No, Misophonia is Not OCD, Stop Saying it Is
Misophonia is definitely not OCD. I say that, because I have both Misophonia and OCD, and yet some researchers are still conflating the two. I’m not entirely sure why researchers are so keen on misophonia being related with OCD. I’m not even sure why an OCD researcher would keep claiming this when the current science says misophonia has a motor basis. It’s really dangerous when researchers can keep getting published with their ideas, despite it being based on case-studies or studies that ignore the fact people with misophonia can’t stand exposure therapy.
In-fact, my OCD and misophonia are so completely different (albeit they do both cause torture).By the way, I work as an advocate for both Misophonia and OCD and am an active moderator of R/Misophonia and R/OCD on reddit.
I just want to point out from a purely emotional standpoint, that OCD and Misophonia are both misunderstood enough. We already struggle trying to get awareness, understanding, and empathy from the greater public. By conflating the two, it does a disservice to both disorders, and all of us who suffer with one or both of these disorders.
I’m concerned not just for misophonia sufferers, but because OCD sufferers also deserve researchers who are ethical and not clinging to ideas that seem to make absolutely no sense from a scientific standpoint. While OCD and Misophonia might be co-morbid, it is even painfully easy to see that they are different when living with the two disorders.
Now, I want to give you a laymen run-through of the differences between my OCD and my misophonia. While I am by no means an expert, I do have both, and I do advocate for both.
OCD Thought: Does my neighbor hate me? I smiled at her and she looked away. I bet she hates me.
Misophonia Thought: My neighbor mowed her lawn last week. Will she do it again? Will I be triggered?
Of course, this isn’t an exact science. Sometimes my OCD can take charge and ruminate over things related to misophonia, but they’re still not the same thing. OCD is a thought disorder. I panic because I can’t handle my thoughts. Aside from the misophonia, I really don’t have a thought relationship with lawnmowers, whistling, chewing, tapping. In-fact, before I had misophonia I almost never thought about this!
OCD plays on real (or imagined) fears. Misophonia, on the other hand, has to do with triggers that exist in the world. It has nothing to do with my thoughts. A trigger shows up, and somewhere deep in my non-cognitive brain, a threat is identified. The sound can be so low I barely hear it, and then whack there goes my fight flight. My palms sweat. My heart rate increases. I am in fight flight before I ever know what I’m thinking about. In OCD, the struggle comes from the thoughts I can’t get rid of. For example, my OCD loves to cling to whether or not my pets will die, whether family will die, or if my boyfriend will someday up and leave me. While people with misophonia do have cognitive fears, they are not the cause of the distress.
When I am upset by OCD, the thought repeats over and over in my mind. I will seek reassurance such as googling, “signs your boyfriend no longer loves you”, in the case of OCD, this makes things worse. Reassurance becomes a compulsion. In the case of misophonia, reassurance won’t do that, because the actual sound or visual is the trigger, and once that stops, you will calm down and go back to homeostasis. A good way to test this is by wearing a smart watch or fitness watch and noticing that the misophonic reaction goes down once out of the environment. OCD can feel like a reel that keeps repeating.
I’ll leave you with an excerpt from the Misophonia Literature Review:
In a recent replication and extension of Wu et al. (2014), Zhou et al. (2017) used the MQ to explore the relationship between misophonia and psychopathology in a sample of Chinese college students. Consistent with Wu et al. (2014), 17% of the sample (N = 415) reported misophonia symptoms caused clinically significant impairment in their daily lives. Higher MQ scores were significantly positively correlated with symptoms of anxiety, depression, and OCD. This suggests misophonia is not uniquely associated with anxiety, depression, or OCD per se, but may instead be more generally correlated with higher levels of psychological distress.
This article is written by Shaylynn Hayes, and only reflects MY opinions. No one else’s. I am not a clinician or researcher, and this is purely my reaction as an advocate.