Sensory Processing Disorder
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Signs of Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) in Adults

Adults with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) feel assaulted by the world and all of its ticking clocks, buzzing lights, and strong perfumes. If everyday sounds and textures feel unbearably distracting, read on to learn about the signs and symptoms of SPD in adults.

18 Comments: Signs of Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) in Adults

  1. As a child, I was bothered by every little thing. Noise, itchy things, everything. As an adult, I am not bothered by much. How that happened is, I had to be around the things which bothered me. I had to get used to all the uncomfortable things I was protected from as a child. As far as itchy things, perfumes which choke you out, etc., I had to cut out the scratchy tags, tolerate or get fresh air, do what necessary. As far as the sensitive skin, sinuses when they are irritated or infected, or inflammation of the ears, the typical normal stuff, I learned to use essential oils and obtain true healing. Becoming free from a world which did not allow me to adjust to the typical noises, sensations and distractions by the time I reached adulthood was the best day of my life.

  2. I to have severe spd but you failed to mention some aspects with even voices for example male readers trigger my spd (makes audio books really hard) it instead feels like a drill going threw my skull but i can handle female voices same idea with touching so some aspects of spd are limited or effected differently and with music theres an exception tho most songs trigger my spd some actually calm it

    Also while many things bother you some things can stimulate sences to make things easier and by having something with you you can resort to when triggers get high (such as loud area) when out and about can really help prevent sensory overload

    I have a service animal while she was for my severe anxiety she really helps reduce sensory overload plus shes so adorable

  3. This is so relatable. I will be interested to see if this eventually gets a diagnostic code so that there can be more research and treatment. I am an adult who did not get her ADD diagnosis until adulthood. The sensory thing it is a relief to know that I am not alone. The biggest one for me is the sound of chewing, the louder the worse. Chewing gristle off chicken or anything crunchy (chips) gross! It gives me a creepy crawly feeling. Irritation rises within me the longer I hear it, and it sometimes causes a kind of chill up my spine and shoulders. It has led to arguments with my husband as he loves chicken gristle and even if I don’t say anything he gets offended as he can see me scootching away or my face scrunching. I feel like such a jerk for my reaction but i can’t help it. I also get stressed and irritated when ther radio is playing and sometime tries to show me a video with an audio component. I have to turn the radio off, which again hubby thinks I’m being dramatic, but it really is so hard to listen to the thing he is trying to play and I start feeling really stressed. Strangely, I concentrate better on my work when I have music but mostly only music with no lyrics, it is as if it helps cover up some of the other distracitng sounds in the environment. Also when I am working on something and hear converstaiotns nearby it is hard not to get distracted or pulled in (this one is ADD though). I am ok with loud music when exercising but in the car or the house it upsets me. When I am eating out, I gave a hard time enjoying if someone is talking or laughing loudly with a high pitched voice, in fact I have asked a waitress to move to a different table many times. I also am like the princess and the pea when it comes to texture. I’m hypersensitive to itchy fabrics and tags, especially at my waist. If my skin is dry, I feel that same shiver up my spine when I touch things. Another person on here mentioned cotton. I am usually ok with cotton on the rest of my skin, but not on my hands. Cotton clothes are ok, but touching certain towels causes the same reaction internally as fingers on a chalkboard. I can hear it rubbing on my skin and sucking all of the moisture from my hands. I used to knit and i would do fine with bamboo, rayon, silk, even some wool yarns – but cotton yarn I couldn’t handle, it felt like it sucked the oils from my hands, I could hear and feel it and I did not like it. I am also just overly sensitive to any crease in my sock, a piece of dust in my shoes, etc. Often while I am exercising or walking I have to stop multiple times to adjust footwear. I attributed the foot issues to my odd shaped blister prone feet with bunions, but I think this sensory thing is a factor.
    another thing, I have very thin hair and one or two individual pieces is always touching my face and tickling it. It drives me crazy I know as an adult I should be able to sit still and tolerate it but I often can not. I end up pulling my hair back a lot which is less flattering or professional looking just to avoid my hair wisps touching my face. I wonder what the cause of this is? Do other people who have this condition also have a lot of allergies? I’ve read that allergies are an over-reaction by the immune system. This sounds similar on a neurological level. I wonder if there is a connection? I don’t have the hugging issue, love hugs and snuggle with husband, my dogs, with friends. Visually I am not very organized I have a lot of clutter that I tend to visually filter out and just hyper focus on the thing that interests me. I think it is odd how for some of us only certain senses manifest. I definitely have the clumsy, dropping things, poor balance issues. The sense of smell? it’s hard to say i have allergies so a lot of smells irritate me becuase they make me sneeze (perfumes etc) and give me a headache but that is different than feelng emotional about the smells I think it is primarily auditory, tactile, and balance for me.

  4. We have been trying to find a doctor who treats SPD in adults. We have found several who treat children but have not been successful finding one for an adult. We live near Chicago, but are willing to travel if we need to. Any recommendatuons?

    1. The STAR Institute in Denver is a great resource for SPD in adults. They have a video course and I think will do video calls. They may also be able to recommend a therapist in Chicago. Good luck!

  5. Creamy and smooth textures for me. Can’t do it. I’m 32 years old and have never put vanilla pudding, egg nog, or plain butter in my mouth. I once had an apple turnover that was incorrectly labeled. It was actually an apple and cream cheese turnover. Not knowing this, I bit into it, felt like I was choking on cream cheese, and had a panic attack.

    I will starve if the only options were American cheese or Velveeta. That slimy texture can stay far away from me.

  6. Wow! Been researching this for a while and I’m pretty sure this is what I have. I stumbled across this disorder as I was reading about autism because one of my cousins has it. I always kind of wondered in my life if I had autism because of some of my symptoms, but they were all sensory symptoms. Except for the fact that I rock back and forth and have done it my entire life. I am now 24.
    I am a woman and I don’t have autism. But I think I have this.
    My symptoms recently in life have gotten worse and worse. It might be due to the fact I have had extreme stresses or because it just gets worse when you get older.
    Here are my specific symptoms.
    First and biggest reaction I have is to texture. My WORST trigger is cotton and cotton balls. Even thinking about it now sends horrible shivers and makes me want to grind my teeth. I can hear cotton squeaking between my teeth when I look at it or feel it. I also hate touching it because it catches on my skin and I can’t describe why I hate that so much but it drives me crazy. If I ever have to touch cotton or pull it out of a vitamin bottle I have to ask someone else to do this.
    When I sleep in bed and certain blankets or sheets catch against my feet even when they aren’t that scratchy it sends me through the roof and I can’t explain why. It makes me want to scream and I have a reaction where I have to kick my legs to get the feeling off of me. I have a lot of reactions where I have to thrash my body to get the feeling or trigger off of me.
    My ex boyfriend used to do things that drove me insane that wouldn’t bother anyone else. It seemed whenever he touched my arms he would do it way too soft and drag his fingers across just barely touching me and it actually felt painful like a burning sensation. When he would go in to kiss me sometimes he would go in very very slowly like a sloth and I could feel his breath and it angered me.
    Certain clothing that didn’t feel itchy to others always did to me. And if I ever had it on it was all I could feel. I can’t even wear jeans anymore because it is too rough and tight which is one of my favorite clothing item.
    That whole swimming in lakes thing has been with me my whole life. Touching the bottom of lakes with my feet lives in my nightmares. I tried once when I was little to wear shoes, it helped but it still kept me from getting in.
    Hearing: fireworks and loud booms never really bothered me. It’s constant loud noise that bothers me. I can’t think like when music is up really high. But I have been told that I ask for the volume to go down when it’s not loud at all. It really depends on the situation though. If I am in a good mood when I’m alone I love listening to loud music. But I can’t stand it when other people are around or I need to actively think about something.
    The only other thing I can think of is hearing people chew on food with their mouth closed and you can tell their mouth is full of saliva. Someone smacking on gum doesn’t bother me, but when I can hear the saliva in their mouth I get so angry I either have to leave or close my ears because I know it’s ridiculous to ask them to stop eating. I am generally not an angry person at all. I am one of the most calm people and laid back, it takes a lot for someone to get me angry. But when I hear saliva in someone’s mouth it’s like a beast of hatred awakens in me.
    Certain lighting makes my eyes hurt. But not bright lights. I actually like bright lights and well lit rooms. But certain lights that are dim and yellow really annoy me enough for me to leave the room. If I have to stay in the room all I can think about is turning it off. Or waiting for the moment when I am allowed to turn it off.
    Flashing doesn’t bother me.
    Now for all of these issues I seem to have an opposite to each. Like certain clothing I love the feel of and literally want to live in it. I love certain textures way more than I should. Certain noises give me chills in an amazing way. It feels so good that I can’t move or focus on something I need to. I believe we call this the ASMR. Thus reaction happens way way less than the negative ones. These negative sensory responses happen throughout my day because there are so many things. And I’ll have a positive response maybe once a week at MOST. That’s being generous. Sometimes the way a person will touch me on the arm will be really positive and it’s usually a firm touch.
    So this is kind of my experience in my life and now that I can put a name to it maybe it’s something I can fix with help.
    One day I got so frustrated with my negative responses to textures that I decided to expose myself to it purposefully constantly, thinking eventually the effect would be less and less. As much as I hated it, i used cotton for this. I repeatedly touched it and thought about it throughout my day. The way it feels, that squeaky sound. Over and over. It didn’t make any difference. My response to it was as intense every single time. That was a horrible day for me.

    1. I relate to you so much. I just did a long post but the cotton thing is a realy problem for me. The sensation fo being able to hear it scraping your skin is so real

  7. I don’t think it’s a disorder but some internal biological factor that makes things aversive. Some kind of chemical or bacterial imbalance in the gut and how closely your gut is linked to your brain and nervous system.

  8. I STIMULATE SEEK, I think is what it’s called. But I can’t stand sudden car horn honks, sneezing, coughs, or even notification pings, they cause my to rush with anxiety more then I already am. Stimming helps but is only beneficial when I’m trying to concentrate. It’s so addicting to feel the sensation that it holds me back from school work. My mind needs to focus on the sensation of stimming and when I’m not stimming it eats at me. Like an annoying presence that keeps telling me to do it, almost forcing me, it’s hard to fight the urge. Same goes for my urges to want to yell, yell anything. My compulsive need to throw verbal energy out of my mouth hole. It’s hard to control but I realize sudden blurting in public is frowned upon so I fight myself to shut up.

    I know I have ADD but can I also have a slight form of ADHD? It’s not TS because ive experimented with tourettes medication and I’m allergic.

    Do you think an anti anxiety med and also an ADHD med would be beneficial as a combo? Calming my anxiety to stim far less and something like adderall to control my urges of outbursting compulsive behavior?

    1. Just because you are allergic to a medication doesn’t mean you don’t have the disorder.

  9. I never knew why I was doing what I was doing. Running sharp folded or twisted paper and plastic under my fingernails to create a sensation that was in itself “addicting”. It started when I was about 5. I fidgeted with a crocheted blanket my mom made, later on it developed into anything with a corner, like clothing, blankets, pillow tags. I’d stim the hell out of paper it would vaporize into dust or if go so hard for so long my fingertips would start to bleed. Even then! I still continued. 20 years later and I just happen to Google my fidgeting habits to see what I could find and stimming was exactly it. I hated calling it “fidgeting”, now I have a more misunderstanding and unknown name for what I do. My twin does it as well but not to the same level I do. It’s such a burden or curse, in my opinion, it gets in the way of my life!! It’s constant, annoying, makes people wonder wtf I’m doing. Ultimately it makes me feel like an adolescent!!! My social anxiety keeps the stim addiction strong. Xanax….or just wear gloves the rest of my life. Anyways thanx for reading lol. 🙂

  10. This article sheds light on an important topic that I suspect plagues many walks of life. I was encouraged to read about the impact of perception and relationships, this can interfere from fun and the outward relationship ie the couple as a thing in its own right with its own needs. The sense of being overwhelmed can be temporarily “distracting” indeed.

    The list of possible sensitivities might seem like a small representation. I would say I know one kid in treatment who demonstrates 3-5 of these but also imagine if you were susceptible to even ONE of these, it could easily contribute to a sense of disquiet and/or loss of enjoyment from what your friends don’t mind at all to do, We can end up not liking eating in a restaurant or being on an airplane which can be a further inconvenience.

    Frustration is understandable and can even be embraced – use it as energy! Also I have seen this with my “high achieving” friends, one or two of these items (coffee, loud music etc.) can be attractors and/or mitigating factors. I believe in a multipronged yet focused response which often ends up helping. Understood “help” is not inexpensive, perhaps network with your friends – you might be surprised how many people are either in, or even giving treatment!

  11. I can’t stand being touched or the sound of someone scratching themselves. If the radio is turned down so that the staticky underpinning sound is more prevalent than the actual music, I can’t concentrate on the music or any of the sound around me. Sometimes sounds, smells, or touch affect me so much I feel like I’m going to throw up or I get a migraine. I didn’t realize so many other people understood and I’m kind of crying right now because there’s research and I’m not alone.

  12. Certain textures especially gritty, cause an extremely negative reaction in me. I cant have a manicure because of the grit caused by filing my nails. I cant touch a potato. Cant have dirt on my hands. Loud noises bother me and more than two sounds drive me crazy. Disorder and lots of movement cause me a panic reaction.

    1. I am so glad to find out I am not alone. I never even knew of this disorder. I have extreme difficulties with taking a shower, having my hands or feet dirty. Sand in between my toes, wooden popsicle sticks and so much more. I was previously diagnosed with Severe Panic Disorder and PTSD. But the more I am reading the more I think I may have SPD. Because the treatments for the other things have not worked and I have been dealing with this since I 12 yrs. old. I see my psychologist next week and am going to talk to him about it.

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