Paul’s Story

Consider the case of Paul, a middle-aged professional in good mental and physical health. He accepted a position in which he often received phone calls about problems he needed to handle. Paul developed a chest muscle contraction reflex to the default ringtone of his cell phone. It may be presumed that the chest muscle contraction was a physical response that accompanied the emotional reaction associated with the stress of the phone calls. He changed the ringtone, and the new one did not elicit the reflex; however, in time, the chest muscle contraction reflex developed to the new ringtone. He changed the ringtone several times, with the same result each time. Finally, he set his phone to vibrate only, and the reflex developed to the vibration ring of the phone. He also triggered to the ring of a phone on television, so it was clear that the sound elicited the reflex, independent of the caller or purpose of the call. In Paul’s own words, “I hear the ring and my chest muscles jump, and I don’t like it!” Paul’s presenting problem was limited to his irritation with the physical reflex. He did not experience any emotion similar to those accompanying the stressful phone calls. This reflex did not restrict or impair his activity in any way, but was still an aversive reflex to a typically occurring sound. I propose that any aversive muscle contraction reflex to sound or other stimuli could be termed a misophonic reflex.