How to Stop Being Annoyed by Chewing: Tips to Cope with Misophonia

I like to think of myself as a foodie. I love exploring new restaurants, but one thing always makes me hesitate—the sound of people chewing around me! 

When people chew or slurp their food, I find it unbearable, and I am constantly wondering how to stop being annoyed by chewing. Family dinners are my nightmare; I often have to stand up and walk away before I hit a wall in a fit of rage.

It’s common for some people to get irritated by certain sounds, like a ceiling fan rotating, but for people like me, the sound of chewing can trigger intense anger, botheration and severe anxiety. 

Sounds from the mouth, such as smacking lips, slurping, or even swallowing, drive me crazy! If you’ve experienced this and wondered why the sound of chewing makes your jaw clench, you might be dealing with a condition known as Misophonia.

According to a study published in The Misophonia Institute, approximately 20% of people experience some level of Misophonia, making it a significant issue for many.

Although significant, it is still unknown. Manier times, I have to explain to people that this is a genuine problem I face. Still people just can’t wrap their heads around the fact that such a small thing could make me so angry. So, the point of me writing this today is to help people like me know that this is normal, and you are not alone. 

Why Does the Sound of Chewing Make Me Angry?

While other people might not be able to fully understand why the sound of chewing makes me angry, I have learnt to live and deal with it. So if you are facing the same problem and wonder how to stop being annoyed by chewing, the first thing you need to do is understand the core of the issue. 

the Sound of Chewing Make Me Angry

Misophonia Explained

Misophonia, a rather rare and unknown disorder, is a significant condition that triggers strong negative emotional reactions to certain sounds. 

Simply explained, Misophonia is a disorder where a person gets easily annoyed by chewing noises. This is not just limited to noises made from the mouth but could include many triggers. 

Here are some common Misophonia examples: pen clicking, knuckle cracking, gulping water, slurping, coughing, cutlery sounds, opening packets, eating crunchy food items, or even breathing sounds. 

Each person experiences Misophonia differently as one person could have a trigger from only chewing, while another person could have multiple different triggers. How severe the reactions are to these triggers also varies from person to person.

This triggers emotional or physiological responses that might be challenging for other people to comprehend. These responses are often immediate and intense. So intense that you cannot, in that moment, think of how to stop being annoyed by chewing. You just have a strong urge to stop the noise or remove yourself from the situation. 

A user on reddit dramatically even said that he can’t think of a sound more worse than that of chewing and that he’ll take a screaming baby on a plane any day (I may not feel the same about the screaming baby on the plane, but that’s another story.)

What Causes Misophonia?

The exact cause of Misophonia is not fully understood. A study conducted an MRI to analyse the brains of people with Misophonia and found that trigger sounds produced “greatly exaggerated” responses.

Studies have identified various brain regions involved in misophonia, including the right insula, which is involved with processing disgust, fear, and anxiety. The brains of people with misophonia may be like “hypersensitive alarm systems,” interpreting specific trigger sounds as threats, explained Zach Rosenthal, a clinical psychologist at Duke University.

Research suggests that people with misophonia are sensitive to and quickly respond to certain sounds caused by the autonomic nervous system, which is the part of the body that controls the “fight or flight” response. This response does not apply to people who do not have misophonia.

Signs and Characteristics of Misophonia

Technically, one can develop Misophonia at any age, however, early symptoms typically start in late childhood or early adolescence. Some of the key characteristics of Misophonia include:

  • Emotional Reactions: You may often feel immediate anger, anxiety, or irritation when hearing specific sounds. Extreme irritation often accompanies this reaction towards the person producing the sound.
  • Premature Anger: You may find mentally preparing yourself when you know you will be with someone who chews loudly. You may find yourself anticipating the moment they start, ready to get frustrated even before the first bite.
  • Avoidance Behaviour: You try to not eat at the same time or around people, deliberately avoiding situations where trigger sounds might occur.
  • Physical Violence: You get so angry that you have the urge to physically let that anger out with objects nearby or lashing out at a person making the noise.
  • Physical Symptoms: You may experience an increased heart rate, sweating, and a feeling of tension or discomfort when exposed to trigger sounds.

8 Ways to Stop Being Annoyed by Chewing

It is difficult to consciously control triggers at the moment they are happening. So, how to stop being annoyed by chewing? Seems impossible, right? 

Tips to cope with Misophonia

One thing you need to understand is that while you may not be able to control your emotions, you have to learn to control your responses. 

Jennifer Jo Brout, a psychologist and the director of the International Misophonia Research Network, explains that there are certain things you can do that could ease your rage.

1. Block the Noise 

Wearing earplugs can reduce the impact of sounds of chewing while you will still be aware of your surroundings. This can offer instant relief and enable you to concentrate on the current task without getting distracted from the noise.

2. Invest in Noise-Cancelling Headphones

If you do want to block yourself completely from your surroundings, then investing in a good pair of noise-cancelling headphones can be a game-changer. As a result, they can successfully lessen the effect of trigger sounds, helping you stay calm and less anxious around trigger sounds.

3. Create Distraction

Try playing music that can mask the chewing noise. Playing white noise or nature sounds can also help mask the sound of chewing. If you make sure that the music or sound is enough to cover the trigger noises, it can help you stay calm and focused.

4. Practice Mindfulness

Meditation and mindfulness techniques can help you manage your reactions to trigger sounds. Simple breathing techniques, such as four-square breathing, can help reduce the intensity of your response.

5. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT can be an effective treatment for Misophonia. It involves working with a therapist to change your negative reactions to trigger sounds and develop coping strategies to manage your responses.

6. Share with your Loved Ones

If you communicate openly about your condition with your family, friends, and coworkers, you can easily set boundaries and explain your needs to them. This will help them understand your reactions without getting offended.

7. Avoid Triggers

Try to steer clear of situations where you know trigger sounds will be present. This might mean eating meals in a different room or choosing quieter places to work or study.

8. Seek Professional Help

If your reactions to chewing sounds are severely impacting your life, consider seeking help from a professional. With the growing awareness of Misophonia, there are now dedicated centres that can help you with proper treatment for you. 

RELATED ARTICLE: Why We Eat When We Are Bored

Is Hating the Sound of Chewing OCD?

Sometimes, people confuse misophonia with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), but they are two different conditions.

Is misophonia a mental disorder? While some experts suggest that misophonia is a new mental disorder that falls within the spectrum of OCD, others have challenged this assertion.

Both OCD and Misophonia involve people having strong reactions to certain stimuli. 

With OCD, the person is marked by repetitive behaviours and intrusive thoughts that are done over and over again to help them calm down. Misophonia, on the other hand, is a strong emotional reaction to certain sounds, like chewing or slurping, without the repetitive actions that are seen in OCD.

Although the two conditions can coexist, misophonia is not considered a form of OCD.

How is Misophonia Treated?

While there might not be a specific treatment or medicine for Misophonia, its symptoms do overlap with other disorders that can help reduce the symptoms of Misophonia.
Here are 4 things you can do that will help in your treatment: 

  • Identifying your triggers.
  • Try and prevent trigger sounds
  • Develop coping techniques to avoid impulsive reactions 
  • Reducing your sensitivity to existing triggers.

People who have more severe reactions to their misophonia triggers may want to experiment with more professional help:

  • Sound Therapy: Using background noise can help  reduce the impact of trigger sounds. 
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: As mentioned earlier, CBT is a common treatment for Misophonia. It focuses on changing the negative thought patterns and reactions associated with trigger sounds.
  • Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT): TRT is often used to treat tinnitus but can also be effective for Misophonia. It uses both sound therapy and guided counselling to help people get used to their trigger sounds and lower their emotional responses to them.
  • Medication: While there is no specific medication for Misophonia, some individuals may benefit from medications used to treat anxiety or depression. 
  • Coping Classes: Joining a Misophonia coping class can help you navigate the symptoms and cope with effective strategies.

As someone who has Misophonia, being annoyed by chewing noises is a real and challenging struggle. It makes my social life very hard – I have to plan my outings and control my emotions without offending my loved ones. It may not sound like a big deal, but it does affect my everyday life. 

Understanding your triggers is the key! Once you recognise your trigger, you have to implement coping mechanisms that can reduce the impact of Misophonia.