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Eating Disorders Statistics

This week I want to explore the ugly side of fitness: eating disorders. I think I can safely make the statement, that everyone who works in the fitness industry has had a run-in, if not themselves, than with someone suffering from an eating disorder. In an industry that focuses 100% on every aspect of your outward appearance, it is hard to escape the clutches of “am I thin enough”, “am I fit enough”?

To get started, we’re going to look at the boring- but vital- statistics. Some of these are startling, read on:

General:

  • Almost 50% of people with eating disorders meet the criteria for depression.
  • Only 1 in 10 men and women with eating disorders receive treatment. Only 35% of people that receive treatment for eating disorders get treatment at a specialized facility for eating disorders.
  • Up to 24 million people of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder (anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder) in the U.S.
  • It is estimated that 8 million Americans have eating disorders – seven million women and one million men.
  • 1 in 200 American women suffers from anorexia.
  • 2-3 in 100 American women suffers from bulimia.
  • Nearly half of all Americans personally know someone with an eating disorder.
  • An estimated 10 – 15% of people with anorexia or bulimia are males.

Students:

  • 91% of women surveyed on a college campus had attempted to control their weight through dieting. 22% dieted “often” or “always.”
  • 86% report onset of eating disorder by age 20; 43% report onset between ages of 16 and 20.
  • Anorexia is the third most common chronic illness among adolescents.
  • 95% of those who have eating disorders are between the ages of 12 and 25.
  • 50% of girls between the ages of 11 and 13 see themselves as overweight.
  • 80% of 13-year-olds have attempted to lose weight.
  • 25% of college-aged women engage in bingeing and purging as a weight-management technique.
  • The mortality rate associated with anorexia nervosa is 12 times higher than the death rate associated with all causes of death for females 15-24 years old.
  • Over one-half of teenage girls and nearly one-third of teenage boys use unhealthy weight control behaviors such as skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, vomiting, and taking laxatives.
  • In a survey of 185 female students on a college campus, 58% felt pressure to be a certain weight, and of the 83% that dieted for weight loss, 44% were of normal weight.

Men:

  • An estimated 10-15% of people with anorexia or bulimia are male.
  • Men are less likely to seek treatment for eating disorders because of the perception that they are “woman’s diseases.”
  • Among gay men, nearly 14% appeared to suffer from bulimia and over 20% appeared to be anorexic.

Media, Perception, Dieting:

  • 95% of all dieters will regain their lost weight within 5 years.
  • 35% of “normal dieters” progress to pathological dieting. Of those, 20-25% progress to partial or full-syndrome eating disorders.
  • The body type portrayed in advertising as the ideal is possessed naturally by only 5% of American females.
  • 47% of girls in 5th-12th grade reported wanting to lose weight because of magazine pictures.
  • 69% of girls in 5th-12th grade reported that magazine pictures influenced their idea of a perfect body shape.
  • 42% of 1st-3rd grade girls want to be thinner (Collins, 1991).
  • 81% of 10 year olds are afraid of being fat (Mellin et al., 1991).
  • Essence magazine, in 1994, reported that 53.5% of their respondents, African-American females were at risk of an eating disorder Collins, M.E. (1991).

 For Women:

  • Women are much more likely than men to develop an eating disorder. Only an estimated 5 to 15 percent of people with anorexia or bulimia are male.
  • An estimated 0.5 to 3.7 percent of women suffer from anorexia nervosa in their lifetime. Research suggests that about 1 percent of female adolescents have anorexia.
  • An estimated 1.1 to 4.2 percent of women have bulimia nervosa in their lifetime.
  • An estimated 2 to 5 percent of Americans experience binge-eating disorder in a 6-month period.
  • About 50 percent of people who have had anorexia develop bulimia or bulimic patterns.
  • 20% of people suffering from anorexia will prematurely die from complications related to their eating disorder, including suicide and heart problems.

Mortality Rates:

  • Although eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental disorder,  the mortality rates reported on those who suffer from eating disorders can vary considerably between studies and sources. Part of the reason why there is a large variance in the reported number of deaths caused by eating disorders is because those who suffer from an eating disorder may ultimately die of heart failure, organ failure, malnutrition or suicide. Often, the medical complications of death are reported instead of the eating disorder that  compromised a person’s health.
  • A study by the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders reported that 5 – 10% of anorexics die within 10 years after contracting the disease; 18-20% of anorexics will be dead after 20 years and only 30 – 40% ever fully recover.
  • The mortality rate associated with Anorexia Nervosa is 12 times higher than the death rate of ALL causes of death for females 15 – 24 years old.
  • 20% of people suffering from anorexia will prematurely die from complications related to their eating disorder, including suicide and heart problems.

Athletes:

  • Risk Factors: In judged sports – sports that score participants – prevalence of eating disorders is 13% (compared with 3% in refereed sports).
  • Significantly higher rates of eating disorders found in elite athletes (20%), than in a female control group (9%).
  • Female athletes in aesthetic sports (e.g. gynmastics, ballet, figure skating) found to be at the highest risk for eating disorders.
  • A comparison of the psychological profiles of athletes and those with anorexia found these factors in common: perfectionism, high self-expectations, competitiveness, hyperactivity, repetitive exercise routines, compulsiveness, drive, tendency toward depression, body image distortion, pre-occupation with dieting and weight.

ACCESS TO TREATMENT

  • Only 1 in 10 people with eating disorders receive treatment.
  • About 80% of the girls/women who have accessed care for their eating disorders do not get the intensity of treatment they need to stay in recovery – they are often sent home weeks earlier than the recommended stay.
  • Treatment of an eating disorder in the US ranges from $500 per day to $2,000 per day. The average cost for a month of inpatient treatment is $30,000. It is estimated that individuals with eating disorders need anywhere from 3 – 6 months of inpatient care. Health insurance companies for several reasons do not typically cover the cost of treating eating disorders.
  • The cost of outpatient treatment, including therapy and medical monitoring, can extend to $100,000 or more.

Sources:

http://www.anad.org/get-information/about-eating-disorders/eating-disorders-statistics/

Body figure perceptions and preferences among pre-adolescent children. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 199-208. Mellin, L., McNutt, S., Hu, Y., Schreiber, G.B., Crawford, P., & Obarzanek, E. (1991). A longitudinal study of the dietary practices of black and white girls 9 and 10 years old at enrollment: The NHLBI growth and health study. Journal of Adolescent Health, 23-37.


Truth or Myth?

Here are three “myths” that can’t really be debunked- because no one is really sure if they are myths or not! Check out these “Up for Debate” fitness myths from outsideonline.com

Up for Debate: Massage boosts recovery

In a 2010 study, Canadian researchers had 12 healthy young men squeeze a hand grip until their arm muscles were spent, then had a certified sports-massage therapist give half of them a rubdown. The other half received no such pampering. Surprisingly, the ­massages did not increase blood flow to the men’s muscles—one of the primary reasons athletes seek bodywork after a strenuous workout. Additionally, researchers concluded that a massage “actually impairs removal of lactic acid from exercised ­muscle.”

Missing Link:
Studies are needed that examine whether post-exercise massage might have other benefits. Most athletes swear they feel better after being kneaded, but so far there’s no evidence at the cellular level to justify the indulgence.

Up for Debate: Surgery is best for an ACL tear

A landmark study on torn ACLs published in 2010 in the New England Journal of Medicine led to heated disagreement about the effectiveness of going under the knife. Researchers randomly assigned either surgery or physical therapy to a group of 121 active adults who’d suffered an ACL tear. After two years, the groups’ knees were similar in terms of function and pain, showing that there was little advantage to the surgery.

Missing link: Finding a better way to repair wracked knees. While plenty of athletes have come back from an ACL tear at an extremely high level—surgery and physical therapy can usually restore basic knee stability—many never reach peak performance again. In current ACL surgery, injured tissue is often replaced. But some surgeons are experimenting with reconstructing the ligament with new forms of tissue grafts, which could produce better long-term outcomes.

Up for Debate: Cortisone Shots Speed Healing

Although they can provide immediate pain relief for soft-tissue injuries such as tennis ­elbow and Achilles tendinopathy, the shots can slow healing over the long term, according to a number of new studies. A comprehensive review of the available research published last year found that people who’d received cortisone shots had a much lower rate of full recovery than those who’d done nothing at all. Plus, they had a 63 percent higher risk of relapse.

Missing link: Trying to figure out exactly what’s going on inside overtaxed tendons and ligaments. In fact, scientists don’t fully understand the mechanics of injuries like tennis elbow and Achilles problems, so they don’t know how best to treat them—except to say that cortisone shots don’t appear to do the trick.


You’ve Lost the Weight- Now What?

I found an excellent article I had stashed away since 2008! This article, written by Camille Noe Pagan and published in Fitness Magazine,  is all about keeping your goal weight, once you’ve finally hit it. There are a lot of great mental health tips in here as well- if you have lost weight and are feeling bad habits creep back in, or if you’ve just begun your journey to a healthy body, you must read this article. Enjoy!

Life After Weight Loss (the truth no one tells you)

You finally lost the extra pounds; good for you! You’ve achieved what more than half of all Americans are still struggling to do. But here’s something few trainers, dieticians or magazine will tell you; After you reach your goal, you’re not done. Complete your success story using these 7 easy steps.

When Heather Radi traded fast food for a high-protein diet and regular exercise last year, she earned a slimmer figure, more energy and lower blood pressure in return. She also wound up with a “stomach that looked like a deflated balloon”, says the 27-year-old publicist from Miami. “Don’t get me wrong, my life is much better now that I’m 80 pounds lighter. But I wish I’d known that losing it wasn’t the final step.”

The truth is, weight loss is a journey that continues well past the day your goal number registers on the scale. “Whether you lose 30 pounds or 200, you need to be mentally prepared for what happens next,” says Madelyn Fernstrom, Ph.D., director of the Weight Management Center at the university of Pittsburgh Medical Center. “The more ready you are, thebetter you’ll be able to cope and keep the pounds off.” Find out what really happens after you shed the pounds- and what steps you can take to get the figure and mind-set you want, for good.

Step One: Learn to love the limelight

“After I lost 120 pounds, I struggled with the comments I received,” says Pamela Monfredo, 32, a teacher in Melville, New York. “Guys who had never glanced my way were flirting with me; people held doors open; strangers complimented me. After years of feeling invisible, I was overwhelmed.”

Being heavy- with the social pressures and the self-blame tat can go along with it- can do a number on a person’s self-esteem, explains Martin Binks, Ph.D., director of behavioral health at the Duke Diet and Fitness Center in Durham, North Carolina. And that doesn’t magically disappear when the weight is gone. The result: “Newly thin people may feel unworthy of the fuss others make over their success,” says Binks. The best way to coax yourself into feeling worthy? Say thank you the next time you get a compliment, even if you’re dying to tell the person she’s wrong. “If you give credibility to the negative voice inside, then you’ll never fully accept your achievement,” he says.

Consider seeing a cognitive-behavioral therapist, who can help you shift your feelings and behaviors with an action plan, if you’re still struggling after several months. Monfredo did: “My therapist helped me stop worrying about how to respond to compliments. If I reacted awkwardly, it was a learning experience; I’d try to be more graceful next time. It was a bumpy road, but today I’m finally comfortable.”

Step Two: Tone and tighten

“Based on the number of women who seek surgery to correct loose skin after weight loss [about 66,000 in 2006], it’s a prevalent issue,” says Richard D’Amico, M.D., president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. Although sagginess is more common in women 30 years old and up (elasticity decreases with age) and in those who lose 70 pounds or more, younger women who drop as little as 20 pounds may be left with extra skin, says Dr. D’Amico.

The safest (and cheapest) way to tighten your skin is through strength training, says Lawrence J. Cheskin, M.D., director of the Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center in Baltimore. “Building muscles in virtually nay area of the body can ‘fill out’ the skin and give you a firmer appearance.”

“If you work your major muscle groups three of four times a week for 60-90 minutes, you’ll likely see an improvement within two months,” says Nicole Glor, a certified personal trainer in New York City. To help women reach their goals, she makes sure her clients lift the right weights. An Ohio State University study found that nearly everyone without a trainer or experience underestimates the amount of weight they should be lifting, usually by 50 percent. Glor suggests gradually increasing the heft of the dumbbells: Started with 8 pounds? Move to 10, then 15 after about a month.

If you remain unsatisfied with the firmness of your skin after about nine months of regular, targeted strength training at your goal weight, and you lost 100 pounds or more, you may want to mull over body-contouring surgery, which removes and tightens excess skin. The latest numbers show that 63 percent of thigh and upper-arm body-contouring surgeries in 2006 were performed on patients following drastic weight loss; that’s an increase of about 30 percent in three years according to the American Soceity of Plastic Surgeons. A recent survey from the National Women’s Health Resource Center found that weight loss is one of the leading reasons women choose to have breast lifts, reductions and/or implants. After breast surgery, abdominoplasty (aka a tummy tuck) is most popular, followed by body lifts, which tighten skin all over the body.

The downside: Surgery is a risk, it can take weeks to recover, and some scarring is inevitable. Plus, it’s pricey.  The average cost of a tummy tuck, for instance, is $5,000- and insurance most likely won’t cover the cost.

Step Three: Put the sizzle back in sex

People who lost an average of 13 percent body fat over the course of two years felt more attractive and enjoyed sex more post-slim-sown, according to a report from the Duke Diet and Fitness Center. But while your libido may be sky-high after weight loss, if you lose more than 40 pounds, estrogen levels may plummet, lowering lubrication and making intercourse uncomfortable. If it happens, don’t panic. “It’s usually temporary, especially if you’re not in menopause,” says Rosemarie Schulman, R.N., coauthor of Tipping the Scales. Use an over-the-counter lube until your natural lubrication returns after three to six months.

Step Four: Strengthen your bonds

“The vast majority of women emerge from weight loss with at least one altered relationship,” says Binks. “Some friends may fear you’ll become different after losing weight; others may feel threatened by your success or upset that you no longer want to do unhealthy things, like skip the gym to hang out.”

LEslie Engel, 39, a marketing manager from Chicago, learned that firsthand. “When I decided to lose weight five years ago, one of my closest friends was clearly threatened,” she says. “She criticized my diet plan and tried to upstage me when people complimented my figure. It really hurt, and eventually I let the relationship fade away. I realized she just wanted me to be her fat friend.”

If this happens to you, “say something like, ‘I know my weight loss is a big change, but I need your support. Do you think that’s possible?’,” says Brinks. If her attitude persists, it’s time to reevaluate the relationship. “As we grow and change, people fall in and out of our lives- and after weight loss is no exception. That doesn’t mean you didn’t have a good friendship. It just means that its time has passed.”

Step Five: Rev your metabolism

Your metabolism will temporarily slow after you lose weight. “Your body is used to running on more calories,” explains Cheskin. “So when you’re eating less for weight loss, your body begins to act as is it’s being short-changed. Your metabolism slows in an attempt to conserve fuel.” Offset the lull by eating healthy snacks, like an apple with peanut butter, or mini-meals every three or four hours. “You’ll ward off hunger, an becasue your body burns calories when digesting food, your metabolism will be more consistently revved,” Cheskin says. Son’t leave exercise out of the equation; it’s key for burning more calories.

Step Six: Revamp your medicine cabinet

When you lose weight, you may also ease or reverse conditions like Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. If you used to take medication for them, you may not need to now, says Cheskin. (To know for sure, consult your physician throughout your weight-loss progress.) And because you weigh less, you likely need lower doses for other drugs, too. For example, a woman who weighs 200 pounds may take two extra-strength Motrin to cope with knee pain- but once she drops to 130 pounds, just one regular-strength pill may do the trick. “While overdosing is rare, you still want to be careful,” says Cheskin, “particularly if you take meds that can affect the liver, heart or other organs, such as diabetes or cholesterol drugs.”

Step Seven: Embrace imperfection

“I always assumed the world would roll out the red carpet for me if only I were thin. So when I finally shed those 40 extra pounds I’d been carrying, I was truly surprised that my problems didn’t disappear,” says Nicole Corey, 29, an office manager in Chandler, Arizona. “Most people who are overweight think being thin will drastically improve their lives,” says Ed Abramson, Ph.D., author of Body Intelligence. “And it does in many ways as far as better health and less social stigma.” But it’s important to be realistic about what weight loss can’t do- like fix a bad marriage or bolster a less-than-exciting career. “If your reality and your expectations don’t mesh, it’s easy to feel disillusioned and return to bad habits, like overeating, to make yourself feel better,” Abramson says.

To avoid that setback, give yourself regular reminders- verbally or in a journal- that you have the ability to change aspects of your life that you dislike, no matter what you weigh. “If there’s something you’re not happy about, such as your job, start putting the effort in to fixing it,” Abramson says. “Taking concrete action will boost your self-worth.” It’s also a good idea to take stock of why you decided to lose weight in the first place, like Corey did: “After a few months of stewing, it finally occurred to me that I slimmed down for my health, not to get a better job or more friends. Life may not be perfect now, but I’ve never felt better.”


Avoid Free-Weight Injuries

Many women avoid free-weights; or when they do use weights, they injure themselves. Here is a great article, written by Michelle Hamilton on strength training.

No Pain, All Gain!

Strength training tones muscle and burns fat- when you do it right. Reap the benefits while warding off injuries with these tips.

Women are hitting the weight room in record numbers, and a new study found that weight-training injuries among women have jumped a whopping 63 percent. Here are the most common slipups and how to fix them, so you leave the gym strutting- not limping.

The Mistake

Skipping Your Warm-Up

You wouldn’t launch into an all-out sprint the second you stepped onto a treadmill, so you shouldn’t jump right into deadlifts the instant you hit the weight room. “Working cold, stiff muscles can lead to sprains and tears,” says Morey Kolber, Ph.D., a professor of physical therapy at Nova Southeastern University in Florida. “Warming up increases circulation and improves range of motion, which preps your muscles and joints for action.”

The fix: “While opinions about static stretching may differ, a dynamic warm-up can decrease your risk for injury,” says exercise physiologist Marco Borges, author of Power Moves. After five to ten minutes of walking or jogging, do 10 to 12 lunges and pushups (the bent-knee version is fine) before starting your routine.

 

The Mistake

Using Sloppy Form

Experts agree that proper form is the single most important factor in injury prevention yet many women don’t give it a lot of thought- especially when they’re in a rush. And women, thanks to their naturally wider hips, are more at risk for form-related injuries than men are: One study found that women had nearly twice as many leg and foot injuries as guys did.

The fix: Before you begin any exercise, think S.E.A.K., says trainer Robbi Shveyd, owner of Advanced Wellness in San Francisco: Stand straight (head over shoulders; shoulders over hips; hips over feet), eyes on the horizon (looking down encourages your shoulders to round and your chest to lean forward), abs tight (as if you were about to be punched in the gut, but without holding your breath; this helps stabilize your pelvis), and knees over your second toe (women’s knees have a tendency to turn in because of the angle created by wider hips, says Joan Pagano, author of Strength Training for Women).

 

The Mistake

Stressing Out Your Shoulders

As crazy as it sounds, women who lift weights tend to have less-stable shoulder joints than women who don’t lift at all, found a recent study. The reason: Doing too many exercises in which your elbows are pulled behind your body (think chest flies and rows) can overstretch the connective tissue in the front of the joints. If the backs of your shoulders are tight, you’re even more likely to overstretch the front, increasing the imbalance at the joint, says Kolber.

The fix: Modify your moves. First, don’t allow your elbows to extend more than two inches behind your body. In the lowering phase of a bench press, for example, stop when your elbows are just behind you. Second, avoid positioning a bar behind you. Bring the lat-pulldown bar in front of your shoulders, and when you’re doing an overhead press, use dumbbells instead of a bar and keep the weights in your line of vision (meaning just slightly in front of your head).

 

The Mistake

Neglecting  Opposite Muscle Groups

“Many women have strength imbalances, which can make them more prone to injury,” says Shveyd. Sometimes they’re the result of your lifestyle (hovering over a desk all day, for example, tightens and weakens your hip flexors while your glutes become overstretched and inactive). Other times they’re caused by not working both sides of the both equally (say, focusing on moves that rely on your quads but not your hamstrings).

The fix: For every exercise that works the front of the body (chest, biceps, quads), be sure to do an exercise that targets the rear (back, triceps, hamstrings). For instance, pair stability-ball chest presses with dumbbell rows, or step-ups with deadlifts.

 

The Mistake

Doing Too Much Too Soon

A lot of people think that more is better- more reps, more sets, more weight. But if you increase any of these things too quickly, your body may not be able to handle the extra workload. “Gradual conditioning prevents injuries such as torn ligaments and tendonitis, because your muscles and connective tissues have time to adapt,” says Pagano.

The fix: Practice a three-step progression. First, learn to do a move using only your body weight. “When you can do 15 reps with proper form, add weight,” says Pagano. Second, stick to one set with light weights for two weeks or until you feel comfortable with the move. And finally, when you can complete nearly all of your reps with proper form, add another set or more weight (increase weight by roughly 10 percent each time).


Sleep Week: Trouble in Bed

Everyone has the occasional sleepless night, but what happens when the sleepless nights outweigh the nights of good sleep?  This week I’m going to focus on sleep, and how you can be getting more, and better rest. Articles can be found on Health.com

Trouble sleeping?

By Gail Belsky

The term sleep disorder may suggest someone tossing and turning all night, but lying awake for hours with insomniais just one example of many conditions that affect how you sleep and function during the day. In fact, you can have a sleep disorderand not even know it.

How long to snooze

There’s no normal number of hours that quantifies a good sleep. Most adults need seven to nine hours a night; others manage just fine with six. It’s even possible to get too much sleep, because spending excess time in bed can be a sign of another health problem, such as depression or chronic fatigue syndrome.

Finding your own ideal sleep/wake cycle is key to healthy sleep, says Carol Ash, medical director of the Sleep for Life center in Hillsborough, N.J.

Lack of sleep harms health

In a British study, scientists also found that people who are consistently sleep deprived (defined as sleeping five hours or less a night) are at greater risk for high blood pressure and cardiovascular problems.

Insufficient sleep also raises your risk for obesity, diabetes, depression, alcoholism, and automobile accidents. Plus, a 2007 University of California–Berkeley study confirmed the obvious: Sleep deprivation directly affects areas of the brain that deal with mood and concentration.

Signs of healthy sleep

Doctors need to look at both the quantity and the quality of sleep to detect a problem. When it comes to sleep quality, problems aren’t always obvious to patients. An insomniac who lies awake at night can easily tell that something is wrong, for example, but someone with sleep apneamight have no idea there’s a problem.

The most telling sign of a disorder is how you feel during the day. If you generally wake up alert and refreshed, you’re a healthy sleeper. If you chronically wake up sleepy, irritable, and unfocused, you may have a sleep disorder.


A Gnawing Problem

A friend sent me this fantastic article on sound aversion. If you’ve ever had an issue listening to someone chewing loudly or sloppily, you may have gotten a taste of what this condition, misophonia, can be like for some people. Written by Joyce Cohen, published in New York Times.

When a Chomp or a Slurp Is a Trigger for Outrage

For people with a condition that some scientists call misophonia, mealtime can be torture. The sounds of other people eating — chewing, chomping, slurping, gurgling — can send them into an instantaneous, blood-boiling rage.

Or as Adah Siganoff put it, “rage, panic, fear, terror and anger, all mixed together.”

“The reaction is irrational,” said Ms. Siganoff, 52, of Alpine, Calif. “It is typical fight or flight” — so pronounced that she no longer eats with her husband.

Many people can be driven to distraction by certain small sounds that do not seem to bother others — gum chewing, footsteps, humming. But sufferers of misophonia, a newly recognized condition that remains little studied and poorly understood, take the problem to a higher level.

They also follow a strikingly consistent pattern, experts say. The condition almost always begins in late childhood or early adolescenceand worsens over time, often expanding to include more trigger sounds, usually those of eating and breathing.

“I don’t think 8- or 9-year-olds choose to wake up one morning and say, ‘Today my dad’s chewing is going to drive me insane,’ ” said Marsha Johnson, an audiologist in Portland, Ore., who runs an online forum for people with misophonia.

But that is what happens, she said, adding, “Soon the kid doesn’t want to come to the table or go to school.”

Aage R. Moller, a neuroscientist at the University of Texas at Dallas who specializes in the auditory nervous system, included misophonia in the “Textbook of Tinnitus,” a 2010 medical guide of which he was an editor.

He believes the condition is hard-wired, like right- or left-handedness, and is probably not an auditory disorder but a “physiological abnormality” that resides in brain structures activated by processed sound.

There is “no known effective treatment,” Dr. Moller said. Patients often go from doctor to doctor, searching in vain for help.

Dr. Johnson agreed. “These people have been diagnosed with a lot of different things: phobic disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, bipolar, manic, anxiety disorders,” she said.

Dr. Johnson’s interest was piqued when she saw her first case in 1997. “This is not voluntary,” she said. “Usually they cry a lot because they’ve been told they can control this if they want to. This is not their fault. They didn’t ask for it and they didn’t make it up.” And as adults, they “don’t outgrow it,” she said. “They structure their lives around it.”

Taylor Benson, a 19-year-old sophomore at Creighton University in Omaha, says many mouth noises, along with sniffling and gum chewing, make her chest tighten and her heart pound. She finds herself clenching her fists and glaring at the person making the sound.

“This condition has caused me to lose friends and has caused numerous fights,” she said.

Misophonia (“dislike of sound”) is sometimes confused with hyperacusis, in which sound is perceived as abnormally loud or physically painful. But Dr. Johnson says they are not the same. “These people like sound, the louder the better,” she said of misophonia patients. “The sounds they object to are soft, hardly audible sounds.” One patient is driven crazy by her beloved dog licking its paws. Another can’t bear the pop of the plosive “p” in ordinary conversation.

When people with the disorder can’t avoid the sounds, they sometimes try earplugs to block them, or white-noise devices to mask them.

Family links are common. Ms. Siganoff suspects her father had the condition, too. “He would buy us new shoes and complain we were walking too loud,” she said.

The prevalence is unknown. Dr. Johnson’s Yahoo group, soundsensitivity, has about 1,700 members worldwide. One member, a man from Canberra, Australia, runs soundsensitivity.info, an informational site for the general public.

Meanwhile, those with the condition cope as best they can. Ms. Siganoff says she remains enraged until she says something like “shut up” or “stop it.”

“If I don’t say anything, the rage builds,” she said. “That vocalization is enough to stop the reaction.” (Echolalia, or mimicking the offensive sound, is common, Dr. Johnson said.)

As a young adolescent at the dinner table, Heidi Salerno tried to discreetly plug her ears or chew in sync with others so her own chewing noises would drown theirs out.

Doctors told her she was too controlling, said Ms. Salerno, 44, a lawyer in San Diego. “But there are many things I am not in control of, and I don’t feel rage about it,” she said. “I was always brushed off.”

Ms. Salerno shuts her office door against bothersome sounds like pen clicking. She is a champion swing dancer, and when she teaches dance she prohibits gum chewing in class, telling her students, “If you are chewing gum, I will be distracted.”

Donna McDow, 57, a retired secretary who lives near Los Angeles, tries a different tack, telling people she has a bad headache. “Everybody understands a headache,” she said. “Nobody understands what we have.”


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