condition.

It is important to note that misophonia is not simply a result of being annoyed or irritated by certain sounds. It is a genuine condition that can cause significant impairment in various aspects of life. Understanding and recognising the symptoms of misophonia is crucial in seeking appropriate support and implementing effective coping mechanisms.

By addressing the symptoms and developing strategies for managing misophonia, individuals can regain a sense of control and improve their overall well-being.

Common misophonia triggers

Misophonia can be triggered by a wide range of sounds, and the specific triggers can vary between individuals. While some triggers may be universal, such as chewing or pen clicking, others may be more unique to the individual’s personal experiences. It is important to recognise and understand these common triggers in order to effectively manage misophonia in daily life.

For many individuals with misophonia, the sound of chewing can be particularly distressing. Whether it’s the sound of someone chewing gum or the repetitive noise of someone eating, the act of chewing can elicit intense emotional and physiological responses. Sniffing or throat clearing sounds are also commonly reported triggers.

These seemingly innocent sounds can become unbearable for someone with misophonia, causing frustration and anxiety.

Repetitive tapping or clicking sounds, such as pen clicking or the sound of a keyboard, can also trigger misophonic reactions. For individuals with misophonia, these sounds can be incredibly distracting and irritating, often leading to feelings of anger and distress.

Understanding and identifying these common triggers is the first step in effectively managing misophonia. By recognising the specific sounds that elicit a strong response, individuals can implement strategies and coping mechanisms to mitigate the impact of misophonia on their daily lives.

Read more: Living with Misophonia: A Lived Experience Account

Diagnosing misophonia

Diagnosing misophonia can be complex, as it is still a relatively new and evolving field of study. However, with the right understanding and support, individuals can find relief from the distress caused by this condition.

Diagnosis of misophonia typically involves a comprehensive evaluation by a healthcare professional, such as an audiologist, psychologist, or psychiatrist. They will assess the individual’s medical history, conduct a thorough interview to understand the specific triggers and symptoms experienced, and may also use questionnaires and psychological tests to further evaluate the condition. It is essential to communicate openly and honestly during the diagnostic process, as this will help healthcare professionals determine the most effective misophonia management strategies.

Whilst diagnosis usually isn’t necessary for the individual to know they have misophonia, it can be a helpful and important step in ruling out any additional, co-occuring conditions that may also be impacting a person’s hearing or auditory processing.

Coping with misophonia

There is no cure for misophonia, and any treatment delivered by healthcare professionals will be focused on managing and reducing the emotional and physiological responses triggered by certain sounds. Currently, there is no standardised treatment protocol for misophonia, but several strategies have shown promise in helping individuals cope with the condition. These include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which aims to modify thought patterns and behaviors related to misophonic triggers. However, many Autistic people find that they may not resonate with the approaches of CBT, and may opt for other management strategies.

Other treatments may involve sound therapy, where specific sounds are used to desensitise the individual to triggering sounds over time.

It is crucial to remember that treatment options may vary depending on an individual’s specific needs and experiences. Seeking support from healthcare professionals who are knowledgeable about misophonia (and who are neurodiversity-affirming!) can be invaluable in finding effective strategies for managing the condition.

Many people with misophonia also elect not to undertake any specific therapies, but instead focus on self-care and boundary setting.

Some examples of common self-care strategies for navigating life with misophonia include:

  • Use earplugs or noise-cancelling headphones to block out triggering sounds. This can be particularly useful in situations where it is not possible to avoid the sounds, such as in a busy office or crowded public spaces.
  • Practice relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing or meditation, to reduce the emotional and physiological responses triggered by misophonia. Taking breaks in quiet environments and engaging in activities that promote relaxation, such as yoga or listening to calming music, can also be beneficial.
  • Seeking support from loved ones and finding a community of individuals who understand misophonia can also be an effective coping mechanism. Talking openly about your condition and educating others about misophonia can help create a supportive environment where others can make an effort to minimise triggering sounds or offer alternative solutions. Joining online support groups or seeking professional help from therapists who specialise in misophonia can provide valuable guidance, coping strategies, and a safe space to discuss your experiences and emotions.
  • Create a designated “quiet zone” in your living or work space can serve as a safe haven where you can retreat to when needed.
  • Find healthy distractions. Engaging in activities or hobbies that bring joy and relaxation can help divert attention away from triggering sounds. This could include reading a book, listening to music, or participating in creative outlets such as painting or writing. Finding activities that provide a sense of fulfillment and enjoyment can help alleviate stress and anxiety associated with misophonia.

Engaging in self-care activities and prioritising overall well-being is essential when living with misophonia. This can involve taking time for yourself, engaging in hobbies or activities that bring you joy, and practicing good sleep hygiene.

Remember, coping mechanisms and strategies may vary from person to person, so it is essential to find what works best for you. By implementing these coping mechanisms and strategies, individuals with misophonia can regain a sense of control and improve their overall quality of life.

Misophonia and social settings

Navigating social situations can also be particularly challenging for individuals with misophonia. The presence of triggering sounds in social settings can lead to heightened emotional and physiological responses, making it difficult to focus, engage, and enjoy social interactions. However, with some strategies in place, managing misophonia in social situations can become more manageable.

One important step is to communicate your needs to those around you. Informing friends, family, and colleagues about your condition can help them understand why certain sounds may be distressing for you. By raising awareness, you can create a supportive environment where others can make an effort to minimise triggering sounds or offer alternative solutions.

Finding quiet or less crowded spaces can also be helpful in reducing exposure to triggering sounds. In social settings, try to position yourself away from sources of potential triggers, such as noisy machinery or individuals who engage in habits that trigger your misophonia. Taking breaks in quieter areas when feeling overwhelmed can provide a chance to reset and regain composure.

Additionally, developing coping mechanisms specific to social situations can be beneficial. This may involve redirecting your focus by engaging in conversations or activities that distract from the triggering sounds. Utilising relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing or visualisation, can help calm your mind and body in the midst of a triggering event.

Remember that misophonia is not exclusive to individuals on the autistic spectrum. It can affect anyone, including those with hyperacusia or other hearing-related conditions. Finding support and understanding from like-minded individuals can make a significant difference. Seek out online communities or support groups where you can share experiences, learn coping strategies, and find solace in knowing you are not alone.

With the right strategies and support, managing misophonia in social situations can become less overwhelming. Remember to prioritise self-care and advocate for your needs, and you will be better equipped to navigate social settings with greater ease and enjoyment.

Educating your loved ones about misophonia

One crucial aspect of managing misophonia is educating your loved ones about the condition. While they may mean well, they may not fully understand the impact that certain sounds have on your well-being. By explaining misophonia to them, you can foster a supportive environment and encourage empathy.

Start by describing what misophonia is and how it affects you personally. Help them understand that it’s not just a matter of being annoyed or irritated by certain sounds, but that it causes genuine distress (or for some people, even pain) and can significantly impact your daily life. Share some examples of common trigger sounds that affect you the most, such as chewing or pen clicking.

It’s important to emphasise that misophonia is a neurological condition, not a choice or a personal preference. Let your loved ones know that it’s not their fault or a reflection of their behavior if they trigger your misophonia. Encourage open communication, so they feel comfortable asking questions and expressing their own feelings about the situation.

Offer suggestions for ways they can help, such as being mindful of their own chewing or tapping habits and trying to minimise triggering sounds when you’re around. Additionally, suggest alternative behaviors or compromises that could reduce the impact of misophonia on your interactions. By educating your loved ones about misophonia, you can foster understanding, support, and ultimately strengthen your relationships.

Finding support and community for misophonia

Living with misophonia can be isolating and overwhelming, but finding support and community can make a world of difference. Connecting with others who understand what you’re going through can provide validation, empathy, and helpful strategies for managing misophonia.

One way to find support is by joining online communities or support groups dedicated to misophonia. These platforms provide a space for individuals to share their experiences, ask questions, and offer support to one another. Engaging with these communities can help you realise that you are not alone in your struggles and that there are others who understand what you’re going through.

Additionally, seeking professional support from therapists or counselors who specialise in misophonia can be incredibly beneficial. They can provide guidance, coping strategies, and a safe space to discuss your experiences and emotions surrounding misophonia. They can also help you navigate challenging social situations and develop effective communication strategies to express your needs to others.

Don’t underestimate the power of friends and family who are willing to learn and support you. Educate them about misophonia, explain your triggers, and communicate your needs. Having a strong support system that understands and respects your condition can make a significant difference in managing misophonia and improving your overall well-being.

Finding support and community is an essential part of living with misophonia. By connecting with others who share your experiences, seeking professional help, and surrounding yourself with understanding friends and family, you can feel validated, supported, and empowered to navigate the challenges of living with misophonia. A great place to start is on social media. There are many private Facebook groups for those living with misophonia and their loved ones – here, you can feel free to ask any questions, seek validation, and extend your support network of people who “get it”.

Finding acceptance in living with misophonia

Living with misophonia can be a lifelong journey of self-discovery and acceptance. It’s important to remember that you are not alone in your experiences, and finding acceptance is a crucial step in managing this condition. Acceptance doesn’t mean resigning yourself to a life filled with distressing sounds; rather, it means acknowledging your condition and embracing strategies that work for you.

Finding acceptance starts with self-compassion. It’s easy to feel frustrated or angry about misophonia, but it’s essential to remind yourself that it’s not your fault. Misophonia is a genuine condition, and your responses to triggering sounds are valid. Give yourself permission to feel what you feel and prioritise your well-being.

Additionally, seeking support from loved ones and joining online communities of individuals who understand misophonia can provide a sense of validation and belonging. These communities can offer valuable advice, coping strategies, and a safe space to discuss your experiences.

Lastly, focus on celebrating small victories. Recognise the progress you make in managing misophonia, even if it’s just a tiny step forward. Every small win is worth acknowledging and can serve as motivation on your journey towards acceptance and a more fulfilling life.

Remember, finding acceptance is an ongoing process, and it may not happen overnight. But with patience, self-compassion, and a commitment to self-care, you can learn to navigate misophonia with greater ease and find acceptance within yourself.


  • facebook
  • twitter
  • linkedin

Related resources

View all
Flag Group

Always was, always will be Aboriginal land.

The Reframing Autism team would like to acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the lands on which we have the privilege to learn, work, and grow. Whilst we gather on many different parts of this Country, the RA team walk on the land of the Amangu, Awabakal, Bindjareb, Birpai, Whadjak, Wiradjuri and Yugambeh peoples.

We are committed to honouring the rich culture of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples of this Country, and the diversity and learning opportunities with which they provide us. We extend our gratitude and respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and to all Elders past and present, for their wisdom, their resilience, and for helping this Country to heal.

Join us on the journey to reframe how society understands Autism