Making Sense of Things when our Senses don’t make Sense
by Kaylena Townsend
Have you ever met someone who seemed angered by the sound of your chewing? Have you ever been deeply irritated by the sound of someone’s breathing? Strong negative reactions to ordinary sounds that people make is called Misophonia. Misophonia is one of many conditions that can affect how our senses interpret the world around us.
People of all ages can have difficulty processing everyday sensory information. Some people may be over sensitive to sensory input. This means that fabric on clothing, sounds in the environment or food textures may be very noticeable to the point of being unpleasant or upsetting. Sensory overload can cause stress, anxiety, and possibly physical pain. A person may be under sensitive to sensory input. This means that they may seek additional sensory input, perhaps by rocking or spinning in their desk chair or by adding additional salt to their food. Our senses affect our behavior, our ability to concentrate, and our relationships. Sensory triggers can be different for everyone and are often associated with other health conditions, including autism, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or fibromyalgia. Out unique needs mean that non of us experience challenges in the same way, and the solutions that work for some won’t work for all. If you are trying to navigate sensory sensitivities, here is an idea of where to start.
Spend some time studying yourself. Try to identify what your triggers are and think of what it could look like to address those triggers. Think through when you feel the most calm. Is it drawing? Taking a bath or shower? Exercising? Find what brings you calm and then incorporate it into your regular routine. Think through what tools around your house or work space help you to regulate, they don’t have to be expensive or specifically marketed as a sensory tool. I often use paper clips or twist-ties.
Ask for what you need. Do you need a quiet place at work where you can go to find calm? Do you need a chair that rocks, or a textured air fusion on your office seat? Do you need an office space further from the bathroom so that you can’t hear the bathroom fan? Be creative in thinking through solutions, and ask for what you need. If you need help identifying what to ask for and how to ask for it contact your local Center for Independent Living, we can help!
Give yourself permission to ask for help from experts. Occupational Therapists offer a variety of resources, tools and exercises to help people work through sensory differences with a goal of improving daily function and independence. Speech Language Pathologists and Music Therapists also have resources and tools available for sensory sensitivities.
We all react to our senses in different ways. The difficulty can sometimes be acknowledging when we need help and what you can do to help ourselves. Resources are available. Please feel free to contact me with any questions. I hope this was a helpful start to making sense of your senses.