ADHD is a complex disorder. As a mother to an ADHD child, I am learning that there is a slew of ADHD-related conditions that can come with ADHD. They are so common, ADDitude Mag has found that 50 percent of people with ADHD suffer from one or more additional conditions (see below for a full list of conditions). So it’s not surprising I am always learning new things. This week I learned the name of a condition that I didn’t know existed, but my son definitely has: Misophonia.
I always thought my son was just irritable. It was easy for me to understand him, because I too am irritable for loud breathers and people who eat with their mouths open. Lately see a pattern of my son losing it at someone for chewing with their mouth open, having a blocked nose and breather, writing with a pencil too loudly or making a noise from tapping their foot too closely to him.
What it is misophonia?
Wikipedia defines it as literally the ‘hatred of sound’ where negative emotions, thoughts, and physical reactions are triggered by specific sounds. This doesn’t mean loud sounds like yelling, but little sounds like chewing food, gum, a dog licking it’s paw or tapping fingers on a table. I see this every day, when my son is sitting at the table with his sister doing homework. For no reason he flies into a rage. Last week an older kid in our neighborhood was helping him with homework and I could see his anger building up as she repeatedly inhaled with a runny nose (it is cold season). To the point he started yelling at her that she was making an incredible amount of noise and was disgusting… yes we need to work on tact!
My son had always been reactive to his senses. We praise him on his sense of smell (he can always find whatever is stinky), he’s our vampire who can’t stand full light in the morning and complains of music being too loud regularly. But this was the first time I realized my son had a sensory processing problem. I know tons of other parents whose ADHD kids can’t handle the touch of specific materials, taste of certain foods, bright lights or certain smells evoking overwhelming nausea.
There is no specific diagnostic criteria, but it is suggested that misophonia can adversely affect social situations and the ability to achieve life goals. Up until a few years ago no one had even heard of this condition.
What can I do to help?
There is no treatment or cure for misophonia. As with ADHD, every child/person is different and you have to find what works best for you. There are some medications, but since my son is already on ADHD medications, I prefer not to add more.
So we are back to our old friend Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to develop coping strategies that are geared to him and this particular behavior problem. The goal of CBT is to change negative patterns in his cognition (thoughts, beliefs, attitudes), behavior and emotions. My husband would say that just means a lot more of me talking trying to get him to see it’s not appropriate to point out that Grandma is eating with her mouth open… loudly in front of everyone at the 30 person dinner… even if it bothers him. Perhaps instead he can take a quick trip to the bathroom to remove himself from the situation and realize dinner will be over soon and he will not hear it anymore.
We have been working on mindfulness with tools we got from Big Life Journal – they have a bunch of free tools and even the paid ones aren’t too expensive (no they are not a sponsor, I just really like them). The aim is to make him self-aware and show that how he sees things is not how everyone else might.
The important thing is to not minimize what he is feeling. It’s very big to him and we cannot change that. We can only help prepare him with the tools so he can thrive in any situation.
Additional conditions people with ADHD may also have:
- Anxiety disorders (including panic attacks)
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD)
- Learning disabilities
- Language disabilities
- Fine and gross motor difficulties
- Executive function difficulties
- Bipolar disorder
- Tic disorders including motor tics, oral tics and Tourette’s syndrome
- Anger-control problems (intermittent explosive disorder or oppositional defiant disorder)