Sensory Sensitivity

Sensory sensitivity refers to an individual’s heightened response to sensory stimuli in their environment. Sensory stimuli include information received through the senses: sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell. People with sensory sensitivity may react more strongly or have a different response than typical individuals to certain sensory experiences.

Sensory sensitivity can manifest in various ways, and individuals may be sensitive to one or more types of sensory input. Common examples include:

  1. Hypersensitivity (Over-Responsiveness): Individuals who are hypersensitive may react strongly or negatively to sensory stimuli. For example, they might be bothered by bright lights, loud noises, certain textures, or strong smells more than others.
  2. Hyposensitivity (Under-Responsiveness): On the other hand, hyposensitive individuals may have a reduced response to sensory stimuli. They might seek out intense sensory experiences or have difficulty noticing or responding to certain sensory inputs.
  3. Sensory Seeking: Some individuals actively seek out sensory stimulation. They may engage in behaviours like rocking, spinning, or seeking tactile input to fulfil their sensory needs.
  4. Sensory Discrimination Issues: Difficulty in processing and interpreting sensory information accurately. This can lead to challenges in distinguishing between different sensations.

Sensory sensitivity is not limited to any specific population and can be found in individuals with various conditions, such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety disorders, and sensory processing disorder (SPD). However, it’s important to note that sensory sensitivity can also be present in individuals without diagnosed conditions.

Understanding and addressing sensory sensitivity are crucial for individuals who experience it, as heightened or diminished responses to sensory stimuli can impact daily functioning, social interactions, and overall well-being. Occupational therapists and other professionals specializing in sensory processing often play a key role in assessing and developing interventions to help individuals manage and adapt to sensory sensitivities.