Sensory Anxiety: Not your ordinary anxiety

Thank you to The Sensitive Giraffe for pointing her followers to this blog post. For some time I’ve thought a lot of my anxiety is different but couldn’t pin point how; this post goes a long way in explaining it and I feel it is pivotal in helping me understand myself. It’s brilliant!

The Sensitive Giraffe

I’m reblogging this from Eating Off Plastic.

I never considered my anxiety being different because of Sensory Processing Disorder. But after reading this, it makes a lot of sense. I think this also helps explain why repeatedly trying to face situations doesn’t always make it easier or less stressful. In many instances, the physical symptoms keep showing up with the same intensity.

This is probably a good explanation for why I’m jolted awake by my neighbor and experience the rapid heart beat. I mean, this has been going on for months. My body still isn’t adjusting to it. It still reacts as if this is the first time.

For those who don’t experience anxiety in this way, perhaps this post will offer some insight for why saying “just keep trying” doesn’t always help.

Before you dive in, a quick note. This article was written for the STAR Institute for…

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What love looks like

I’m not sure what’s going on with me at the moment. My sensory processing disorder is worsening. In my last post (Travelling) I mentioned how car travel is increasingly difficult. There are lots of other things too.

Next weekend is StitchFest down in Totnes, Devon. It’s one and a half to two hours away. I really want to go. I want to handle fibre before I buy it. I want to smell it. I want to soak up the atmosphere that such an event inspires.

I don’t know if I can actually do it… the traveling, walking in to two unknown venues, the lighting, the noise, being unexpectedly touched, flickering screens, low level spot lights…

I’ve been in tears trying to decide whether I should go, or not, or go, or not… Yes, I meant to write that twice.

What love is, dear reader, is Lovely Husband’s answer. I don’t have to decide until the day. If we get halfway there and I say I can’t go on, he’ll turn back. If I get to the door and I can’t go in, we’ll turn back. If I’m in there one minute, 5 minutes… we’ll turn back. To him I am not wasting his time, not wasting money on fuel, not wasting money on an entry fee… To Lovely Husband the important thing is that I get to try.

Travelling

Car journeys are becoming increasingly more difficult for me. Sometimes I’m fine but more often than not I’m experiencing sensory overload within minutes of starting a journey.

So what do I feel? Well I don’t feel nauseous. To be honest I can’t explain how I feel exactly but I know what disturbs me.

Flickering via peripheral vision: trees, fences, railings, vehicles, road markings…

Constant movement in forward vision.

Squeak of wipers.

The switch of the indicator and wipers.

Indicator beeps.

The motion of the car taking a bend in the road (and our 45 minute journey to get to the motorway is very bendy).

These are the things I’m aware of. Today I wore my prescription sunglasses and sports over glasses and it made little difference. I can’t use my noise cancelling headphones over two pairs of glasses. I tried to keep my eyes shut for the one and a half hour journey. I had one hand on a handle and the other on the car seat edge to help with balance.

Coming home later today the journey didn’t feel so uncomfortable but I was very relieved to get home.

I don’t know what to do. I find it a bit frightening because it seems to me that my sensory processing is steadily getting worse meaning that my life is getting more restricted as months go by. Today the thought came to me that my brain is steadily shutting the world out.

I’m wondering if any of my autistic followers have this problem? Do you think it is a vestibular and/or propioperceptual disorder?

I am including an article below that I accessed today (date above) from https://www.autism.com/symptoms_sensory_overview

Sensory Integration

By Cindy Hatch-Rasmussen, M.A., OTR/L

Children and adults with autism, as well as those with other developmental disabilities, may have a dysfunctional sensory system. Sometimes one or more senses are either over- or under-reactive to stimulation. Such sensory problems may be the underlying reason for such behaviors as rocking, spinning, and hand-flapping. Although the receptors for the senses are located in the peripheral nervous system (which includes everything but the brain and spinal cord), it is believed that the problem stems from neurological dysfunction in the central nervous system–the brain. As described by individuals with autism, sensory integration techniques, such as pressure-touch can facilitate attention and awareness, and reduce overall arousal. Temple Grandin, in her descriptive book, Emergence: Labeled Autistic, relates the distress and relief of her sensory experiences.

Sensory integration is an innate neurobiological process and refers to the integration and interpretation of sensory stimulation from the environment by the brain. In contrast, sensory integrative dysfunction is a disorder in which sensory input is not integrated or organized appropriately in the brain and may produce varying degrees of problems in development, information processing, and behavior. A general theory of sensory integration and treatment has been developed by Dr. A. Jean Ayres from studies in the neurosciences and those pertaining to physical development and neuromuscular function. This theory is presented in this paper.

Sensory integration focuses primarily on three basic senses–tactile, vestibular, and proprioceptive. Their interconnections start forming before birth and continue to develop as the person matures and interacts with his/her environment. The three senses are not only interconnected but are also connected with other systems in the brain. Although these three sensory systems are less familiar than vision and audition, they are critical to our basic survival. The inter-relationship among these three senses is complex. Basically, they allow us to experience, interpret, and respond to different stimuli in our environment. The three sensory systems will be discussed below.

Tactile System: The tactile system includes nerves under the skin’s surface that send information to the brain. This information includes light touch, pain, temperature, and pressure. These play an important role in perceiving the environment as well as protective reactions for survival.

Dysfunction in the tactile system can be seen in withdrawing when being touched, refusing to eat certain ‘textured’ foods and/or to wear certain types of clothing, complaining about having one’s hair or face washed, avoiding getting one’s hands dirty (i.e., glue, sand, mud, finger-paint), and using one’s finger tips rather than whole hands to manipulate objects. A dysfunctional tactile system may lead to a misperception of touch and/or pain (hyper- or hyposensitive) and may lead to self-imposed isolation, general irritability, distractibility, and hyperactivity.

Tactile defensiveness is a condition in which an individual is extremely sensitive to light touch. Theoretically, when the tactile system is immature and working improperly, abnormal neural signals are sent to the cortex in the brain which can interfere with other brain processes. This, in turn, causes the brain to be overly stimulated and may lead to excessive brain activity, which can neither be turned off nor organized. This type of over-stimulation in the brain can make it difficult for an individual to organize one’s behavior and concentrate and may lead to a negative emotional response to touch sensations.

Vestibular System: The vestibular system refers to structures within the inner ear (the semi-circular canals) that detect movement and changes in the position of the head. For example, the vestibular system tells you when your head is upright or tilted (even with your eyes closed). Dysfunction within this system may manifest itself in two different ways. Some children may be hypersensitive to vestibular stimulation and have fearful reactions to ordinary movement activities (e.g., swings, slides, ramps, inclines). They may also have trouble learning to climb or descend stairs or hills; and they may be apprehensive walking or crawling on uneven or unstable surfaces. As a result, they seem fearful in space. In general, these children appear clumsy. On the other extreme, the child may actively seek very intense sensory experiences such as excessive body whirling, jumping, and/or spinning. This type of child demonstrates signs of a hypo-reactive vestibular system; that is, they are trying continuously to sti mulate their vestibular systems.

Proprioceptive System: The proprioceptive system refers to components of muscles, joints, and tendons that provide a person with a subconscious awareness of body position. When proprioception is functioning efficiently, an individual’s body position is automatically adjusted in different situations; for example, the proprioceptive system is responsible for providing the body with the necessary signals to allow us to sit properly in a chair and to step off a curb smoothly. It also allows us to manipulate objects using fine motor movements, such as writing with a pencil, using a spoon to drink soup, and buttoning one’s shirt. Some common signs of proprioceptive dysfunction are clumsiness, a tendency to fall, a lack of awareness of body position in space, odd body posturing, minimal crawling when young, difficulty manipulating small objects (buttons, snaps), eating in a sloppy manner, and resistance to new motor movement activities.

Another dimension of proprioception is praxis or motor planning. This is the ability to plan and execute different motor tasks. In order for this system to work properly, it must rely on obtaining accurate information from the sensory systems and then organizing and interpreting this information efficiently and effectively.

Implications: In general, dysfunction within these three systems manifests itself in many ways. A child may be over- or under-responsive to sensory input; activity level may be either unusually high or unusually low; a child may be in constant motion or fatigue easily. In addition, some children may fluctuate between these extremes. Gross and/or fine motor coordination problems are also common when these three systems are dysfunctional and may result in speech/language delays and in academic under-achievement. Behaviorally, the child may become impulsive, easily distractible, and show a general lack of planning. Some children may also have difficulty adjusting to new situations and may react with frustration, aggression, or withdrawal.

Evaluation and treatment of basic sensory integrative processes is performed by occupational therapists and/or physical therapists. The therapist’s general goals are: (1) to provide the child with sensory information which helps organize the central nervous system, (2) to assist the child in inhibiting and/or modulating sensory information, and (3) to assist the child in processing a more organized response to sensory stimuli.

For further information, contact: Sensory Integration International, P.O. Box 9013, Torrance, CA 90508, USA

Aspie Moments #5: The Event

I relate to what is written in the following blog post quite closely.
I’ve been trying to analyze my anxieties… I’ve discovered that the anxiety before an event feels quite different to that experienced afterwards. Pre-event anxiety is somehow understandable and I can cope with it. I find rescue remedy and aconite help. Post-event anxiety is more elusive in finding understanding of it and is far more difficult to control. It coexists with forms of exhaustion, overwhelmedness, sensory overload and irritability. Nothing but quiet and rest will heal it.
Thank you so much for sharing this with us Little Sparrow 🙂

Counting the Ways

This weekend was the middle one of three in a row when I have to socialise and “do things” for long periods of time. Last weekend was probably the most stressful. It involved driving 200 miles to an unknown place, meeting up with 15 people, spending all Saturday afternoon and evening with them, staying overnight in a hotel, spending the Sunday with the group as well until I could finally get away at about 3 o’clock in the afternoon. I knew all the people, and they are very nice, but still it was very stressful. I survived with only a couple of wobbles (those little crying fits that I get instead of meltdowns). Fortunately I had Monday off work to recover. I needed it!

This weekend involved only one evening event. I was kind of observing myself as I went through it, so here is what went down:

I was…

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I wear sunglasses to deal with the noise.

Why hadn’t this occurred to me before now !? Thank you so much for writing this. I also find my perception of noise has increased greatly in the last few years. Wearing sunglasses 😎 more frequently makes so much sense.

The Misadventures of Mama Pineapple

Wearing sunglasses helps me cope with noise.

And yes, I do mean noise in an auditory sense.

But this doesn’t have anything to do with synaesthesia which, to the extent I’ve analysed myself and my perceptions of the world so far, is not something that I experience.

Over time since my diagnosis, I’ve reflected and reflected and reflected. And I’m now firmly in the camp of supporters for the Social Model of Disability. I’m happy to come down on the side of the fence that says “I am disabled”, but also that “I am predominantly disabled by being in the environment in which I happen to find myself”.

I’m also convinced that a) I’m more disabled now than I used to be, but b) that – mostly – this has nothing intrinsically to do with me physically, or me as an individual.

Why does wearing sunglasses help me cope…

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