Misophonia: A new mental disorder?

Med Hypotheses. 2017 Jun:103:109-117. doi: 10.1016/j.mehy.2017.05.003. Epub 2017 May 3.


Misophonia, a phenomenon first described in the audiology literature, is characterized by intense emotional reactions (e.g., anger, rage, anxiety, disgust) in response to highly specific sounds, particularly sounds of human origin such as oral or nasal noises made by other people (e.g., chewing, sniffing, slurping, lip smacking). Misophonia is not listed in any of the contemporary psychiatric classification systems. Some investigators have argued that misophonia should be regarded as a new mental disorder, falling within the spectrum of obsessive-compulsive related disorders. Other researchers have disputed this claim. The purpose of this article is to critically examine the proposition that misophonia should be classified as a new mental disorder. The clinical and research literature on misophonia was examined and considered in the context of the broader literature on what constitutes a mental disorder. There have been growing concerns that diagnostic systems such as DSM-5 tend to over-pathologize ordinary quirks and eccentricities. Accordingly, solid evidence is required for proposing a new psychiatric disorder. The available evidence suggests that (a) misophonia meets many of the general criteria for a mental disorder and has some evidence of clinical utility as a diagnostic construct, but (b) the nature and boundaries of the syndrome are unclear; for example, in some cases misophonia might be simply one feature of a broader pattern of sensory intolerance, and (c) considerably more research is required, particularly work concerning diagnostic validity, before misophonia, defined as either as a disorder or as a key feature of some broader syndrome of sensory intolerance, should be considered as a diagnostic construct in the psychiatric nomenclature. A research roadmap is proposed for the systematic evaluation as to whether misophonia should be considered for future editions of DSM or ICD.

Keywords: Misophonia; Nosology; Psychiatric classification; Selective sensory intolerance; Selective sound sensitivity syndrome.

MeSH terms

  • Affective Symptoms / diagnosis*
  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Anxiety Disorders / psychology
  • Behavior
  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
  • Emotions*
  • Hearing Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Hearing Disorders / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Hyperacusis / complications
  • Mental Disorders / complications
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Sound*
  • Tinnitus / complications