Sensory Processing Disorder (Hyper Sensitivity) in Adults and Post COVID-19
What is Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)?
A Sensory Processing Disorder is how your senses (Hear, Smell, Taste, Touch, & See) affects how your brain processes the stimuli. SPD can manifest itself in small triggers in your environment that can cause you to feel overstimulated.
What is Sensory Modulation Disorder (SMD)?
A Sensory Modulation Disorder affects sensory processing across single or multiple sensory systems. The sensory over-responsivity (SOR) subtype of SMD is manifested clinically as a condition in which non-painful stimuli are perceived as abnormally irritating, unpleasant, or even painful.
How do I know I have SPD?
COVID-19 & SPD’s
Due to COVID-19, everyone is mandated to be quarantined. For individuals with Sensory Processing Disorders, this may have allowed you to control your environment and stimuli. We all have begun to feel comfortable in our own space. There are comforting materials within the house, relaxing smells, familiar foods, and control the noise level. As everyone is getting ready to transition back into the world, there can be a lot of stimuli that can cause dysregulation.
Here are some tips to help you transition back into society:
As everyone is excited to be back outside, back to work, and can slowly reunite with family and friends, your social partners could have forgotten some of your sensory processing needs. REMIND THEM! If your friends want you to come over for a COVID-19 compliant gathering, but you may not be able to take all of the noise, TELL THEM NO! Ease your way back into society. Allow yourself to transition back to the fast-stimulating world slowly.
Easier said than done, right? How can we “remind” our family and friends if we have difficulty speaking up? Firstly, try incorporating what you already know about yourself as you explore what new sensory stimuli may bother you. For example, what was your preference for others to hug you before COVID-19? How may you react to hugs during COVID-19? Here is a quick sensory checklist that you can work through to explore and learn about your sensory needs.
Auditory/Hearing: How do you feel about loud sounds? Being outside with constant noise?
Vision: Being in a visually “busy” space such as parks, concerts, and restaurants?
Touch: How would you feel if someone would hug, kiss, or hold your hand?
Taste & Smell: Do you like the smell of perfume, cologne, or food i.e. a restaurant?
Next, remember your likes and dislikes in your environment. If speaking up may be difficult for you, here are some other techniques to help you explain to others what you need.
Gather your thoughts and Information: Learning and understanding your sensory needs can help you explain or clarify to others what you need. Take time out to reflect on your day-to-day experiences pre & post COVID-19. Compare them. Take note of what is a new sensory need.
Write it down: Try writing a letter or jotting down sensory inputs that can bother you. You can even try to explain why certain textures, noise, etc. may bother you. Writing them down can be a great alternative if you do not want to explain your needs! It is also great for crucial points to stay on track if you are verbalizing your needs.
Assert yourself when needed: Being assertive may be hard for some people. When in need, please SPEAK UP, and let your voice be heard. It can be harder for you to deal with the sensory trigger than to speak it. This is where saying “NO” is okay.
THIS IS YOUR NEED! YOU GOT THIS! Be gentle and gracious with yourself. Transitioning back to society after a year of controlling your environment and sensory inputs will be a rocky road. Believe that things will get better.
*If you want tips on learning and understanding your communication style and improving your self-advocacy, check out this article!