What Are the Signs of Sensory Issues?

Dive Deeper into Sensory Issues: Signs, Types, and More

Sensory sensitivities and overload are becoming increasingly common in both children and adults. This raises a crucial question: how can we identify sensory issues? It’s important to clear up some confusion first, though. Sensory preferences don’t automatically equate to a specific diagnosis, such as autism.

So, what exactly are sensory issues? Let’s unpack this concept.

When Your Senses Go Haywire: Understanding Sensory Issues

Sensory issues aren’t a one-size-fits-all experience. They can fluctuate over time, be lifelong companions, or come and go. At their core, they stem from the brain’s struggle to process information from our eight senses. This sensory overload can leave you feeling overwhelmed and trigger a cascade of reactions.

Let’s delve deeper into the two main types of sensory issues: hypersensitivity and hyposensitivity.

  • Hypersensitivity: This is when your senses are turned up to eleven! You might have a heightened sensitivity to touch (think scratchy clothes being unbearable), smell (certain perfumes causing headaches), or even taste (a common dislike for specific textures). Hypersensitivity can affect all eight senses, including balance, movement, and even your internal body awareness. Often, you’ll only experience hypersensitivity in one or a few senses. It can also lead to anxiety, apprehension, and a strong desire to avoid overwhelming environments.
  • Hyposensitivity: On the other end of the spectrum is hyposensitivity. Here, your senses are a bit dulled. You might crave strong smells, loud noises, or rough textures that others find unpleasant. This can also manifest in difficulty with balance, a lack of awareness of body position, or even ignoring internal signals like hunger or thirst.
A crowded, busy and blurry crosswalk.

Signs Your Senses Might Be Sending Mixed Signals: Common Sensory Issues

We’ve unpacked the basics of sensory issues – how they arise and the two main types. Now, let’s get practical. What are some everyday signs that you or someone you know might be struggling with sensory processing?

  • Irritation from clothing tags.
  • Itchy from certain types of fabric.
  • Heightened sensitivity to bright lights.
  • Bothered by flashing lights.
  • Heightened sensitivity to loud noises.
  • Increased stress in crowded areas.
  • Overwhelmed by strong smells.
  • Difficulty focusing in busy places.
  • Feeling panicked in sensory-rich spaces.
  • Elevated levels of stress with a lack of routine.
  • Fidgeting.
  • Rigid behaviour.
  • Wanting things to stay the same.
Infographic highlight common examples of sensory issues.

Hold on! Experiencing a few of these signs doesn’t automatically mean you have autism, a sensory disorder, or another diagnosis. Sensory issues become a cause for concern when they’re widespread and significantly disrupt your daily life. This means they make it difficult to learn, work, play, or complete everyday activities. If that’s the case, talk to a healthcare professional about getting a proper evaluation.

Delving Deeper: Sensory Issues and Autism Spectrum Disorder

While sensory issues are a common experience, it’s important to understand they’re not exclusive to autism spectrum disorder (ASD). However, for those interested in the connection between the two, here’s a research resource to explore further…

Additionally, check out, “Sensory Processing Issues and Their Association with Social Difficulties in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders” by Kojovic et al., (2019), which shares the impact of sensory issues on socialization and why these sensitivities occur 1.

Sensory Sensitivities Don’t Equal Autism: Understanding the Difference

Many people believe that having strong reactions to sensory information automatically means you’re autistic. While sensory sensitivities are indeed a common symptom of autism, it’s important to understand they’re not the only piece of the puzzle. Here’s why:

Sensory Preferences vs. Sensory Issues: We all have sensory preferences! Some prefer bright lights, others find them overwhelming. Disliking scratchy clothes doesn’t necessarily mean a sensory disorder. It simply means you have a comfort zone for certain textures.

The Spectrum of Sensory Processing: Sensory issues, however, go beyond mere preferences. They involve a struggle with processing sensory information, leading to reactions that significantly disrupt daily life. This is where the line between preference and a potential issue can blur.

Adult and young child learning sign language.

Beyond Diagnosis: Exploring Causes of Sensory Sensitivities

While some diagnoses like autism can be linked to sensory sensitivities, the story doesn’t end there. Here are some other reasons why you might experience heightened sensory reactions:

  • Compensation: Our senses work together. When one sense weakens, like vision loss in your example, others can pick up the slack. This increased reliance can lead to a heightened awareness of sounds, making loud noises feel overwhelming.
  • Medical Conditions: Certain medical conditions, like migraines or chronic pain, can lower your tolerance for sensory input. This means everyday sounds, smells, or even touch can feel more intense and trigger discomfort.
  • Mental Health: Anxiety and PTSD can also amplify sensory sensitivities. When you’re feeling anxious or on edge, even minor sensory details can become overwhelming and contribute to feelings of stress.

Additionally, you can check out the blog post by Alex Rice to read more about the first symptoms of sensory issues.

Intrigued to learn more? Dive deeper into the fascinating world of sensory processing and how it affects our daily lives.

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Source

  1. Kojovic, Ben Hadid, Franchini, & Schaer. (2019). Sensory Processing Issues and Their Association with Social Difficulties in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Journal of Clinical Medicine, 8(10), 1508. https://doi.org/10.3390/jcm8101508
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