Quiet Please–A Documentary on Misophonia

Filmmaker Jeffrey Scott Gould‘s feature-length documentary entitled “Quiet Please…” premieres this Saturday June 18th at a private viewing in Manhattan, New York. The subject matter is selective sound sensitivity syndrome, a neurological disorder better known as Misophonia. It literally means hatred of sound although there are visual triggers that are associated to it as well.  Coined in 2002 by Emory University researchers Margaret and Pawel Jastreboff, those who have it are called Misophonics, and they have a super-sensitivity to particular noises that trigger both an emotional and a psychological impact on a person that would not bother most other people. A majority of those who suffer from it find their daily social functions impaired and so it eventually makes life difficult for their loved ones as well, as evidenced in this documentary. Misophonics never talked about their condition because they were unaware that it is a recent, newly diagnosed condition. “When you think you’re alone and crazy, it just exacerbates” according to Mr. Gould and those who have this condition would attest to it. Awareness of the condition grew in the last few years thanks to online support groups, websites, and Facebook pages. Many neurologists still don’t even know about it but misophonia will be getting plenty of attention now with Mr. Gould’s documentary, one that got funded in just two weeks through IndieGoGo.

His effort to raise awareness about Misophonia is personal as he has the condition himself. “My condition started at age 7, with a kid sniffling behind me during a test. It totally distracted me and I couldn’t concentrate. From there it (went) onto chewing sounds and now it’s a lot of sounds…(it) can even be people’s voices. So I thought I was alone all these years and 4 years ago there was a story on 20/20 and it changed a lot of lives, including mine. So I decided to do a documentary that showed the emotional side of it and how it can ruin a life and tear apart relationships and families.”

There is no cure for it, and it worsens with age. Experts on the subject are not entirely sure what causes misophonia which makes treating it as difficult as it is living with it. It’s believed to be hereditary yet some say it’s not a genetic trait but a learned conditioned response regarding a negative association with trigger sounds that causes an impulsive “fight or flight” negative reaction. Others say it’s hard-wired in the brain while still others say that it’s not really about the sounds but the context of the noise. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), even tinnitus have been found to be associated with misophonia in some studies. The research really is still in its infancy. So far, the best people can do to deal with misophonia is use some treatment options such as cognitive behavioral therapy to distract themselves; using in-ear devices like headphones, ear-plugs, and sound generators to diminish “trigger noises”. It can be severe enough to invoke a broad range of responses from annoyance to disgust to anger. It even results in verbal and physical aggression to those making the noise that is bothering the Misophonic. According to Mr. Gould, “We all have a sound we don’t like. Popcorn, wrappers, people texting. A lot of people who don’t have this, think a lot of these sounds are annoying but we don’t think they are annoying…it’s much worse than that. I get thoughts about hurting people who are making the sounds, it’s like a  horror film in your head and then you feel guilt. 99.9% don’t act out, they keep it in which leads to other issues: psychological. What I do is grunt…so to speak, because you have to let it out or you will explode.”

Further destructive reactions include depression, rage, and suicide. [The young girl in this trailer attempted suicide more than once:  https://vimeo.com/169136968]  Misophonia forces people to resort to coping mechanisms or in more extreme measures,  remove themselves from the situation or full out social withdrawal—“Unless you can create a life that protects you”, according to Mr. Gould. “ I mostly did that. I’m proactive about it.”

Researchers at the University of Amsterdam identified the following as the most common of irritating sounds for Misophonics in a 2013 study: Eating sounds like lip smacking, slurping, chewing gum, and swallowing; Breathing sounds like snoring and sneezing; and Hand sounds like tapping, typing, and clicking a pen. The common factor with all of these sounds is that they are all repetitive sounds but the disorder is not limited to repetitive sounds.  Repetitive movements like watching someone constantly scratching themselves or twirling their hair are visual triggers for a misophonic too.

Curiously, a good portion of the population with this condition tend to be creative people according to an article titled “Extra Annoyed By Chewing Sounds? You May Be A Creative Genius” dated October 27, 2015 by Kate Bratskeir, the Food and Health Editor of The Huffington Post.  Actress and talk show host Kelly Ripa has it.  The Today Show hosts Kathy Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb addressed the issue in a short segment on their program. Unfortunately they joked about the term Misophonia, likely  embarrassing those who suffer from it although Gifford did admit to a couple of sounds that get under her skin.  According to Mr. Gould: “I think a lot more people have it then they realize and most are afraid to “come out”. It can be used against you, like bullying”. Thus, their joking about misophonia wasn’t appreciated by those who have the condition. [ This is the link to their segment:

http://www.today.com/video/munch-munch-do-certain-everyday-sounds-drive-you-nuts-509412931554 ]

Mr. Gould further commented,  “I know it sounds like lunacy and I can laugh about it as well, but when you’re in the moment, it’s the worst part of your life. It’s physiological. You have no control over it…no logic.  Adrenaline rush, heart racing…” 

The film is getting quite the buzz. It has been mentioned in The Wall Street Journal and The Huffington Post. The trailer has already amassed over 80 thousand views and Mr. Gould has received hundreds of letters from around the world telling him that the trailer alone changed their lives. A woman flew in from Barcelona to interview him and see the premiere of the film on the 18th.  Hopefully this documentary on this rare and relatively recently diagnosed condition will be played at several film festivals. It is a fascinating film, full of raw emotion exhibited by the people suffering from misophonia and its effects on their social and familial relationships.

About this documentary, Mr. Gould commented on his journey filming it: “I spent 6 months building relationships and trust.It has totally consumed my life…some ways good, some ways bad…but I came out of it a different person, for the better. So a year ago,I didn’t believe in fate or any powers or any of that stuff. This film changed me; because I met people that were just too perfect for the film to just be by chance.”

By the skillful hand and eye of Mr. Gould, you can meet these people in this perfect film about misophonia.

For more information you can visit the website at www.quietpleasefilm.com

The film’s Facebook page can be found through this link:   https://www.facebook.com/QuietPleaseDocumentary