Horrifying report today about an Upper East Side scholar named Michelle Lamarche Marrese, who people believed had killed herself over an unraveling marriage but was in fact suffering from the "selective sound sensitivity syndrome" I also have called misophonia.
Joyce Cohen, the woman who first gave the disorder a name for millions of us back in 2011 is convinced misophonia was the culprit here:
I know this [is why she killed herself] because she emailed me last February, desperately seeking advice after I wrote a story on the mysterious condition for the New York Times, and we corresponded extensively.
“Unfortunately, the battles about noise (which ‘no one else can hear’) are destroying my marriage and my health,” she confided.
In the building, “noise travels across several floors through the vents. We suffered through 18 months of shrill noise coming from the toilet next door.” A neighbor “held me hostage” with construction noise from interior renovations. “That was when I bought the industrial headphones and when the misery began.”
Her many complaints went unresolved. She said she was dismayed at the constant brushoffs by her husband and her “cretin of a condo manager.”
People with this hidden disorder are gripped with instantaneous panic and anger when faced with certain sensory triggers, often the sounds of chewing or eating. They struggle to contain their reactions while seething inside with blood-boiling rage.
But what causes it, exactly?
Currently, with so little science on misophonia, there is only speculation. It may not even be an auditory disorder, and is probably neurological.
Some sufferers are triggered by movements like fidgeting or foot-tapping. The rage reaction has nothing to do with the volume of the noise; offending noises might be as loud as a firecracker or as faint as a whisper.
Most recently, a gene variant associated with misophonia has been identified.
People who suffer from the disorder face an immediate, involuntary response of sweating and palpitations when a noise bothers them. To a misophonia sufferer, ordinary sounds — even those that others barely notice — feel like nails on a chalkboard, provoking a nuclear-level visceral response.
“My husband is a noisy eater,” Marrese wrote to me. “He breathes like he just ran a marathon even while sitting still. Of course, noise does not bother him, so he manages to forget that I really am in emotional pain most of the time.”
Sufferers of the cruel condition sometimes leave jobs, live alone and alienate friends.
Last winter, on a Facebook group for misophonia, Marrese wrote, “I am ready to slit my throat. It’s New Year’s Eve, of course I had another screaming fight with my husband . . . I simply can’t take much more.”
Two weeks later, she mentioned, ominously, “Checking out.”
She contacted me the following month.
“It is not nothing for me, and wearing headphones simply adds to my irritation and my inability to concentrate. My ears itch constantly when I have them on.
“I am trapped here. I have far too much material when I’m working to go to the library, and you know the endless sniffling, coughing, gum chewing that goes on there.
“I see no way out, especially as I am financially dependent (a long story), I don’t have a family, and there is, quite simply, nowhere to go. We bought this place to be my office, not just our home.”
Marrese was especially annoyed when people urged, “Just move,” or spouted platitudes like, “At least you don’t have cancer.”Sad stuff. I guess everyone reacts differently because my thoughts tend to be far more homicidal than suicidal. RIP.
“There are few people who take misophonia seriously,” she wrote. “I find it sad that compassion and empathy are in such short supply.”
She ended her last message to me: “Forgive the intrusion and the outpouring. I have left your name for my husband. If I can’t stand any more agony, at least you can write about me.”
Read Joyce Cohen's full story about what happened HERE.