Misophonia and Me

By Camila Cisneros

I walk into my 8:10 am class. For the next hour and 15 minutes, students yawn and yawn and yawn. Some yawn loud and obnoxiously, others are more discreet, yawning softly into their hand. Regardless, all yawns are noticeable to me. With each yawn, I grind my teeth, dig my nails into my arm, or the palm of my hand, and the feeling of aggravation overwhelms me. With each yawn my attention is directed towards the perpetrator and, for a moment, I see a red flash from the anger I feel. It is early in the morning, and everyone is tired. The yawns seem to be endless. As soon as class ends at 9:25, I quickly leave, praying to God that someone introduces these kids to caffeine so that they can stop being so tired all the time and, hopefully, stop yawning in my face.

For as long as I can remember, yawning has been a trigger for me. Not entirely in the sense that I get offended, but in that I experience an unexplainable flash of anger anytime I see or hear anyone yawning. As I’ve grown older, my adverse reaction to yawning only gotten worse, and now that I’m in college and everyone is constantly tired, my life has turned into somewhat of  a nightmare. If you’re asking yourself, “What is wrong with this girl,” just know that I’ve spent years asking myself the same thing. It all changed one day as I was scrolling through my facebook feed. I found an article titled “Misophonia: When sounds really do make you ‘crazy’” by James Cartreine from the Harvard Health Publishing. It reminded me of my lifelong struggle with the sound of yawning, so I clicked it. That’s when I first learned of misophonia.

According to the article, “People with misophonia are affected emotionally by common sounds — usually those made by others, and usually ones that other people don’t pay attention to. The examples above (breathing, yawning, or chewing) create a fight-or-flight response that triggers anger and a desire to escape...it is a real disorder and one that seriously compromises functioning, socializing, and ultimately mental health.” Although it may sound pretty terrible, truthfully my heart sang with joy. It was after reading the article that I knew I wasn’t alone, there’s others just like me, and there’s a medical explanation for why I am the way I am.

The thing with misophonia is that there’s not that many studies about it, and it’s hard to determine how common it is. People who have it may be embarrassed or scared to talk about it, and do not bring it up to their loved ones or their healthcare providers. The article also states that it can lead to isolation, since the people who have it may try to avoid any trigger sounds. I certainly felt very isolated for a long time, because no one else seemed to be aggravated at yawns. It seemed to be just a me thing, and made me feel alone.

Adding on to the isolation is the lack of support from loved ones. I would have countless arguments with my parents about my hatred of the sound of yawning, where I would be made to appear irrational. They’d tell me it was a normal bodily function and that it was illogical for me to ask them to stop yawning, when all I needed was for them to stop doing it around me. Over time, they tried to stifle their yawns, but, ultimately, would give up trying and yawn around me, sometimes even purposely yawning in an obnoxious manner so as to mock me. More than anything, I wish I could make them understand the physical pain I feel when I hear a yawn, and the more obnoxious the yawn, the more pain I feel. My friends are no better. I’d confide in them about my misophonia whenever they’d ask me why I freak out at them when they yawn. They’d nod their heads, faking sympathy, and go on to yawn in my face not long after. If I even dare to remind them about it, I’d get anger and accusations of being irrational in return.

Misophonia seemed to be controlling my life, to the point where I dread and sometimes skip classes in the early morning because I can’t bear the thought of going through an hour and a half of yawning. What’s the point of going if the yawns keep me from focusing on the lecture? How do I justify my misophonia as an excused absence to my professor? Headphones and earplugs have become my crutch, and without them I’d probably lose it.

My point being, misophonia is real, regardless of what my mother, or anyone for that matter, says. If someone expresses their discomfort with a certain noise, whether it be chewing, sneezing, or whatnot, don’t make them feel like they’re being annoying or like they’re crazy. Show support, because trust me when I say it’s not easy. It would be illogical to ban all types of noises from the classroom, so I guess my advice is, if we have class together…drink some coffee beforehand.