The Side Effects of Sensory Processing Difficulties
Written By: Angie Voss, OTR
The Most Common Side Effect: ANXIETY
Three reasons why anxiety is almost always a factor, especially for those who over-register and demonstrate sensory sensitivities and sensory defensiveness:
The brain switches to the sympathetic nervous system at a greater frequency than a neurotypical brain for NO EXPLAINED reason, so therefore the brain will naturally feel “anxious” when it switches to fight or flight all of the time. And the cumulative result of this releases more and more of the stress hormones throughout the body.
Wouldn’t you be anxious if at any given moment you had no idea how something was going to feel? Wondering if a sound, or touch, or movement, etc was going to be accepted and pleasant…or hurt or cause nausea or make your heart race and hands sweat? What a scary feeling to have something be fun and pleasant one minute (for example swinging at the park) and the next moment for it to cause extreme nausea and a fever. This is where sensory modulation comes in to play.
When a child is over-responding (sensory defensive) all of the time to one or more types of sensory input, anxiety is sure to be present…think of touch…when light touch feels like you are being given a shot, wouldn’t you be anxious to be around a bunch of people accidentally brushing against you? What about circle time, or standing in line, or a trip to the park…and then add in possible auditory sensitivity or olfactory sensitivity. Anxiety is a side effect, and a big one at that.