"The World Drives Me Crazy" — Women with SPD

Ladies, do you whip off your bra as soon as you get home? Do certain perfumes make you gag? Welcome to the club: adults with sensory processing disorder.

Massage Your Senses

How do you live in a world that puts you in a state of anxiety, panic, or depression? Begin by recognizing that hypersensitivity comes with ADHD. You aren't crazy, and you're not being a baby. Your discomfort and pain are real.

Then identify your sense triggers and find ways to limit their effects. In other words, see things coming and make a plan. If your friend suggests having dinner at a restaurant that has loud live music on Friday nights, suggest another place. Say, "I'd love to go out, but it's hard to hear our conversation over the noise." Here are some ways to manage a range of sensitivities that many ADHD women have:

Tactile Challenges

> Wear loose-fitting clothing that is tag-free. Some women wear a bathing suit or body suit under their clothes. They find the deep compression calming.

> Choose clothes with natural fibers, like cotton, jersey, silk, or fleece. Try on clothing and move around in it before you purchase it, paying attention to how the fabric moves and feels on your skin.

> Express your intimate needs to your partner. If caressing makes you flinch or causes painful tickling, tell your partner what is better.

> Use makeup and other skin products made for sensitive skin. They are usually less greasy and — bonus — fragrance-free.

> If hugging is uncomfortable to you, offer a handshake and a pat on the shoulder instead.

Sound Challenges

> If your workplace is too noisy, and you aren't required to answer the phone or offer customer service, block out the noise with earplugs.

> Use a white noise machine at work.

> Ask for flex time at work, so that you can arrive before others do or stay after they've left. You will have quieter moments.

> Install carpet to buffer footsteps.

Olfactory Challenges

> Keep a pot of boiled spices going in the oven. Cinnamon, for instance, makes the house smell pleasant and covers up less offensive smells.

> Purchase fragrance-free cleaning products, deodorants, and skin care products.

> Keep a fragrant sachet in your purse to mask offending odors.

> Wear a lightweight scarf that you can use to cover your nose when shopping or using public transportation.

Visual Challenges

> Wear sunglasses — outdoors and indoors, if needed.

> Shop online or at small stores where there is less visual clutter.

> If you must take a trip to the mall or to large, overwhelming stores, take breaks. Find a quiet spot to re-fuel your sensory tank, even if it means going into a bathroom stall for a few minutes.

> Avoid fluorescent lighting, and replace your light bulbs at home and work with full-spectrum lights.

Oral Challenges

> Get creative in the kitchen. If you dislike meat or other "chewy" foods, find different ways to prepare them. Make soups and stews that have soft textures. Consider pureeing some foods.

> Use a child-sized toothbrush and toothpaste for sensitive teeth if you're prone to gagging.

> Schedule your dental appointments for later in the day. Gagging reflexes are worse in the morning.

> Chew gum.

Many children with hypersensitivities work with occupational therapists, to help them adjust to a sensory-challenging world. It's harder to find professional help for adults. Visit the SPD Foundation website at www.spdfoundation.net. There you can read more about SPD and search a directory of service providers who work with children and adults. The list includes dentists, doctors, OTs, and psychotherapists. Finding practical strategies for dealing with your hypersensitivities will make the world a lot friendlier.


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