This is not currently recognized as a medical or mental health condition on it’s own. Therefore it isn’t something that we can look up in the DSM or other diagnostic manuals.
Sensory process (or sensory integration) is the way in which the central nervous system of the body receives messages from the senses of the body and uses that information to act in an appropriate motor or behavioral responses. Sensory processing disorder (SPD, also known as sensory integration dysfunction) is a condition in which the sensory signals received by the central nervous system do not become organized into an appropriate response.
SPD may affect only one sense or many senses. Every person with SPD will react differently and have different intensity of response to stimuli. Meaning that some will have an overreaction to the stimuli or an under-reaction.
While SPD isn’t diagnosable on its own, the issues that come along with it are often attributed to Autism Spectrum Disorder. I could also see this being part of Misophonia, various Phobias, PTSD, Schizophrenia, ADHD, or even Borderline Personality Disorder.
It is not something that is understood by all healthcare professionals so it’s important that you find someone who understands and specializes in sensory issues.
They believe there to be 4 types of sensory processing disorders they are:
1. Sensory Modulation Disorder: this disorder is characterized by the struggle to regulate our intensity of response to sensory stimuli. Someone with this disorder may hate textures of certain foods or hate having their hair or teeth brushed. All of the things they cannot stand are not upsetting to most people.
2. Sensory Discrimination Disorder: This disorder is characterized by a difficulty accurately identifying qualities of a stimuli. Meaning that they may use too much or too little force when doing a project. They could also struggle to pick an item, out of a cluttered background – or possibly move too fast or slow for an activity.
3. Postural-Ocular Disorder: This disorder is characterized by a struggle to manage visual and bodily movements. People with this disorder can have a hard time balancing, tracking items in their eye line. They can struggle to control their body movements and the amount of strength needed to complete a task.
4. Dyspraxia: This is when people struggle to plan, schedule, or execute things in a sequence. This can make it hard for them to do everything they need to each and every day. It can be difficult to move from one task to another, and they can struggle with fine motor coordination.
As for causes, we don’t really know. They have linked SPDs to hypersensitivity to light and they also know that there is a genetic link, but more research definitely needs to be done in order to fully understand the causes.
Treatment: Occupational therapy is recommended. OT is a type of therapy for those recuperating from physical or mental illness that encourages rehabilitation through the performance of activities required in daily life. What this means is that in OT will help you better engage in the meaningful activities of daily life. They will meet you where you are emotionally and behaviorally and set goals accordingly.
They also recommend speech and language therapy as well as SCERTS. If the person struggling is a child, there is also the DIR method which uses a lot of “floor time” as part of its method.
The overall goal of treatment is Sensory Integration. This can be done using all various types of therapy, but the goal is to be able to be around stimuli that used to be upsetting or triggering and be able to respond in an appropriate fashion.
Just know that these disorders do exists and there is help available! Like I have talked about in the past, the DSM isn’t the end all be all, and not everything that we struggle with will be noted in a diagnostic manual. But that shouldn’t mean that we suffer in silence. Occupational Therapy and the other treatments I mentioned can and do help!! So reach out, speak up, and know that it can get better.
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