The Sounds that Can Trigger My Anxiety or Why Whistling is From the Devil.

So this post may seem like a weird one to some but ‘truth will out’.

I’m sure many people may not have heard about misophonia. I had not heard of it myself until I was in college and went online to see if there were other people out there that were experiencing an extreme aversion to specific sounds, that left them on the verge of tears. My aunt once told a story about shopping for fruits, and whistling a tune aloud when a nearby shopper asked her to stop. She couldn’t understand what was wrong with being happy and whistling. To some people, like myself, whistling, humming and certain sounds in general, irritate to the point of rage.

It’s like a form of torture that sends you spiraling on the inside. At first, it may seem insignificant because whistling and humming seldom occur on a regular basis. However, feeling like you are out of control on a bus, in a car or in the office without the ability to move away or stop a particular sound can leave you on the verge of panic. Your thoughts become wild and erratic. Your heart rate races, as your chest balloons up and down. You try deep breathing, shifting your thoughts, or praying for the ‘serenity to accept the things that you cannot change’. And still, you become so angry and your head becomes so warm that you want to break down in tears. I feel all this and I cannot say anything. If it’s momentary, you can endure it, and try to gather yourself afterward. However, when it is prolonged, you may spend hours trying to pull yourself back together. 

I know that a lot of this stems from my inability to have control over my environment. It comes from a feeling that I don’t have a choice but to accept and put up with whatever is being thrown at me. It comes from being tired of playing in the background and not having a voice. For much of my adult life, I had no choice but to live with other people because I was undocumented unemployed. For more than a decade, I didn’t have a say in my own happiness. I lived at the edge and in the margins of someone else’s existence. I am reeling from the scars of my past. I can’t blame any particular thing for this version of crazy. My therapist said life stress often exacerbates what was already there. Sometimes I don’t have a problem. And other times, I’m spiraling downwards. The goal is always to rewire my brain which may have adapted to traumas of one sort or the other. It is a hard goal for someone like me. There always seems to be so much beneath the surface.

I cannot list every sound that I have to fight against on a daily basis or the numerous times I’ve left the subway, crossed the street, or left a room because I couldn’t take the stress of an unbearable sound. Together, the cacophony of sound could be lot to navigate. This is my crazy. In it all, I love myself. Not as an affirmation, with true empathy.

An Incomplete List of Aural Things That Set Me Off

People eating – This can be slurping, crunching, grinding or any other noises that mouths can make when food is involved. My wife is accustomed to me leaving the room at times to “check on something” in the bedroom if I’m having difficulty coping. Oddly, this is not a problem when I am out in a restaurant or when I am having dinner with a casual friend. I only care when I don’t have a way of escaping. I hate the crunch of cereal, slurp of noodles, crunch of vegetables or popcorn, the pang of utensils hitting the teeth, the sucking of soup/tea, the crush of crackers, the chomp of chewing gum, the munch of nuts and the thunder of POTATO CHIPS. There are also certain people who make satiated noises whenever they eat. Stop. (Food is not your friend).

Other mouth noises – You may not realize that this deserves its own category. However, from my bus seat, the sheer amount of sounds that comes out of a mouth can ruin an entire day. Humming and whistling are cousins from the same demented family. I don’t know the happy sadists that need to express themselves by torturing the people around them. I also hate the pop of tongue clicks, the suction of lip smacks, the roar of breathing noises, the pitch of prolonged-squeals, the pitch of babies crying, the pitch of whining children, and the pitch of whining adults. And I can definitely do without those low based tones (like when certain men are charming certain women).

Body noises – This is a wide category for me. Mostly because of the sheer amount of noises that fingers can make. I hate the sound of cracking knuckles, or other parts of the body. Please do not crack your neck nearby me. People also have a penchant for amusing themselves or relieving their own anxieties by repetitively tapping their fingers or legs. This can also extend into clicking pens or other objects. Then, there is the constant tap of long fingernails on cellphones. It sounds like bugs are having a party on your screen. I will always remember the GRE exams, when that typist of typists sitting beside me, needed to bang on every letter of the keyboard. Thanks for the symphony. Have you ever heard the sound of heels on hard surfaces like marble? It’s as if the heels are screaming for attention. Even worse, some people stomp about like tiny rhinos. 

Outside the body – The voices on cellphones/speakerphones becomes twisted into a screechy sound that makes me want to throw the phone out. Videos or music can be extremely irritating. However, the worst is the human voice which can undulate and pitch randomly. Whenever someone is on speaker, the background noises also give off feedback noises that screech or bang. Sometimes there is a consistent hum that the phone gives off depending on where the speaker is located. Its not just human voices. The bark of dogs hits a note that makes me want to drown puppies. I’m joking. I really am. I also detest the wail of car alarms and ambulances, the toot of car horns and subway horns (just about any horn), the shriek of whistles and kettles boiling, the shrill noise of construction tools, the banging of hammers or pots………….and more. 

– Anxious brother




  1. I have a little of this when I’m already in an anxiety spiral. I once made the unfortunate decision to try to become less anxious by going into a crowded movie theater to take my mind off of things with a movie, and all I could hear was mouth sounds. Hundreds of people loudly smacking on popcorn. I wanted to die.

    Dollissa, my sneer campaign friend, actually has been diagnosed with misophonia, I believe. Reading this was like reading one of her prolonged rants on the subject. Anyway, this is great. Thank you for making a silver lining of entertainment out of your pain. It’s good therapy.

    Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s