What is Sensory Defensiveness?
Sensory defensiveness is a condition that consists of a wide array of symptoms. What most people may find “normal” or “non-irritating”, people with sensory defensiveness have aversive/defensive reactions to the same stimuli. What may be interesting, exciting, calming, pleasurable to most people are irritating, scary, disgusting, or painful to people with SD. The reactions result in tension, anxiety, avoidance, stress, anger, and even violence.
Sensory defensiveness is highly unrecognized but it is not rare, as 15% of normal adults’ nervous system is highly sensitive to various stimuli in the environment.
- Feeling annoyed when textures touch your skin
- When someone touches unexpectedly, recoiling from light ticklish touch
- Unable to tolerate loud sudden piercing sounds and startling at them
- Unable to shut out noise
- Unable to tolerate foods of a certain taste or texture
- Fast sudden movements, bending forward and backwards, heights, unstable surfaces, etc result in anxiety
- Unable to function, close up in crowds
Tactile defensiveness causes hyperactivity and distractibility. People exhibiting this avoid touches, having hair washed or cut, having nails cut, wearing certain types of clothing, being in crowds, or having other skin contact experiences. Treatment consists of sensorimotor activities.
- Interesting fact: In psychology, hypersensitivity has been studied as a cause of introversion. Studies have shown that people with a low sensory threshold get easily overwhelmed by a situation. To steer clear of this overstimulation, their attention is directed inwards and they appear to be inhibited, reserved, and restrained.
- Sensory defensiveness also has a genetic link to it.
- The sensory defensive population ranges in temperament form being extremely shy to a party animal, depending on their sensory threshold.
- Trauma disrupting the nervous system at any age can also cause sensory defensiveness. Such trauma can be prenatal insult from drugs, illness, birth complications, abuse, etc.
- Sensory and emotional deprivation can also starve the brain of the nourishment needed to cope with the world and take in from it. Sensorimotor, intellectual, and emotional functions do not develop as they should.
- Allergies and illness can also cause this
- Neither race nor ethnicity is favored
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