Adult Sensory Processing Disorder
What Is Adult Sensory Processing Disorder?
Adult Sensory Processing Disorder (ASPD) is a relatively new category of sensory disease, although the problem itself is far from new. Those adults who grew up in the days before this problem was identified were often subjected to unending discipline for their rebellion, bad attitudes, and plain old contrary behavior.
While many people have distinct likes and dislikes, those with Sensory Processing Disorders are generally hypersensitive to one or more of their senses. For example, a person with ASPD might experience any of the following:
- Soft touch “hurts” their skin
- Certain textures make them very uncomfortable, Styrofoam, man-made fabrics, or mud are prime examples.
- Certain sounds may make them irritable and jumpy. Even listening to music for extended periods of time can cause crankiness, inability to concentrate, and frustration.
- Smells and flavors can cause intense responses
There are hundreds of symptoms of Adult Sensory Processing Disorder. Some are very obvious and common, while others may be less so.
How Do People With This Disorder Feel?
This is a complicated disorder, and it is different for each individual who experiences it. Basically, the term Sensory Processing or Sensory Integration Disorder is used to describe the inability to filter input. Imagine a giant computer screen that displayed everything that was going on on the Internet at the same time. The screen would be overloaded, and you would not know what to pay attention to. The response might be to become agitated or to shut down completely.
This is exactly what those with Sensory Processing Disorders deal with on a daily basis. Every sound is heard, every visual stimulus is noticed, a soft touch may feel like sandpaper, and an off odor may cause extreme nausea.
Many adults may have learned to compensate for this problem over the years. They may be so used to it that they don’t recognize a problem. Here are some common symptoms of adults with Sensory Processing Disorders.
- Hyper sensitive to touch
- Eating disorders
- Lethargic and slow to act OR energetic and impulsive
- Can’t complete tasks
- Poor self esteem
- Afraid of failure
- Difficulty staying focused
- Gets irritable in crowds
- Gets irritable when sounds are repetitive for a long period of time (ie: music playing, whistles at sports events, etc.)
- Unusually high or unusually low sex drive
- Fussy about clothing, uncomfortable in many clothing items
- Prefers to be barefoot
- Dislikes bracelets and watches
- Easily overwhelmed
What To Do If You Suspect ASPD
The most important thing is to find a doctor that understands this issue. You will need an occupational therapist experienced in working with people that had sensory disorders. There are several therapies available that have been found to work well.
When you are looking for an occupational therapist ask plenty of questions. It needs to be someone that you click with. Look for the following qualities:
- Diagnostic evaluation to better treat your condition individually
- Written evaluation and goals
- One on one treatment
- Includes spouse and other family members in treatment plan
- Provides an effective treatment schedule of at least two times a week
- Uses purposeful stimulation that helps patient accomplish everyday tasks
The University of Southern California has an excellent description of occupational therapy for sensory processing disorders.
A Personal Note
I understand this problem on a personal level because I am one of “those” people. I have been considered eccentric at best, and as a child I was often labeled at problematic when getting dressed would result in a meltdown because the outfit hurt my skin. I have at least one child who has this syndrome as strongly as I do. He wears flip flops all year—yes, even in the snow.
In the past there was a mentality that it was a discipline problem. If you told a paraplegic child to get up and walk and he didn’t, you would not consider that a discipline problem. You would recognize that he was unable to do so. In the same way children and adults with SPD cannot control their responses to certain things. Discipline is not the answer.
My hope is that you will use this article as a jumping-off place. Research some of the links below and understand the basics of this problem. If you have a child who you suspect has a processing disorder, or you know an adult who might, encourage them to get evaluated. Therapy can reduce symptoms.
For me, touch is key. Being hugged, getting massages, and being held are all key to my being able to handle other stimuli. Being with a spouse who understands these issues and is willing to work with my eccentricities has been key in my mental health. As in many things, understanding covers a multitude of problems.
Links You May Find Helpful
You may find more information and help on the following sites. Don't just accept the information from one: research deeper and further to have the most information you can. Much of what is available is still based on personal experience and speculation. Much more research needs to be done.