Friday, May 11, 2012

Noise Anxiety

As I get older, I learn more and more.

I always used to think I was just intolerant and needed to accept certain things in life, because most other people were not annoyed by thing things that bothered me.  As a matter of fact, most people didn't even notice them. 

The perspective on the T.V. - if it isn't set right and people are stretched too much either horizontally or vertically - well, it drives me nuts.  It's like a mild version of fingernails on a chalkboard.  Cigarette smoke - I can smell it if the person in the car in front of me is smoking ... even when the window is rolled up.  People saying "axed" instead of "asked", or "seen" instead of "saw" - those things bug me, too.  Intolerant, right?  I don't want to be.  But that's just who I am.

Well, another one of these annoying things for me are noises.  Especially other people's noises.  I HATED living in apartments because I could hear other people walking, or playing music, and it just got me agitated.  And I wondered how other people could stand living in apartments with that aggravation.  Or maybe I had the only noisy neighbours ...

Even now, I will point out a pounding bass line from someone's home or car stereo and my husband will say "what music?"  He won't notice it, and will barely be able to hear it when pointed out to him.  It certainly doesn't bother him, but it makes me want to hit someone.  A pounding bass line, when I cannot hear the music, is one of the few things in the world that will instantly make me angry every time. 

Just yesterday, I went to a restaurant with my In-Laws and the music playing over the speakers in the restaurant was not the same as the loud music that was playing in the kitchen - the bass line of which was coming through the wall.  No one else noticed.  I worked very hard to ignore it.

Well, lo and behold if being hypersensitive to sound isn't a symptom of anxiety.  Who'd a thunk it?  Well, I didn't even really think about it until someone I am close to started having something called "meta-anxiety" in relation to neighbour noises in an apartment.  Meta-anxiety is basically having anxiety about having anxiety.  It is an enigma that I'm sure a lot of people can relate to ... and some of you will think is just ridiculous and self-indulgent.  But for those who suffer with it, it is very real and not something that you can turn off.  So this person I know is having anxiety in anticipation of the neighbours coming home and making noise which will cause anxiety.

I found the following quote here:

"Noise anxiety is a condition which is characterized by an extreme sensitivity to noise. Someone with noise anxiety suffers a variety of stress and anxiety related emotions when he or she is exposed to certain types of noises; these emotions can range from a general sense of uneasiness to aggression. Living with noise anxiety can be extremely frustrating, and the condition can be difficult to treat; typically the assistance of a skilled therapist is required.

"A very general term, noise anxiety is sometimes used to describe a variety of different conditions. For some people with anxiety disorders, certain loud noises — or even extended periods of silence — can cause anxiety to build; phonophobia is a fear of loud noises. A condition sometimes called misophonia is an intolerance to certain sounds, usually causing an intense reaction like rage. Hyperacusis, which can have many causes, is an over-sensitivity to noises in a certain auditory range, sometimes causing pain or stress.

"Some people are more at risk for noise anxiety than others. People suffering from depression or anxiety are more likely to develop a general noise anxiety, as are women and introverts. The condition can emerge at any time, often in response to an increase of stress. The noise induced anxiety can, in turn, heighten the sense of stress and unease, thereby making the sufferer even more anxious, depressed, or upset. This can contribute to a generally distressed mental state which can be problematic for the sufferer."

I did start to deal with these noise anxiety issues better when I realized that the boom boom boom of a bass line reminded me of the distant sounds of someone yelling in another part of the house. My animal brain was getting tensed up to deal with a fight every time I heard that baseline.

But even better, now that I know that I'm not alone, that a lot of people with Anxiety issues have this problem as well, it is easier to deal with.  The guy across the alley who plays the drums - well, I seem to be able to ignore it a little better - and it doesn't make me want to storm over to his garage and break his sticks over his head.  And the music the teen aged girl plays in the backyard next door - same thing.  I don't want to throw the stereo in the water barrel.  I know it will end eventually and that they should be able to enjoy their music, too.  If it does start to get annoying, I'll get noise-cancelling headphones and listen to my iPod.


  1. This was really interesting. I think I knew this on some level, but it's always nice to hear it confirmed. I always figured that noise anxiety had something to do with how we were raised. For example - I HATE rough-housing. When Jay and Alex start up, I just want to storm out of the room I get so angry. And I KNOW it comes from when I was younger, and my Mom's boyfriend would rough house with his son, and it was almost always followed by mom screaming at them to stop. So, I get tense when it starts - anticipating an outraged parent coming barreling in to the room, and any and all miserable interactions that always followed. So interesting...

  2. I know exactly how you feel, unfortunately. I currently live in an apartment with only one other apartment connected to it. The girl living downstairs is not at all boisterous, or noisy, but I'm constantly terrified and anxious from common sounds such as walking, and shutting doors. It's gotten to the point where I cannot sleep and need to take medication more than once daily. I don't know how to deal with this. My husband tells me to go to a therapist, but I've been to therapy before and I don't see what a therapist can do for me. I don't think my anxiety has ever been this bad, and I'm finding it debilitating. I thi k it stems from childhood, when my mother would always jump if someone slammed a door, and I have tried to rationalize and not let it get to me as much, but all my attemps have failed. Do you have any advice for me? I would appreciate anything that could help. How are you dealing with it? Michelle

  3. Michelle - I don't know where you live or what your health care is like, but I would suggest seeing your doctor. There may be medications that will take the edge off, and I think your husband might have a point with regards to therapy. However, for the immediate moment, you need to get over the hump, as it were. So go to your doctor and discuss your options.


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