Scottsdale man copes with condition that induces rage to common - FOX 35 News Orlando

Scottsdale man copes with condition that induces rage to common sounds

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PHOENIX (KSAZ) - There are sounds that are universally offensive; someone scratching their fingernails down a chalkboard, static on a TV, car alarms going off, the buzz of a dentist's drill.

You hear those sounds -- you want to run the other direction.

But there are people who have that same reaction or worse to everyday sounds that most people do not even notice.  They are filled with rage at the simple sound of someone drinking water or eating chips.

It's a condition only recently given a name Misophonia. Meet a Scottsdale man who has been dealing with this condition his entire life.

"I have a few of these white noise machines; they make a nice soothing noise," said Michael Lawrence.

Soothing sounds are really important to him.

"I have one by the bed, we have one by the table over here, and we have four or five of them around the house," he said.

Why so many of these machines?  Because the simple noise you probably never notice fill Michael with rage!

"It drowns out the little subtle sounds you hear. The chewing, sneezing, clearing throats mostly the eating," he said.

Sounds that aren't just annoying to Michael -- when he hears them he's seething.

"That bowl scraping just drives me insane. I just hate that it's piercing sound," he said.

So instead of nice dishes, he and his wife Lynn use paper plates.

"Plastic as much as possible, sometimes we'll eat out of Tupperware," said Lawrence.

He knows it's not normal, but he has misophonia. Made up of from the Greek word misos which means hatred and phonia which means sound. A new name for a condition that's been around for a long time.

"They have a strong dislike of that sound. It greatly annoys them, and they feel a sense of rage or anger," said Phoenix neurologist Dr. Mike Robb.  "They feel like they want to strangle the person or they want to do something violent, but their higher brain controls them, and they don't lash out."

Michael hasn't attacked anyone.  He's learned to live with it.

"It upsets you more and you want to run. So the only best way is to just run away from it," said Lawrence.

He's run from sounds for more than 50 years.

"I can be in a crowd of 100 people and if somebody's snapping gum, that's all I will hear is that gum snapping, and that'll drive me nuts. I won't hear anything else, any other sound.. just that gum snapping that the one person is doing," he said.

Running from jobs, neighbors, and loved ones. "Ironically when I was young, I was a chef. I was around eating all the time and I had to change careers," he said.

Was there a point where he had relationships fall apart?

"I've been married a couple of times before," he replied.

Lynn, his third wife, didn't know all this when she married Michael -- he started getting frustrated with her.

"Everybody has specific noises they make that are unique to them. And you start oh it's that same noise again. And it starts bothering you more and more and more," he said.

Exercise, and lots of it helped him cope, but it was driving Lynn crazy.

"For him that extreme exercise that pumping and working hard was an escape valve he really didn't explain it to me. And I'm ranting and railing and I'm going, this exercise program is getting in the way and it's frustrating me," she said.

"About six months in Lynn, said I cannot do this, I want a divorce, I love you but I can't live with you. I can't live with you. I can't do this. And I wanted to die," said Lawrence.

Misophonia had already cost him so much. "You kind of spend your life running and that's difficult," he said.

"I didn't understand that the misophonia sounds.. all the triggers throughout the day began to accumulate. It's like putting pebbles in a glass and the glass is full. And this is the way people with misophonia feel.  By the afternoon, their glass is pretty full of triggers," said Lynn.

After a lot of discussion and a really understanding wife, they have stuck it out.

"I feel so lucky to have her. There's very few people that would put up with this kind of thing, and I tell her that all the time," he said.

People with misophonia do not have sensitive hearing. As a matter of fact, Michael says his hearing is not all that great; it just hones in on certain irritating sounds and cannot let them go.

Exercise is a great help to Michael in living with misophonia as well as sound therapy, like using white noise. He's going to do a month long treatment with a neurologist in Iowa that will focus on neuro-feedback basically changing his brain waves. There's been some success in this treatment. We'll let you know how it works.
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