For 19-year-old Emma Riehl, attending her college classes is a form of torture. But she doesn’t blame the subject matter or the homework.
Riehl lives with a rare and still mostly unknown condition called misophonia. Meaning “hatred of sound,” misophonia makes it difficult to tolerate everyday sounds such as chewing, coughing, even breathing. Those who have it find the noises so intrusive they can’t remain in the same area as the person making them. Unlike people who find these noises merely irritating, people with misophonia have an extreme reaction that often leads to lives of isolation.
The specific sounds of sniffling and chewing make Riehl feel anxious, distressed and violent. In her video diary, she describes her daily struggle to overcome the rage she feels whenever she hears these “trigger” sounds. Unable to participate in the typical college social scene, she lives alone and constantly wears headphones. There is no cure for misophonia, but Riehl believes that eating a healthy diet and keeping to a strict schedule of exercise help her ease the stress caused by her condition.
Although there has been limited research, some experts believe misophonia has a genetic link and could result from a neurological defect.
Do you believe that you or a loved one could have misophonia? Share your story below, and watch the whole story on the full episode of “20/20.”