Starting an experimental misophonia treatment that works with the body’s reflexes

I’m heading off in a new direction when it comes to seeking help for my misophonia, and I have no idea whether it will work.

I was recently contacted by a behavioral scientist who offered to try an experimental treatment on me, free of charge. Since I’ll try almost anything to get rid of my misophonia (that I can afford), I accepted the offer.

The behavioral scientist’s name is Tom Dozier, and here’s a link to his website for more information. Basically, his treatment focuses on the reflexes made in our medulla oblongata — Dozier calls it our “Lizard Brain” — which is the lower part of the brain stem. It controls basic human reflexes, such as blinking when you’re about to get hit in the face.

Plugging your ears during a loud noise can be a reflex for some people. So can blinking if a person thinks they are about to be struck in the face.

Plugging your ears during a loud noise can be a reflex for some people. So can blinking if a person thinks they are about to be struck in the face.

In one study on reflexes, for example, babies were exposed often to the smell of vanilla while they were in a calm state. Then, when they were crying, those same babies were exposed to the vanilla smell again, and it calmed them, because their brains had been trained to associate that smell with a calm state. Another more famous example is the Pavlov experiment. The scientist in that study rang a bell every time his dog was about to be fed, and after a while, just ringing the bell when no food was present made the dog salivate. The dog’s reflex had been retrained.

How does all of this apply to misophonia? Dozier’s theory is that misophonia happens when our reflexes are retrained in a negative way. Maybe you had high anxiety as a child, and while you were experiencing that stress, you were at the dinner table with your family, exposed to the sounds of them chomping or slurping down their meals. After a while, just hearing your family’s chewing noises began to trigger those feelings of stress and anxiety, and whatever physical reflex your body goes through when you hear the trigger. That could be a tensing of the shoulders, or a tightening of the chest muscles, for example.

In Dozier’s treatment, he tackles the physical reflexes his patients experience while hearing a trigger. He tries to interrupt the physical reflex right when it happens, to retrain that reflex. He exposes the patient to an audio snippet of a trigger noise, trying to trigger the patient only slightly. If that patient experiences a tensing of the shoulders, for example, then a family member could be on hand to immediately massage the shoulders after the trigger noise. Then, the “lizard brain” will stop associating the noise with anxiety, rage or fear and start associating the noise with the feelings one has during the shoulder massage, in theory.

According to Dozier, his experimental treatment has been successful with about 50 to 75 percent of his patients, but he’s only worked with about a dozen people. The treatment takes a while, because he works with one trigger sound at a time. I’m starting with the sound of a metal spoon hitting a ceramic bowl, but I have many, many more triggers than that.

So far, I’ve only had two sessions. Personally, I think I will have a more difficult time with this treatment method because my reflex response to misophonia triggers are mostly emotional. The only physical reflex I have when I experience a trigger sound is unwanted sexual arousal. I would have to figure out how to stop that reflex quickly in its tracks in order for the treatment to work.

For full disclosure, I think one of the reasons Dozier offered me free treatment is because he hopes I blog about my experiences here. I told him I probably would, and we have an understanding that I will be truthful and write whatever I want about my experience.

Dozier has a webinar you can watch for more information about his treatment. It takes a while to download, and you also have to download a software component to be able to view the webinar. If you don’t want to download the webinar on Dozier’s website, here is another webinar I found on youtube, but this one looks like it was done before Dozier started working with many of his misophonia patients.

Other treatment options

While we’re on the topic of treatments, a lot has been developing in our misophonia community. Please check out the Misophonia UK website’s list of treatments and coping strategies that have been helpful to some misophonia patients.

Also, there’s been quite a bit of buzz about a practice called neurofeedback, which some people say they are using with great success. I was interested in trying this technique, but honestly, it’s too expensive for me. I’ll probably wait to see whether more people find it useful before I decide to go down that path. But, if you’re interested, here’s a link to one practitioner’s website. From what I’ve read, she’s been using neurofeedback to treat several misophonia patients.

15 responses

  1. […] has been several months since I started working on an experimental treatment to tackle my Misophonia. The treatment has been hit-and-miss, with my reaction to some trigger […]

  2. Off topic – but have you ever heard of this? When certain people make a trigger noise (chewing gum) it drives me crazy and I want to scream, but when other people make the same noise (sometimes even louder or more apparent), I find myself liking the noise and wanting to listen more. It seems that I hate when my family chews gum, but really like listening to some others (not everyone) chew it and almost seek it out. Have you ever heard of this? My reactions to sounds aren’t normal. It seems like I hate and love certain sounds more than is normal. For example, the sound of a person typing on a keyboard is so soothing, I used to have my friend come into my dorm room to type her emails before I went to sleep. I’d just like to know if anyone else has these experiences.

  3. Hello, someone left me a comment on April 5, 2014, regarding misophonia and sexual arousal. They did not want me to publish the comment but they wanted me to reply to them. I’m not ignoring you, I just can’t reply unless I post the comment. Instead, please feel free to email me at mymisophonia (at) gmail (dot) com, and I can respond. Thanks.

  4. In my mind the major flaw in Tom Dozier’s theory is the idea that the misophonic response is somehow “learned”. All the reading I have done in the past few years suggests that misophonia is a neurologically based sensory processing disorder and has more to do with your brain’s hard-wiring, and this is why such CBT techniques as exposure therapy are not helpful but usually further traumatize the sufferer.

    I am personally very nervous about what he is doing and the potential harm it could cause. He does not seem to have the support of the rest of the misophonia community, including researchers. I am glad you feel more confident and hope that you are right but I don’t think I would ever try anything like what he describes myself and am skeptical that the folks who’ve been “cured” even had what current research identifies as misophonia in the first place. It seems like a homeopathic approach to misophonia when homeopathy is questionable at best:

  5. Tom Dozier and Dr Scott Sessions are offering 400 dollar appointment to misophonia patients in Anaheim.

    Steep price when there isn’t much proof of the treatment’s efficacy. Also, the only Dr Scott Sessions I can find in California is a plastic surgeon. There’s no mention of any expertise in audiology or stress management.

    I know from experience how difficult it is to cope with misophonia and sincerely hope that a cure is found.

    To anyone reading this, please proceed with caution and make sure to check the background of health professionals before parting with your money.

    1. Hi Miso Worrier. It’s my understanding that Dr. Sessions is based in Wyoming. But it is always good advice to do your research and proceed with caution when pursuing help for Misophonia. There’s no silver bullet to cure the condition.

  6. Any update on the Dozier treatment by any chance? I am desperately seeking some kind of misophonia treatment – CBT did not help.

    1. Hi Kat. Long story short: I am seeing some reductions in my response to trigger sounds, but progress is slow going. The treatment has me working on one trigger at a time. My first triggers I worked on were typing and spoon-on-bowl sounds. Now I’m working on snoring. I can now be in an environment where people are typing, but spoon-on-bowl noise is still somewhat bothersome. Hope that helps. It’s a long process, and I want to give the treatment more time before I write a full update. Best of luck to you!

  7. Do you have a moment to update us on Tim Dozier’s “Trigger Tamer” app and working with him. I’ve been working with him for a few weeks. No big change yet in my response to the trigger I’m playing on the app for 30 minutes a day. I can listed to the recorded trigger noise a lot more than at first, but when I get to the office each morning the actual trigger from my coworker is just as powerful as ever. Just wondering if You’ve had any small success yet? Thanks for sharing your experience. Tom’s work seemed more hopful than anything else so far, but no great results for me yet.

  8. Hi, I clicked the link to Mr. Dozier’s website and it goes to “Misophonia Treatment Center”. Have you been there? Worth visiting? I live in Sacramento and have this problem. I have been seeing an audiologist at UCSF and am trying to get reasonable accommodation from my work because of the issue. I am also concerned about the cost of therapy because most of them don’t deal with misophonia directly.

    1. Hi Brad, I haven’t been there. I do my sessions with Dozier through online video calls. I think it would be worth visiting him if you think his treatment would be helpful. If it’s a long drive for you, you could try to set up a phone call or video call to get to know him and his services a bit better first. Good luck!

    2. Brad, who do you see at UCSF? I didn’t know they had anyone there who treated Misophonia? We live close to them….I would love a referral.

      1. I had a “consultation” with Jennifer Henderson-Sabes. She provided recommendations for ways to try and reduce effects of misophonia such as reducing stress, music therapy, behavioral therapy etc. The best thing however right now is she is helping me with reasonable accommodation with my work so that I may get time off from work here and there and for potential therapy. The consultatation was about $300 and not covered by insurance. Unfortunately, it was coded wrong and I am still dealing with UCSF financial and appealing $900 additional in charges for the one visit back in May.

        1. Brad thank you for the reply. I am sorry they coded it incorrectly! Always something!

  9. Thank you so much for this info. For 41 years now I have been getting treated for OCD, and I have just learned in the past year that no, I’m not crazy…I have misophonia! In an odd sort of way, it’s a relief to know that my strange aversion to certain sounds now has an official name. I recently spent a boatload of money ($3500) on the white/pink noise generators/hearing aids. Total disappointment for me, for they didn’t make any difference. Am anxious to get some relief, and it’s comforting to know that other sufferers are out there!

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