Misophonia, the panic and anger reaction to sounds

Misophonia is a newly discovered disorder which makes sufferers react to sounds with anger.

Strong negative emotions are induced by certain sounds sending the Misophonia patient into a spin of unwanted feelings and panic attack symptoms and a full “flight or flight” response.

Scientists have discovered that they can trace the way the brain responds to sounds and monitor the route through the brain using MRI scanning. Plotting the direct link between the input of sounds through to the resulting emotional responses. Due to these brain imaging techniques it appears that the brains of Misophonia sufferers are ‘hard wired’ in such a way as to produce the symptoms.

I would be curious to know what makes scientists think that this wiring is ‘hard wired’. If a psychological reaction can be traced through the brain, is that evidence of hard wiring? Cannot all emotions, fears, panics, have a neurological explanation? Would not any emotional response to any trigger, light up the MRI screen in a similar way?

Maybe these MRI scans are supporting scientists in an inaccurate mood of fatalism in how emotional responses occur in a person. Creating the title Misophonia makes the condition ‘genuine’, the scans are ‘evidence of a physical basis’ for the problem and patients are no longer laughed at by their GPs.

What happened to the concept of Neuroplasticity, the ability of the brain to be adaptable? Neurogenesis, the ability to create new neural pathways has been a big feature of neuroscience for the last 20 years.

Neuroplasticity has given much hope to therapists because it supports the patient in their quest for change and development. The old hard wired model of the brain has roots, not only in ideas about the brain, but in Freudian ideology. Freud contended that childhood or even infancy is the time where your future is decided, that your brain (your psychology) is fixed from that early time.

The discovery of how the brain adapts through life, Neurogenesis, gives hope where there was once a fatalism.

My suspicion is that because brain imaging can trace a brain response from a trigger such as sound to an emotion such as anger, scientists are saying that it is a done deal. Look, there is the link on the screen, those links are how things are, no cure.

What about those that suffer from panic attacks? Surely similar brain pathways can be traced. It is well documented that panic attacks are curable, that whatever pathway had been set up in the brain can indeed by re-routed to produce calmer responses. Those that suffer from phobias would have a well defined neurological pathway. Many phobias and panic responses can be treated successfully.

Interestingly researchers have found that the condition worsened in response to cognitive behavioural therapy in one patient.

But surely, if you can talk it up, you can talk it down.

Mindfulness Meditation- the art of the now

Mindfulness as a concept is gaining interest. I recommend the idea of Mindful meditation to everyone, even the hard bitten hypnotherapist or CBT therapist who has seen it all before.

I use Mindfulness in my Harley St room as a great way of getting things started after the chatting bit. I invite the client to listen to the traffic, I am on the third floor on a busy central London street, the sound is a bit like the rushing of waves plus a few sirens now and again.

Focus on the senses and you have the essence of Mindfulness. Sound is often the preferred sense but physical sensation is also popular. Clients often report that the mind quietens down, it seems that sensation in the present moment helps to shut out the mind that is usually concerned with other times, other places. The present moment is often a place of very little anxiety or worry or fear, almost enjoyable!

For some Mindfulness in itself is the answer to their problems. The past has gone, the future hasn’t happened and the present moment, experienced through the physical senses, is good enough.

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Sessions in central London