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Everyone is familiar with the squirmy, muscle-clenching response to hearing nails on a chalkboard. But I have known people to have this same response to other stimuli, such as:

  • Velvety fabrics
  • Styrofoam
  • Nails on a zip

Interestingly, it's not just the sound but even the thought of these things that can provoke a reaction.

To the best of my knowledge, this is not a phobia, nor is it an allergy. So, is there a name for this response, and are there any known cases of it having been treated?

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Related: Why is the sound of fingernails on a chalkboard so intolerable?

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English and German speakers lack a single accessible linguistic label for the pattern of aversive reactions termed by Spanish speaking individuals as ‘grima’, whereas the elicitors of other emotions were accessible and accurately identified by German, English, as well as Spanish speakers (Gallo, et al. 2017).

If we English speaking people adopt the word from Spanish, just as we have adopted words from many languages over the centuries, the response you are referring to is called Grima, pronounced phonetically as gree-mah (see: https://www.spanishdict.com/pronunciation/grima).

If you are experiencing this as a result of more than the usual causes of grima, you would alternatively be suffering from a degree of Misophonia (Swedo, et al. 2021).

Also, alternatively, an abnormally strong reaction to sound, occurring within the auditory pathways, in levels that would not trouble a normal individual is called hyperacusis, whereas an actual fear of any sounds is phonophobia (Asha'ari, et al. 2010).

References

Asha'ari, Z. A., Mat Zain, N., & Razali, A. (2010). Phonophobia and hyperacusis: practical points from a case report. The Malaysian journal of medical sciences, 17(1), 49–51. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3216140/

Schweiger Gallo, I., Fernández-Dols, J. M., Gollwitzer, P. M., & Keil, A. (2017). Grima: A Distinct Emotion Concept?. Frontiers in psychology, 8, 131. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00131

Swedo, S., Baguley, D. M., Denys, D., Dixon, L. J., Erfanian, M., Fioretti, A., ... & Raver, S. M. (2021). A consensus definition of misophonia: using a delphi process to reach expert agreement. medRxiv. https://doi.org/10.1101/2021.04.05.21254951

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