Over the last 15 years, Dr. Hashir Aazh has helped many families in the UK as well as internationally (using telehealth) by providing specialist therapy for misophonia. Parents often feel concerned about the misophonia-related problems that their child is experiencing. They also feel unsure with regard to the best course of action that they need to take in helping them. Should you let your child to eat in their own room or encourage them to join the family at the dinner table? What if they start to feel very distressed when joining you for dinner? Surely that wouldn’t be a nice experience for anyone. What if they keep asking siblings to not to make mouth noises and that the noises they make are very disgusting? This can negatively impact on everyone in the family, especially if they start screaming and shouting at each other. What to do if they tell you that the way that you swallow or even breathe bothers them? Should you make an effort to not to swallow anything when they are around you? Would this reduce the problem? Sometimes a child with misophonia use mimicry, making louder noises themselves as distraction or ask the person who made the noise to say it “correctly” or to apologise for making the noise. How would you deal with these as a parent?
Misophonia can cause significant disruptions and unhappiness in family time and impact on mental health of the child who suffers from it as well as their siblings involved. Therefore, it is understandable that parents can feel very distressed if their child is experiencing misophonia. Children with misophonia feel irritated, annoyed, angry, or disgusted when hearing certain sounds related to chewing, slurping, lip smacking, breathing, muffled speech or music from other rooms, tapping sound, or even certain speech sounds or the way that they are pronounced. Misophonia can be present in children as young as 7 years old. It is also common in teenagers and adults. A recent study in the UK suggested that almost half of medical students who completed an online survey had misophonia. To learn more about this study click here. Misophonia in children can be mistaken by misbehaving or having a tantrum. Here is a list of three ideas that you might find beneficial in supporting your child with misophonia:
Children often feel that their parents can help and protect them with almost anything! But with misophonia the story can change. This is something that parents may not know much about. This can get worse if the trigger noises are actually produced by the parents or if the child with misophonia gets told off for misbehaving at the dinner table. In such situations, although the child is feeling very distressed, they won’t be able to get the support they need from their parents or at least in their view their parents can’t help. So as parents, it is important to talk to your child and reassure them that you understand their problem and that there are solutions for it and you can take them to a doctor that help them. This will make them feel more supported and safe as they will realise that you understand the issue. It also is a very good idea to regularly tell your child that you love them, no matter what. Often children with misophonia feel that because of the problems they are causing for the family, they are not good enough or perhaps their parents love them less. Feeling of guilt and disappointment is common among those with misophonia. This can add to the complexity of the problem and make the situations even more stressful for them. By reassuring them that you love them regardless of their problem(s), you help them to free up some of their psychological strength so they can deal better with the distress caused by the trigger noises instead of ruminating about not being a good child or being unlovable.
Experience of strong emotional reactions to the trigger sounds, or at least parts of it, is related to the negative and irrational thoughts that goes through the mind of the child with misophonia. Examples of these are: “I will feel angry when I see my sibling is about to eat”, “I will get more angry and cannot control myself”, “I will get no enjoyment from eating my food”, “This is unfair”, “There is no escape and I am trapped”, “I will shout and scream at others or say things that make them annoyed”, “My parents will be mad at me”, “I will be told off”, “They shouldn’t make these noises”, “The noises they make are disgusting and wrong”, “They are so ignorant”, “I never can cope with these”, “I must avoid or stop them to make the noise otherwise I cannot get these out of my head”… Most of these thoughts have certain errors of judgment. You can help your child to learn about the common errors of judgment in our thoughts and see if they can identify any of these in their own thoughts when they hear the trigger sounds. Click here for an educational tool that you can use for discussing these with your child. This can help them to change the way that they think about the trigger noises which will lead to reducing their misophonia reaction. It is important to praise them whenever they can identify and change their thoughts and not reacting negatively at the dinner table or at any other scenario. Positive reinforcement is critical in misophonia management.
Children with misophonia often exhibit some avoidance behaviours such as eating on their own as opposed to eating with the family, avoid going to places or be around family members that they anticipate to make the trigger noises, turning up the volume of radio or television so loud to mask the eating noises etc. When avoidance is not possible or is impractical then they may resort to mini-rituals in order to alleviate their stress. Mini-rituals are non-repetitive acts the person performs in response to anxiety. For example, in childhood misophonia, rituals often comprise mimicry, asking people to not to make noise knowing that it won’t be possible, eating as fast as they can without looking at anyone else, or avoid making eye contacts with others etc. Although your child may believe that this is the only way that they can cope with the noises, avoidance behaviours and rituals are not helpful in long-term as they do not address the source of the problem. As a parent you can help your child to understand that such behaviours may not be useful for them in long-term and help them to explore possible ways of minimising them.