What Are the Signs of Sensory Issues?

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As more and more children and adults experience sensory sensitivity and sensory overload, it is important to understand sensory issues. However, many people are confused about sensory disorders and autism, giving rise to a common misconception that certain sensory preferences indicate a specific diagnosis. They do not. Read on to learn more about sensory issues vs. sensory disorders vs. other diagnoses.

What are sensory issues?

Sensory issues are not the same for everyone. And they can change over time. They can be lifelong, or temporary. A sensory issue occurs when the brain has difficulty processing sensory information, i.e. from the eight senses. Ultimately, this causes you to feel overwhelmed and may result in a sensory overload response.


One of the most common sensory issues that you likely are familiar with is hypersensitivity. This occurs when you have heightened sensitivities to one or more of your eight senses. You can experience hypersensitivity to touch, smell, taste, vision, hear, balance (vestibular), movement (proprioception) and your internal body sense (interoception).

Many times, you will only have a hypersensitivity to one sense. You can also feel anxious or apprehensive. You might avoid doing things in sensory-rich environments.


Another type of sensory issue is called hyposensitivity. This happens when you are less sensitive to any one of your eight senses.

A crowded, busy and blurry crosswalk.

What are some examples of sensory issues?

As previously stated, there are many different types of sensory issues. Here are some examples of things you might feel, if you have sensory issues:

Infographic highlight common examples of sensory issues.
  • Irritation from clothing tags.
  • Itchy from certain types of fabric.
  • Heightened sensitivity to bright lights.
  • Bothered by flashing lights.
  • Heightened sensitivity to loud noises.
  • Overwhelmed by strong smells.
  • Increased stress in crowded areas.
  • 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.

It is important to note that experiencing one or more of these does not mean you have autism, a sensory disorder or another diagnosis. It is only when sensory issues are pervasive and interrupt daily life, and an ability to learn, work, or play should a diagnosis be considered.

Can a child have sensory issues and not be autistic?

There is a common misconception that if you have heightened sensory sensitivities then you have a form of autism. It is true that experiencing sensory sensitivity is a symptom that is present when diagnosed with autism. However, being sensory sensitive does not necessarily indicate that you have autism.

Everyone has sensory preferences

Firstly, it is important to understand that everyone has sensory preferences. Regardless if you have a sensory processing disorder or not. For example, you may tend to get very irritated wearing a certain fabric of clothing. This does not necessarily mean that you have a diagnosable sensory issue. It simply indicates that you have a certain preference for other types of clothing to help make you more comfortable.

Woman and young child learning sign language.

Different causes for sensory sensitivities

Secondly, there are several other reasons that someone may have more heightened sensitivities. For example, people with vision loss may have a greater sensitivity to their sense of hearing. Although their vision loss does not directly impact hearing, it may result in an increased sensitivity to loud noises, because they rely on their hearing.

Discover more about sensory issues:

Illustration of group of people. Ages ranges from babies to seniors. Some people are in wheelchair or scooter, pushing a baby stroller, have a prostetic limb or wear a hijab. All designed in a blue and orange colour pallet.

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