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March 9, 2017

Sensory processing disorder

Senses are very important in our lives. We couldn’t perceive the world around us without them. We spook in the last article about all senses we are born with.  We also mentioned certain sensory disorder which affects how we perceive the reality on the end of the article. There is speech about sensory processing disorder, shortly SPD.

When sensory receptors receive certain message, for example about the smell of food, that message travels into our brain where it’s processed. If we don’t have any problems, our brains don’t allow us to perceive everything around. We take in just important things which are needful for our life.

People with sensory processing disorder have a mess in their central nervous system caused by the fact that their brains aren’t able to interpret and regulate sensory inputs correctly. Then there are 2 options available. People disabled in that way can be overly sensitive towards these inputs, then we call them hypersensitive, or they can be under sensitive and then it’s called hyposensitivity.

In the case of sensory hypersensitivity, the organism is overwhelmed by sensory sensations. The person with this type of SPD just and simply perceive too much, so much that it can be very uncomfortable. Bright lights or loud noises can cause them even physical pain. Let’s look how it can feel like to be hypersensitive. Think about how you would feel, if the loud music shouted at you from all directions, bright lights shined to your eyes that you almost couldn’t see, strange smells were everywhere around and other people touched you from all sides. That’s approximately how sensory hypersensitive person feels like. If there are really too many inputs, our person can experience a meltdown or a shutdown. Both these terms signify certain types of attacks and we will discuss them later.

If the person is, on the other hand, hyposensitive, they constantly experience sensory deprivation. Nothing is simply too strong to satisfy their senses. These people, for example, look into the direct light and they have constantly a feeling that the lamp shines a little. Imagine, you are closed in the dark soundproofed room. You’ll start feeling sensory deprivation after awhile. In other words, you’ll need light and sound, otherwise you’ll begin feeling very uncomfortable. For the hyposensitive folks, that’s a daily feeling. They still experience the need to seek missing sensory inputs. For instance, a child with tactile hyposensitivity constantly touches every possible object. As well as hypersensitive people, those who are hyposensitive also deal with above mentioned meltdowns and shutdowns which we will describe in some of the following articles.

It should be added that one person often experience hypersensitivity and hyposensitivity at the same time. It’s possible to be for example hypersensitive towards smells and hyposensitive towards sounds and tastes.

Sensory processing disorder is an innate, lifelong condition varying in the severity form person to person. There are people experiencing minimal struggles with it as well as people unable to function at all because of strong sensory problems. The condition can afflict anybody, however, it’s extremely common in autistic people. 95% of autistics really experience this disorder. So, if you have a strong form of SPD, there is a quite big chance you’re an autistic as well. Our disorder is also more common in other neurodivergent people, such as those with ADHD or sundry mental disorders. But, really everybody can be affected. There are plenty people who have just SPD, not any other diagnosis.

We’re going to become familiar with all sort of sensory processing disorder in the future articles. We will always pick up certain sense, just as taste. Then we are going to describe gustatory hypersensitivity in one article and gustatory hyposensitivity in the next one.

You can already look forward on the article about visual hypersensitivity which I’m planning to publish tomorrow!

Do you have any questions or opinions you would like to share? Do you think you could have SPD? Write us in the comment section below. We will be happy for every comment. We are here for you!

If you are interested, there is a great video about that topic from an autistic adult, Amythest Shaber who experience sensory processing disorder herself and who's making informational videos about autism.

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